Play Through the Pain

Tanya, Team Brunettes

Tanya, Team Brunettes

I last spoke to my father nearly five years ago. He was finally diagnosed with dementia in 2007 after a number of misdiagnoses and long battles with depression and substance abuse. During our last conversation, I remember feeling so relieved to know that he still knew my name, roughly how old I was and most important, that I would visit soon.

Before I had the chance, however, my father, Alexis Susoev, a name I carry with me every day in mine, Tanya Alexis Susoev, was gone. To this day, I don’t know what happened to my dad. We have hypothesized that he simply forgot the history of his life with us and just started over. For years I carried a lot of anger with me in new and residual pain of his absence and even more, anger in myself for never offering forgiveness and never having the opportunity to say goodbye.

As a result, I allowed him to be forgotten just as I felt he forgot about me.

Since playing with Blondes vs. Brunettes, I have found the power and access to acknowledge those feelings, discuss my father and honor his memory. Surrounded by such powerful and positive women equally familiar with the disease, the game has given me the opportunity to find healing in celebrating who I am because of him and honoring how he continues to live in me.

Tanya and Dad

Tanya and Dad

Alexis is the reason I have the will and resiliency I do today. He taught me, though indirectly, that the mistakes of our past do not drive our future, that we have the power in each of us to overcome, to forgive each other and ourselves and to want something more. He carried in him a warmth and positivity that I strive to emulate in my life. He taught me to redefine what it meant to be a young girl and challenge what is often expected as a woman. He gave me strength in my femininity and though without words, always encouraged me to stand my ground.

My father trained me to be the athlete I am today. Through Blondes vs. Brunettes, I am so proud to remember him and his legacy as I play for a team, a cause and a community that honors the strength in women as athletes and voices of hope for better options and outcomes in our future. As women and even more as a team, we stand together, train together, sweat, laugh and smile together – we support each other through injury, fatigue, frustration, good days, bad days and birthdays – all in shared memory of the ones we have lost and continue to love.

Thank you for sharing in our suffering and committing in our struggle together.

-Tanya Susoev

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