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My Daughter, Emily, is married, and to one of my best friends, Nick.

I can’t tell you how lucky I am to have spent the last 19 years of my life with Emily; almost every day of her life.

By the time Emily was three years old it was apparent that Emily was a special girl. Yes, she was special to me since I was her father, but there was so much more that couldn’t be overlooked. She was unwilling to break rules at a very young age, and would not accept me breaking any either. She would look over my shoulder and see if I was speeding, for example, and refused to do anything that was not considered proper. She taught me to always tell the truth at Six Flags at age 6. She was almost young enough to get in for free but refused to say she was 5, not because she wanted to be older, but because she knew that was not the truth, and anything less than 100% truth was unacceptable behavior for her, or for her parents. That lesson is one that I learned from her and it improved my life dramatically. No more fudging anything. The truth, period. Each of the 19 years I spent with Emily included lessons, and leading by example, and setting the standard higher. Not just for me, but for Dane, and Kristine too, and anyone lucky enough to spend time with her. Emily was 15 years old and earned about $4,000 in prize money on the Freestyle Kayak Tour. She could have just about anything a girl her age could want. Shoes, clothes, sporting equipment, travel, etc.. Instead, she donated 100% of it to the less fortunate in Uganda through Jessie Stone’s Soft Power Health. Not only did she donate every penny she owned, but she also raised another $21,000, with help from my partner/friend Tony, and other friends and family. Dane offered to give all of his money to Emily when we were in Uganda, helping refurbish a primary school that had dirt/dung floors, and no seats or chalkboards. We had to tell Dane that he needed to find his own cause to support. He ended up providing cash to two orphans who didn’t have enough money to go to high school.

The best way to describe Emily is ahead of her time, insightful, intelligent, beautiful, kind, and way more mature than her dad. When Emily was 10 I remember an adult girl who was on Team Wavesport telling us that she had a better conversation with Emily about her relationship issues than any other adult.

The Jackson’s have a special talent that comes in handy for us, more than most could imagine. That talent is the ability to read lips. Mostly deaf since age 2, I told my mom that I would be fine without hearing aids, and would just sit front and center in school because my parents didn’t have the $5,000 it cost for them at that time. I compensated with lip reading and it became the norm for me. Emily grew up with a dad that could “hear” by lip reading and picked it up herself. Dane was born with serious hearing loss as well (about 60%) and lip reading was the way of the family already. Learning to talk was super hard for him, but 4 years of speech therapy did the trick. Back to Emily… Almost daily, Emily, the insightful, thoughtful one, gives me clues on keeping Kristine happy. We’ll be at home and Kristine will say something, or I’ll say something, and behind Kristine, Emily will mouth something to me that clues me in that I am going down a bad road, or to give me a bright idea, like, “ask her out for dinner” or “she wants you to offer to….” It is the inside scoop on what Kristine wants, but won’t ask me for. She has done this for me since she was a little girl. She did this yesterday while in her wedding gown. I don’t remember what it was, because it is almost natural to get the beta and act on it.

At age 17 Emily started paying her own way when we were on the road. It was voluntary, and still is. We would offer to pay for this or that, but she refused, and often tried to pay our way. She also lent us money whenever we needed it, which was often as well. At 19 she and Nick have purchased their first house, and are now married. What a seamless transition from child to adult. The learning curve seems non-existent. She just grew into her new lot in life without any major jump in responsibility or education needed.

Over the past 5 years I have been hanging out with Nick, her husband. Nick grew up from a kid with lots to learn and not the best kayaker in the world, to a strong 20 year old that has become one of my best friends, and an equal on all fronts. He is self-sufficient, motivated, fun to be around, and likes to play a lot like I do. Football, Frisbee golf, kayaking, darts, ping pong, more kayaking, working out, and any kind of competition. Nick is definitely my playmate, like Dane, and Emily. Nick is the same size and shape I am making the physical games directly competitive. Dane is still much smaller than I am, and Emily is as well.

Having Nick marry Emily is, for me, just adding one of my best friends to the family. Being 25 years older than Nick may be weird for some to think of us as friends, but the younger your friends the younger you’ll be. I really enjoy activities that 45 year olds do as well, but get much more satisfaction from active games that young people play.

KC just woke up from his nap, so I am back outside where the sun is shining on the coast of Mexico…