The question was simple: When was the last time your whole family was together?
Not for the Bernhardt family.
The answer included a lot of "Ums," "I thinks" and "Maybes" before Jim Bernhardt pinned down a three-day period in July, when he, his wife, Catherine, and sons Jake, Jesse and Jared were at home in Longwood.
- Brothers find success in lacrosse, roots in Lake Brantley
- Brothers, from left, Jake, Jared and Jesse Bernhardt stand in front of their athletic awards. Jake and Jesse are pro lacrosse players, and Jared is a junior at Lake Brantley who plays football and lacrosse. Their dad is on the Houston Texas' coaching staff. (Jacob Langston, Orlando Sentinel)
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"Jimmy's got the elephant memory," Catherine said. "I couldn't tell you. It may have been Christmas. No, I think one of us was missing. I think this past Thanksgiving."
Being in the same place at the same time is rare for the Bernhardts.
While Catherine works as a registered nurse at Florida Hospital Winter Park, her husband and sons are scattered across the country because of their athletic pursuits in football or lacrosse. Keeping track of each other requires daily planning, a little effort and a lot of technology, especially as Jim prepares for his first season as director of football research for the NFL's Houston Texans.
As an adviser to coach Bill O'Brien, he'll be in the coaches booth when the Texans face the host Denver Broncos in a preseason game at 9 Saturday night.
"Thank goodness for the cellphone," said Bernhardt, a former Hofstra lacrosse and football player who spent the past two years assisting at Penn State and had stints at Brown, UCF and area high schools. "I can't imagine doing this 25 years ago.
"It doesn't make me miss them any less, though."
Jim will call Houston home during the football season, but Catherine stays in Longwood so Jared, a junior, can finish high school at Lake Brantley, where he plays lacrosse and quarterbacks the football team.
Until recently, Jake and Jesse, both Major League Lacrosse players, lived in Maryland, where they played and were assistant coaches at the University of Maryland. Jake, 24, moved home last week and is expected to coach in high school, and Jesse, 23, soon will leave for New Jersey to join Rutgers' coaching staff.
"My brothers and I will text, but with my mom and dad, we definitely have to call," Jesse said. "They're not the most tech-savvy people. Sometimes I'll FaceTime with Jared, and he'll pass the phone over to [my mom]. I don't know if my dad knows how to do that, either."
Said Jim: "I tried to FaceTime on my work iPad once, but it didn't work."
He sticks to detailing everyone's whereabouts in his daily planner and printing the boys' sports schedules so he remembers to call on game days.
"It's definitely different when we have to explain, 'My mom lives in Orlando, and my dad lives in Houston,''' Jake said. "People automatically think they're divorced, but it's just the way our family dynamic works."
At one point this summer, Catherine was in Florida, Jim in Texas, Jared at a Nike lacrosse training session in Oregon, Jake traveling with Major League Lacrosse's Ohio Machine and Jesse with the MLL's Chesapeake Bayhawks and Team USA.
"Even though we're miles away, we're always in contact," said Catherine, a former collegiate swimmer. "But I'll tell you, it gets lonely when they're not around."
Said Jared: "It's hard, but as time goes on, you get used to it. When my mom gets home from work, she always makes sure, 'Have you gotten in touch with your brothers?'"
The boys, who share September birthdays, hope to make careers out of coaching, like their dad. Jared already is committed to become the third Bernhardt to play lacrosse at Maryland.
"We all have goals, and we respect each other and understand everyone's goals," Jake said. "And we'll support everyone's goals, no matter what."
Just don't ask when they'll be in the same place again.
"Oh, that's a good one," Jim said. "If you find out, let me know."