Saturday, April 21, 2012

Stop this ride, I want to stay on

"'Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all"

The last game of the season (at least the last one at home) is heart-wrenching. It doesn't really matter how the season ends on the ice, to be perfectly honest. I'm not particularly invested in the outcome of the season, the way coaches and players and hockey ops people, and I suppose fans, are.
I'm invested in the my experience as a writer and as a human being trying to make the most of the opportunities that have landed on my doorstep.

There's no doubt that pro sports, even hockey, has its share of egomaniacs and jerks and poseurs. But in Houston, I've been incredibly fortunate to work with Drew and John by my side, each doing our own thing, but all of us still able to come together and do what I think is a pretty great job at T3I (more because of them than me, at least the last couple of seasons).

It's weird. I tried hard to walk that line between fan and... maybe not full on journalist, but at least someone who can analyze the team and its personnel fairly. Once you start going downstairs and having to look in the eye the guys you write about, it changes everything.

Unfortunately, they're not all like Brusty, who was always unbelievably cool about my constant and ridiculous fangirling over him. Somehow I could write Debbie Gibson-esque posts about how I get lost in his eyes, and we could still have conversations about the team on a friendly/professional/serious level. I cherished it at the time, and do even more so now that I don't have access to that kind of genuine insight any more. (And also, GAHHH IMISSYOU*SNIFFLE*)

So, writing about the team is certainly less fun now that I don't get to say blatantly ridiculous things about the players in the name of a laugh. But I spent 4 years of college (supposedly) learning to report the news, and while it's not particularly fun in and of itself, it is very satisfying to provide information that people crave.

And what IS fun, as I said, is working with those guys, getting to know the Aeros staff, at least the ones I deal with personally, and working those game nights. I'm not going to lie, we have a lot of fun. We're getting work done, but we're having fun, because writing about hockey is fun work. You take it seriously in as much as you want to be fair and accurate, but frankly, it's just a game and we aren't doing rocket surgery up there. Nobody's living or dying or inventing velcro from it.

That camaraderie, or the lack of it over the summer, is why I'm randomly leaking around my eyes tonight and maybe tomorrow, too. I used to love going to Aeros games just because of the hockey, but nowadays, I get excited to go because I get to hang out for a few hours with all those folks I've grown to care about and appreciate so  much over the past few seasons.

The hockey is still the pulse of it, but pleasure in life is about the genuine connections you make with your fellow humans, and when the season ends, those connections are severed for a while, and really, from season to season, you don't always know what you'll get back in October.

I sniffled to my husband tonight that I had the "end of season sadz" and he said, "You'll get another season." I suppose, but I think you have to appreciate the season you have, while you have it, and I try to consciously do that every single game.

And, when you spend that much time appreciating a season, I also think it's normal to mourn its loss in your life. Each one is unique and fleeting and hilarious and awful and wonderful, and only those people you shared it with really understand the full experience.

So, tonight, I feel awash in utter gratitude, as well as the wish that I could have stopped time tonight and made it last just a little longer.


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Saddest Drop-In

I didn't want to play hockey tonight. Not at all. See, I found out today that a dear friend, about whom I've used the words, "Sister from another mother," is facing the final days of her life.

She has cancer. It started as colon cancer, she had surgery and they tried to get it all and she was doing well for a while. But it was pretty advanced when they found it and, like cancer tends to do, it creeps around the body, hiding from the chemo, and flourishes.

At least, that's what it did to Leisa. And we hear tonight those words you dread: "If you want to see her, come seen her soon."

Even though she's a Texas girl like me (more reason to love her), I met Leisa along with a bunch of girls online. We all had a mutual sensibility and formed our own little private community. We shared in each others pain and joy. We've had babies born, divorces, affairs, marriages. We've gone on trips together, we've been held each others hair while we puked from drinking too much, we've been lazy together and rowdy together, we've rallied around each other.

We lost another sister, Angie, to cancer several years ago and still talk of her often. We will lose Leisa soon, too, and while we have known it's inevitable for a while, it still feels sudden. Our hearts are collectively so heavy and we feel so helpless. I feel like gravity is heavier or pulling harder or whatever the fuck gravity does. I feel leaden. And just so, so sad.

So, playing hockey tonight, caring about that little black disc through my sad fog, just felt like the last thing I wanted to do. I really wanted to lie in bed and cry.

Leisa is special to me because not only is she one of the funniest people I know (we dubbed it The Funny Truck, because she'd just come out of nowhere with a one-liner that was so priceless and clever and off the wall, it would knock us over laughing), but we also share a lot of the same neuroses and I find that charming in a person. Let's be crazy together, and in a similar fashion, my love!

She never had nor wanted kids, which of course, is rare to find in an adult female, so I appreciated her voice when I was struggling with feeling like a complete weirdo for not wanting kids.

She's just in her 40s. A sincere and devoted Christian. An animal lover. A gentle soul with a biting wit and deep kindness.

Anyway, I went and played, heavy heart and all. I just hoped that endorphins would sit their fat ass on my fragility and hold me together. And indeed they did. In fact, I felt so focused and in the zone during the first 15 minutes, I thought I was destined to have one of my best games ever. The puck was in my end a lot, but I felt good. Bring it on.

And then the fact that I hadn't eaten for about 9 hours (I know, dumb, but I just had no appetite) hit me like a brick wall. It was like the life drained out of my toes, and I ended up spending most of the game in survival mode. I stayed on my feet as much as possible, or if I went down, I stayed down until I had to get up again.

Finally, a few skaters left and the game slowed to a crawl, so I bailed. The clock was off, and it turns out we'd been out for an hour and a half (we're usually only get a little over an hour). For feeling so shitty, it went fast.

I got to my car, read some more messages from the girls about how Leisa is doing, how sad we all are, and I just broke down. I sobbed there in the parking lot. Everything just feels wrong. And I guess that's how it's supposed to feel.

But I'm also grateful to Leisa, for showing so much grace during her illness; to her husband, who is doting on her mercilessly and in whom I have utter faith in this awful time for him; to my friends, for being stronger than me in the face of a crisis (I'm such an ostrich, but we have enough "go getter, ring-leader" types to keep our momentum going); to hockey for forcing me to be ALIVE and feel things and work up a sweat rather than sitting home crying.

I'm just raw and fragile and I hate that feeling. But that is life, I guess. I want a shirt that says, "My dear friend is dying and I'm really, really sad, so I'm sorry if I start crying for no apparent reason." And I hate saying, "I'm good. How are you?" when what I mean is, "I'm devastated and I need a hug."

At this point, our goal is just to make sure she's comfortable and knows she's loved beyond measure. And I think that mission is being accomplished, so I do find solace in that.

I dunno. Life is weird and terrifying and beautiful and simple and complicated, isn't it? Sorry for being a downer, and for rambling. My heart and mind are a rambling place right now, though. And this blog was always, at its roots, about getting stuff off my chest, processing my thoughts, and lightening my mental load.

What this does, however, is guarantee that I'll not wait so long between posts, as knowing this one is at the top is just too sad.


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