Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Why he plays: Wood has family friend and her daughter in mind on field

By Trevor Hass, Sports Editor/Reporter
Twitter: @TrevorHass

Even in elementary school, it was easy to tell Jack Wood was a player. As his lacrosse teammates were still learning the sport, he was honing his craft and distancing himself.

But as it turns out, Wood wasn’t just a player on the field. He was a player with the ladies in fourth grade as well.

This isn’t a story about the sophomore Wood’s commitment to play lacrosse at Brown. It’s not about his goal-scoring prowess for Duxbury, or even about his growth in lacrosse.

This is a look at another side to Wood – a story you may not know. One about an elementary school girlfriend turned middle school best friend, and helping that friend through a tragic loss in high school.

It’s easy to notice Wood’s fire and competitiveness on the field, but his compassion and loyalty off it aren’t as immediately visible to a fan. When Wood’s best friend, Jamie Souza’s mother, Karen, was diagnosed with cancer, Wood was always around to listen. When Jamie visited her at the hospital for the first time, Wood was by her side. When Karen, 48, died Jan. 7 of this year, Wood was there to console her.

On his helmet, he has “R.I.P. Karen: Karen Marie Souza, 1.7.17.” written on his strap in black Sharpie. It serves as a reminder, that as far as his lacrosse journey takes him it’s all secondary to what transpires off it.

“I think about Karen before and after every game, knowing that I have a why on the field, why I’m playing,” Wood said. Every goal I score is for her.”

Her first Valentine

When Jamie and Jack met in fourth grade in Barnstable, they were immediately drawn to each other. Jack asked Jamie to be his girlfriend, showing remarkable confidence and clout for someone his age.

Jamie, who was smitten from the start, said yes, and they “dated” the entire year. On Valentine’s Day, they gave each other presents and Jack wrote Jamie her first Valentine.

“We’ve been best friends ever since,” Jamie said.

Their initial relationship – as cute as it was at the time – was more important in what it meant long term. As Jack and Jamie grew closer, so did their mothers. Their families became inseparable, and they spent as much time together as possible.

Jack spent his summers working at Karen’s restaurant, Moonakis Café, in East Falmouth. He bussed tables, but mainly it was a way for Jack and Jamie to spend time together.

Karen always made them breakfast as a reward for their hard work. Jack can still taste and smell her specialty – cinnamon French toast.

Jack and Jamie were competitive in everything academically – even spelling bees. Their moms always showed up to cheer them on and show their support. Sometimes they spent more time applauding the other kid than their own. They had that kind of bond.

Whenever the Souzas went skiing at Waterville Valley, Karen made sure Jamie invited Jack. She didn’t want to go on the trip without him.

“He held a very special place in my mom’s heart,” Jamie said. “She loved him.”

“I would always have him”

When Karen was diagnosed with terminal cancer, Jamie immediately turned to a voice she knew would provide her comfort.

As Karen battled her condition and Jamie fought with her, Jack was right by her side. Jamie stayed with the Woods family when Karen had her first surgery, and they went to the hospital together to see how she was doing.

“He was very supportive, always checking in on me and always texting my mom, telling her that he would always be looking out for me, no matter what happened,” Jamie said. “I would always have him.”

Whenever Jamie felt down, she turned to Jack – knowing he was always there to talk. Even if he had a long day or a bad game, he’d make time for her. He knew losing a mother was infinitely worse than losing a game, so he did his part to make sure she was OK.

Though Jack moved from Barnstable to Duxbury in middle school, his friendship with Jamie didn’t flee with him. They see each other less often these days, but whenever they hang out it’s just like old times.

Jamie turned 16 last Sunday, and she spent the day with Jack – eating lobster rolls at The Raw Bar in New Seabury. They laughed, reminisced, and celebrated together.

Just like old times. Like they were in fourth grade and it was Valentine’s Day.

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