My step-father Paul’s birthday falls in November, and he will turn 90 years old. He loved two things his entire life, my mother and University of Oklahoma football.
Since Mother passed away, there’s just not a lot of moments he gets real excited about except OU touchdowns and a WIN, of course. I wanted to do something really over the top for his birthday and Coach Barry Switzer would fit the bill.
I wrote Barry a letter and here are some excerpts. For a thoughtful twist, I wrote the letter in a thank you card.
I’m thanking you in advance for a favor. Our step-father Paul will be 90 on November 10. He was born in Norman and feels lucky because that is the home of OU. Every positive adjective I could come up with is not enough to describe his love of OU football. He never misses a game on TV.
Paul is in remarkable health considering his age. He was born deaf but he does not need the announcer to explain what is happening when his eyes are fixed on the players. For almost 10 years, he has been living with macular degeneration and that hasn’t even stopped him. He watches his beloved Sooners a distance of a few inches from the TV.
Now for the favor. I would like to arrange a surprise meeting with you. An opportunity to meet and have his picture made with you would lift his spirits and make this an extraordinary 90th birthday!
Would you believe it? Coach Barry Switzer agreed to meet Paul. WOW!
My brother and I were so excited. Paul would be completely surprised. We kept it a secret and would only give hints regarding his birthday gift.
We told Paul he needed to wear his OU shirt and ball cap. My brother, Harvey, even wore a Dallas Cowboy shirt as a clue. Paul can usually guess his gifts but this time he was totally stumped.
When Coach Switzer arrived at Paul’s home, Paul couldn’t hear us approach. We found him glued a few inches away from the TV so I tapped him on the shoulder. He turned around, and I got very close and signed with my hands “YOUR SURPRISE IS HERE!”
He looked up but because of his macular degeneration he could not see Coach Switzer. So Coach Switzer immediately leaned in close and I signed, “Coach B-A-R-R-Y.” Paul’s eyes widened and his mouth dropped.
He couldn’t believe it! He signed, “You-Here-In-My-House?!” Paul continued to shake his head in disbelief.
Coach Switzer and Paul shared a wonderful conversation about OU football, celebrating a 90th birthday and people they both knew from the deaf community. Just like old friends catching up.
Coach Switzer autographed a picture he brought for Paul, signed Paul’s OU ball cap, and posed for lots of pictures. He even placed his Dallas Cowboys Super Bowl ring on Paul’s finger.
Paul wears an OU ring, and he faked taking it off instead of the Super Bowl ring and asked Coach if he wanted to trade. They both had a big laugh and shook hands.
The whole day after that Paul signed to my brother, “I can’t believe it! Wonderful-wonderful-wonderful!”
After Coach Switzer left, Paul immediately got on his video phone and called friends to share the most exciting news ever! It spread through the deaf community like wild fire.
I printed pictures so Paul could take them to the deaf club he attends every Saturday. Paul could hardly wait to show pictures of he and Coach Switzer together.
The next morning Paul still had a big grin on his face and commented how wonderful it was to meet Coach Barry Switzer! Paul is still in the clouds and we can’t get him down! Mission accomplished!
I knew this would be a huge wonderful experience for Paul. What I did not anticipate was how it was also a huge wonderful experience for my brother and me and for all of the others whom we have shared this story.
It’s one of those feel good stories that all is right with the world, there’s still goodness, and there are people who genuinely care about strangers. It’s a story that touches, melts and even heals our hearts.
Our family and friends have fallen in love with this story and Coach Switzer, if they weren’t already a big fan of his. We appreciate him taking the time to create such special moments in Paul’s life and ours. We will forever remember his kindness. No wonder EVERYBODY in Oklahoma loves him!
Paul, you were 13 years old when I was born. I’m 77. I hope to look as good as you at 90. – Barry Switzer