Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Learning To Walk Again

“Daddy, my left skate is a little loose”

Since I’ve recovered from my accident a lot of things have taken a different flavor in life. Coming to work is no longer a chore, but an opportunity. Being married is having a friend around, instead of someone to argue about the bills with. Having kids is a blessing and seeing them learn via mistakes and asking questions, is a funny live daily Improv show versus a burden.

Nothing however could help the flavor of this hot chocolate that plopped out of the vending machine. The smell of an ice arena is mixed between a crisp Northern Minnesota morning in November sitting on a wooden deck that is overseeing a lake with a sunrise peaking through the tall pines and that last trip to the compost site where you took that month old bag of wet grass, cursing your luck for throwing scissors with your spouse on who got the honor of dropping the clippings off.

The chatter of future hurried hockey moms and dads assembled their three and four year olds to give their kids a first taste of gliding on frozen water. Not yet do the parents display three buttons of kids with fake smiles in jerseys sponsored by Dave’s Sport Shop and Osseo Meats. Nor do they feel the wallet or purse pinching ways of thousands of dollars in shoulder pads, shin pads, breezers, and traveling hockey fees. Today wasn’t about competition on who’s kid could race through a slalom of orange cones the fastest or dribble a puck around the kid who got stuck playing goalie (my apologies to goalies out there but did you really pick that position when you were five???).

I stepped off the sport court designed to act as blade protectors and shuffled the boy onto the ice and into the arms of some PVC pipe contraption that acted as an on-ice walker. He waved back cautiously before high stepping out to the fairly attractive figure skating instructor with teased long blonde hair who was surrounded by various high school assistants that managed to stay upright on two skates without assistance. I remember using an upside down garbage can and my father’s constant sighs as crutches while picking myself off of the outdoor rinks which gave an incentive to stay as dry as possible or suffer a chill equal to seeing your parents hold up your copy of Big Busty Bangaroo 16.

Flashbacks of days leaping over the boards to join the fray and absorbing another hip check from some defensive dickhead who didn’t get enough motherly attention and felt that a 120 pound beanpole was a great target for humiliation of having his skates point towards the tin roof while in midair. Most nights my revenge was to put up a goal or shuffle off a pass to a breaking winger after cutting behind the net and hitting them in stride. Luckily my son won’t have to deal with a different sort of hurt between the blue lines. The pain of not hearing a whistle after the play has been blown dead. Sitting in the penalty box while listening to my coach/father explain to the stripped gentlemen that his son was not acting in malice as he took off on a breakaway after everyone else gave up, are memories I choose to bottle up.

Nowadays they have organizations for hearing impaired players, back then it was a two ton brick of embarrassment to go along with the other fights to figure out what life was all about growing up. Luckily my kids got my wife’s ears, and with a little more luck they’ll get their dad’s stick handling skillz and sense of the ice. I never wore my glasses while playing either making me the Helen Keller of hockey using blurred outlines of colors and faint sounds to make my decision to pass or cut around a defenseman.

Taking off his plastic skates, I’m seeing a need for new ones as the blades resemble the body of a 55’ Chevy truck that hasn’t seen action since Marty McFly almost kissed his mom. The red indents from the helmet and sweat on his forehead say all the words I need to see as I offer a box of popcorn to him from the concession stand that now serves “gourmet” coffee and full five course steak dinners.

“I had fun Daddy”

“So did I” as I try to hold back a tear or seven.

Thanks for dropping by, now let us pray to Purple Jesus on a speedy recovery.


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