I’ve been playing street hockey in an Over-30 Men’s League for a little over four years now. I’ve had a handful of assists, scored in some pickup games, but never scored in actual game (I play defense, but the real reason is I’m not very good).
Last night, my son asked if he could come to watch my hockey game. I was already a bit cranky in that I had to drive 20 minutes to pick him up from a birthday party, which even if it ended on time, I’d be dropping him off, rushing to get changed, and hustling out the door to my game, but the party was running late… “I don’t think so, Bud” I said.
My son was persistent though, and even though the party ended about 20 minutes late (putting me 20 minutes behind schedule), I really had no solid reason not to let him go. Yeah, he’d be getting home close to 10, but he wasn’t going to fall asleep before then anyway. No, there would be no other kids there, but he would be okay with that and be very low maintenance. Yes, I usually went out to the bar after the game with some teammates, but I didn’t need to do that – and even so I could always drop him off at home first. “All right,” I reluctantly said.
We got home, I hurried… he hurried… this little boy who usually has a habit of making things seem more complicated did all he could to make it as easy as possible. He helped get my stuff ready, and when I finally got out the door, he was quietly waiting in the car – wearing his replica of my jersey (name and number on the back). I was embarrassed… proud but embarrassed too. I kept hinting that he didn’t need to wear it. Part of me was worried he’d get teased… but I’ll be honest, I was worried I’d be teased. Not by my friends, but by some of the other guys who know I’m not a good player and have no problem ripping a guy in front of his kid. I didn’t want my boy to hear them mock me, because he’d ask what it meant and why.
But he wore the jersey proudly, and we made it in plenty of time. He kept himself busy as I warmed up, and once I got on the court I heard one voice calling out cheering for the Green team (my team)… my son. For 90 minutes, he sat outside the fence and attentively cheered for my team as we fell behind 6-0 before scoring. At 8-2 with less than a minute left, his tired voice was as loud as ever as he cheered for us to score one more before the buzzer. I thought to myself, I actually played a decent game. glad he came and got to see that.
And then it happened. With less than 10 seconds left, I found myself open in front of the goal while a teammate worked his way in my direction… 6… 5… 4… I never thought he’d get the ball to me but somehow he did, and I shot… less than 2 seconds before the buzzer, there it was… my first goal in nearly 8 seasons of playing.
And my son saw it all.
I was so pleased he was there, and I felt so low for having tried so hard to talk him out of it.
He beamed with pride, re-energized by the goal. He “let” me tell my wife about the goal, and while she was pleased – the disparity in their reactions only reinforced how lucky I am that he was there. Pretty soon he’s going to be too old to want to go. I’ll no longer be on the pedestal he’s built for me, and moments like this will be reduced to a line in an email.
But not this one… he was there, and although the goal itself is a meaningless accomplishment, the fact he was there means the world.