Life, Loss, Hockey and Baseball — not necessarily in that order.

Random thoughts from the most random of minds…

Father’s Day

What might be the hardest week of my year begins tomorrow.

This isn’t to say that the last couple weeks have been a piece of cake, walk in the park, or whatever other clichéd phrase might fit best.

For the past two weeks at work, I have been tangling with an especially messy case involving a client in Mexico fighting to be reunited with a son taken into the United States by his ex in 2013–and vanished until my client got word that his son was in DCS (Department of Child Safety) custody in Arizona.  DCS was anxious for a happy reunion, right?  Yeah–not really.  Seems that DCS prefers the idea of the kid remaining here in the US with his foster parents (who they openly refer to as the “adoptive placement”) forever more.  Lots of mud slung at my client without actual evidence…and, what do you know, when the court set a hearing for DCS to put up or shut up, they turned up mostly empty-handed, full of theories and beliefs and supposition instead.  Court dismissed the case.  DCS got on the hotline to the court of appeals, and–voila!  We now have a stay of the dismissal of the case and a pending petition for a special action before the appellate court.  In two weeks, I’ve had an oral argument on the issue of the stay, drafted a motion to strike the petition, drafted a motion to withdraw the motion to strike after a couple things changed in the case, and this past week–oi.  This past week, I spent the majority of my time drafting a 40-plus page response to the special action.  Am I done?  Not likely…probably more to come on this case.  And–oh yeah–I still have a number of other cases that need my attention that had to be pushed into the background while I worked on the response.

But wait, there’s more!  This coming week is our statewide public defender conference, Wednesday through Friday.  It’s supposed to be a nice, comfortable, breezy 112-121 this week in the Phoenix area.  Yes, you read that correctly: 112-121, one hundred twenty-one degrees is predicted for Tuesday or Wednesday’s high.  And then…

Our fourteen month odyssey is almost complete.  In April, 2016, we signed the contract to build our new house.  They finally broke ground in August, 2016, and laid the foundation in October, 2016.  As of this past week, we finally signed all our loan documents and paid our remaining deposit and fees.  Wednesday is the big day — the day we get our keys and take “delivery” of the house.  Yay!  What this really means is Wednesday night I repaint the office/man-cave in Chicago Cubs colors.  Thursday afternoon we take delivery of new furniture, appliances and have our internet installed.  Thursday night I hope to get our electronics moved over to the new house, along with the mattresses and perhaps my daughter’s bed frame and my office computer desk.  Friday we’ll have another vendor in doing some installation.  Aaaaand then, Saturday–the big move, movers and a truck and everything.  Saturday is when we move all the big stuff, all the medium stuff, and whatever remains of the small stuff.  By the time we go to sleep Saturday night, all our possessions will be in the new house.

This is all fantastic, but there’s a cloud to our silver lining.  Well, there are a few clouds, but one that will have the most impact on me this week: my wife will be in Dallas all week conducting a training seminar for teachers.  So, all these wonderful things happening this week, come down to myself and my 13-year old daughter.

Now, this isn’t to say that we’re getting no help.  I’ll start by thanking Claire and Linda and Roxanne for all the help they’ve already provided us in making sure the house is packed up before my wife gets on her flight to Dallas on Monday morning.  Without those three, we would be completely lost right now.  I believe all three of our fantastic friends will be back on Saturday to help with the big move–as will my wife, and my brother, flying in from Chicago just to help us move.

A few weeks ago, I sent out the call for help–just looking for a few friends to help shuttle electronics, a couple mattresses, and the two small furniture items to the new house on Thursday evening.  Times like these are when you learn things about people.  I have one confirmed YES for Thursday.  I have one that said he would help, but have not heard from him in a couple weeks.  I have one friend whose wife said that he would be here to help.  I have one that has family in town and is pretty tied up, but offered to help with unpacking or other assorted things after his family departs.  To sum this up, I’m nervous.  Hopefully I get the help I need for Thursday so this doesn’t become a six trip back-and-forth operation.  It would be so nice to only have the boxes, kitchen table, washing machine, bookshelves and dressers left to move on Saturday…

Where does all this leave me?  Tomorrow.  Father’s Day.

My grandfathers: Gentle, loving souls, both passed on.  Max, my father’s father, died in 1995.  Morrie, my mother’s father, died in 1983.

