I spent some time this weekend trying to find a word for what I feel when I am with these people, when I am watching these games, when I am feeling a part of this community, and I can’t quite find it. I know that the emotion is physical, because I can feel it in my chest. It is heavily joyful and yearning and grateful and amazed and really, just plain indescribable.
It is good.
I will work on sorting out those feelings so I can write something coherent, but thought tonight I would tell you the story of the hockey tournament as seen through my Facebook and Twitter posts. They don’t tell the whole story, but they hit some of the high points.
After I posted this photo everywhere I had a social media account, a lot of you commented on the hat. You all loved the hat. Jack loves that hat too. You know where it came from? The head coach had one made for his son and a parent of one of the mentors (who skate with the Cheetahs every week when they are at practice) raised enough money to get a hat for every single member of the team. Phenomenal. If those kind people who raised that money ever read this, you should know how amazing your gift was to these children and young adults. Thank you. Truly.
Jack’s team had two games on Friday and two games on Saturday. I was in the stands at the second game on Friday night and there was just too much amazing in the air and I had to get it out somewhere.
There is no part of this team that I don’t love. I love the camaraderie of the parents. I love the joy and exercise that the players get. I love to see the amazing sportsmanship that these athletes and their coaches display. I love that both sides cheer for every goal, no matter who scored it. I love that some kids play hockey like they’ve been doing it for years and some kids barely pay attention to the puck, but they all get something out of it and they are all incredible and important players.
I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to do this again: I FREAKING LOVE SPECIAL HOCKEY!
After that game, I got some food to take back to the hotel for Jack and I. He played some iPad while I waited for our food and reflected on how hard Jack worked that day.
And there you have the first day of the tournament. It was good stuff. The second day got off to a little bit of a rougher start.
Our first game was at 10 a.m., so we had to get up and eat breakfast early enough to walk to the rink and get Jack geared up. We ate breakfast at the hotel with some friends, including Jack’s best friend and his dad, T.
You guys, I almost can’t tell you this. It was so horrible.
Jack was eating bacon and he started to choke. He was across the table and past his best friend from me and he seemed really far away. I didn’t know what to do. T, who works in the medical field, saw what was happening and yanked Jack over his own kid. He checked to see if he was breathing and then he had to give him the Heimlich.
He had to squeeze him four times before Jack started making noise and was able to throw up the biggest wad of bacon you have ever seen.
He saved Jack. He is my hero.
I am signing up to take a first aid class as soon as I get home. I think you should too.
All that happened at something like 8:30 in the morning. I had a good 13 hours to go until bedtime and I was already emotionally destroyed.
We headed over to the rink and got ready for the first game. Jack was a little bit belligerent at this game. It was shades of last year when he yelled at all the dads who were helping on the bench. I don’t really blame him. I’m sure he was exhausted, he was probably stressed out from what happened that morning, and there had been a lot of stimulation. But you know what? He played all his rotations for the game. He finished. I was really proud.
Needless to say, I sobbed.
After the game, Jack ate some lunch and played some more iPad (the kid earned it) until his next and final game of the tournament.
The coaches had really tried to help Jack score a goal in the third game, but it just didn’t come together, as sometimes it doesn’t. I was hopeful that he might get another chance in this last game. Jack had never scored a goal in a game in the whole two years that he’s been playing hockey, and I knew that a goal would mean a lot to him.
Unfortunately, being an asshole and hitting the opposing team members with your stick doesn’t get you a goal.
But then…you guys, it was amazing. One of the coaches positioned Jack. The others got the puck to him. There were less than two minutes left in Jack’s final game of the tournament. He shot and the goalie blocked, but the coaches got the puck back to Jack and kept the other players off of him. There was a whole little kerfluffle at the goal and then all of the Cheetahs’ arms went up in celebration.
Jack scored his first goal.
The other parents, who knew where I was emotionally and how much that meant to me, because, Christ, it means that much to them too, well, we all erupted in cheers. I, naturally, burst into tears. It was one of the most magical moments of my whole life. I’m not kidding.
My friend took a photo of me with the team in the background. You can probably still see tears in my eyes.
When I got down to the locker room, Jack was sitting calmly on a bench. I hugged him and told him how excited I was about his goal and I said, “I am so proud of you, Jack!”
And he said…
“I am proud of myself.”
And then I sobbed a lot more and I may have agreed to really pay the coaches the million dollars I offered them for the goal because those five words—and he put that emphasis on “myself,” by the way—are worth a billion dollars.
We watched the team’s other squad play a game and then we went back to the hotel where Jack swam in the pool for nearly two hours and I talked and laughed with the other parents. Then we hung out in the room with Jack’s buddy and his dad and then we went downstairs to the lobby to wait for the bus to take us to the end of the tournament banquet and I turned away from Jack for about a minute, at which point he disappeared.
My Hero, the Second found him in the luggage rack closet.
It was at this point that I resolved to never let him out of my sight again. And I haven’t yet since then. Except when he almost finagled his way off of the bus by himself when we arrived at the banquet.
He is a sneaky, agile little dude.
You know what was fantastic about the place where the banquet was held? Just out the double doors and around the corner, there was an honest-to-God bar.
The evening ended with a band and a dance party. It was a little too much for Jack, who retreated to a back corner, hid behind some plants and started playing with random wires, so I spent an hour or so distracting him and a couple of other kids by chasing them in circles. We had a blast. It was a great end to a day that held some of the most extreme emotions I have had in a while.
This last photo isn’t tied to any social media, but I just loved it. Jack and I shared something big this weekend—with each other and with many of the other families on this trip. It has been an incredible experience.