My father died in 2006, just a couple months past his 60th birthday.  Always happy, jovial, despite the issues he battled.  I was just happy that he got to meet both Micah and Avi before he passed away.  I miss my father’s laugh, his smile, the smell of markers from his doodles and his Name-Toons.  I miss those long days when I “hung out” with my father as he made his custom artwork for guests and passers-by at the Ramada O’Hare, or the Marriott O’Hare, or a mall art fair, or his time at the resorts in upstate New York back in the early 90s.  I miss nonsensical discussions about pickles, and the creative way my father had with words–particularly silly words that he made up himself.  I miss the stories about his time in Israel, and the endless slides he would show us from those days before I was born.  I miss hearing about his political views, about the time he met President Gerald Ford and made him a Name-Toon.  I miss all his dreams and ambitions.  I miss the grandparent bonding time he never got to have with Micah and Avi.  I even miss that fateful day on Route 176 after a visit to the Volo Auto Museum…and lying on the floor in front of the back seat of his car, holding his belt as the belt held up the muffler.  I miss my dad.

My own son is gone.  Tomorrow marks the second Father’s Day I have had to celebrate with only one child instead of two.  This holiday is being celebrated while many of Micah’s friends and hockey teammates are in San Jose, preparing for the NARCh West Coast Finals.  I’ve seen the Facebook posts.  I’ve stared at the pictures.  Micah would have been there.  I would have probably been there with him.  It would have been our first ever trip to Northern California, to San Francisco, to the Golden Gate Bridge, to Alcatraz.  Instead, it’s another reminder of everything I’ve lost.

As we prepare to move into our new house–the house at 3706–we do not have our 37.  I know he’s with us in spirit, and he is never far from our thoughts, but he will never carry his hockey bag into this new house.  He won’t be wishing me a Happy Father’s Day from the sofa in between games of Skyrim.

The pictures…the videos…the memories…are my Father’s Day gift from my son.  Not to sound selfish or spoiled–but they’re not enough.


Cleaning Out the Hockey Closet

Tonight, we moved on to part three of our moving preparation packing week.  Saturday and Sunday we conquered the office, the bookshelf in the living room and Micah’s bedroom.  Tonight we moved on to the front hall closet–the hockey closet.

Now, I’ll begin by saying that Micah’s final goalie bag, containing his last set of leg pads, his blocker and catcher, his mask–is still in his bedroom.  Seventeen months is still just a day, and there is no way I can part with those last pieces of my goalie son.  They will be moved into the new house just as they are now, and will be stored in a location to be determined until…until…until I decide on a more permanent way to display them.

That being said, we knew that tonight’s task would not be easy.  Almost every object I picked up in that closet reminded us of Micah.  Every piece of gear, every hockey sock or practice jersey conjured up a memory.  Some memories were smaller and almost insignificant–old hockey socks were easy to throw out, nasty puck-and-Gatorade-stained practice jerseys were just about as easy to dispose of.  Other items–an old pair of goalie skates, Micah’s last set of leg pads from roller hockey, Micah’s inline goalie skates, an old custom blocker and catcher set in his team colors (purple, silver and black)–these things brought a pause to the process.

Nothing in the downstairs closet, aside from his inline gear, had been used anytime recently by Micah.  Many pieces there were waiting for someone to ask me if I had an old this, or a used that, that their young goalie might be able to use.  Many of those things were never requested.  It turned out that most parents of young goalies that I ran into at the rink were more likely to purchase new gear than to use someone else’s hand-me-downs.  But now it is time to move on.  Now that gear will go to the rink or Goodwill to hopefully help a kid somewhere get to experience playing goal even though his or her parent can’t afford to spend $1,000 on new gear for that experience.

I thought we had pretty much all his jerseys already packed, but we found a few more in the closet, including one of his 2011-12 AHU Knights jerseys–the jerseys he wore at the last ever USA Hockey 12U (Peewee) Tier II Nationals, Micah’s only trip to Washington, D.C.  The Nationals patch was still intact, as was the jersey–if a little puck-marked.  We’ll clean that one up and put it with his others.  We also found his Team Arizona jerseys from his Midwest Wars experience of several summers ago.  And we rounded up about a dozen old practice jerseys in a variety of conditions, and decided it was best to let them go.

As we finished sorting through the closet, wiping away the tears, I began to think about how this was both a symbolic as well as a very real signal of change…

It has now been two months since I set foot in an ice rink.  Two months doesn’t seem like a huge period of time, I know.  When you consider that for team manager or organization representative, official scorekeeper or just hockey dad reasons, I rarely went more than a few days or a week between rink visits at any given time, two months is a pretty significant milestone.

After locking down my availability grid pretty tightly for scorekeeping jobs and, probably as a direct result, not getting any assignments, I decided to simply uncheck the box that declared me available to scorekeep games at all.  I have not kept score at a youth or adult league hockey game since Sunday, April 9th.  With a very hectic June and first half of July between moving, vacation and just taking care of my family, I would not likely really have the time to do any scorekeeping again until the second half of July anyhow.

Do I miss scorekeeping?  Yes–a little.  What I miss most is the camaraderie with some of my favorite referees, and seeing the joy in the parents’ faces when I would announce their children’s names or play some rocking music during a break in the action.  I don’t honestly miss spending three-four-five hours freezing my tail off in the scorer’s box.  I don’t miss the overly-hyper hockey parents that acted as though their child’s Squirt (9-10 year olds) game was going to decide which kids make it to the 2025 NHL Amateur Draft.

Will I scorekeep again?  Sure.  I have friends like Josh, who organize games for great causes, and I will always make my skills available to help his causes.  I still have friends around the rink that like to hear me announce the local Junior A team’s games, and I like the people that are always around that team–so I will probably scorekeep and announce a handful of their games during the upcoming season.  And, yes, I still have some friends with the local organization that love having me work their kids’ games–so, if given the chance, I will even work a dozen or two youth travel hockey games during the upcoming season.

I will also continue to work with my hockey family from PWC/Cactus Cup and help run the Cactus Cup tournament over MLK Jr Weekend in January.  Maybe I’ll pop up at another tournament here or there, but not for 15-20 hours per weekend.  I’ve come to enjoy my quiet time with my family, and I will now spend my holiday weekends with them more than at the rinks.

One unfortunate thing I’ve discovered over the past two months…  Maybe it’s not as unfortunate as simply a little sad.  The more distance I’ve put between myself and the day-to-day business of youth hockey, the more I’ve seen friends drop off–go silent.  Part of it makes sense, I suppose.  I’m not part of their youth hockey world any longer.  I don’t have a child playing.  I don’t have a job to do around an organization.  I’m not running the state league.  I’ve quickly gone from an in-the-know insider to an outsider.  Again, it’s not that I didn’t expect this–I did.  But some of the people that I thought would remain closer…

One thing is for certain–I’m at a point now where I value my time, my space, my family, more than a few dollars for scorekeeping a game, or even for more than a few dollars for helping organize things at the rink.  There are plenty of younger people: kids, parents of young Mite and Squirt players, college kids, that need the money and the work more than I do.  There are plenty of fantastic parents that can and should take an active role in the organization their kid plays for, or the state league that helps provide great experiences for their child’s hockey team.  There are plenty of other things for me to do–a little scorekeeping, PA announcing for the Roadrunners, working with the Royals/Outcasts roller hockey program, to keep the hockey flames burning inside…

Besides, I’m now coming full circle.  My first love in sports was baseball–specifically Cubs baseball.  Time to head back to the ballpark.  Time to head back to Wrigley Field.  Oh, what’s this?  The last thing I found of Micah’s gear in the closet–his baseball glove.  It’s a sign.


Packing the Office, Unpacking the Memories

Just about four years ago, Micah and I were headed to Chicago for Micah to play roller hockey with Team Arizona at the big Midwest Wars roller tournament.  Cynthia and Avi were getting ready to move into our current house.  How much things can change…

Today, we started the process of packing for our next move–hopefully the last move we make pre-retirement.  This time, there was no Micah.  The new house will not have a bedroom that stinks of hockey gear.  The new house will not have an Xbox that is never turned off because Micah is always playing it.  The new house will have 37s prominently displayed–starting at the address next to the front door.

This morning, we started tackling the bottomless pit known as our home office.  We managed to get about two-thirds of the room de-trashed and prepared for packing.  In the process, we came across many relics of times gone by: old electronics manuals, a couple ancient cell phones, outdated networking gear…and then the pictures.  There were pictures of Micah and Avi from their much younger years, videos of a six, seven, eight year old Micah playing hockey, baseball memorabilia, hockey memorabilia, and more pictures of Micah…and more…and more.

Before tomorrow is done, we will finish the office and attack Micah’s room and the downstairs hall closet–the repository of all Micah’s old hockey things.  We will see more pictures and memory-inducing items of Micah’s, and we will struggle.  We will struggle because it’s hard to see all those memories of our son–our son that is not moving into the new house.  We will struggle because we cannot simply throw out things that were part of Micah’s life.  We will struggle because we miss our son, our daughter misses her brother.  We will struggle because we know that we only symbolically leave the memories of that night behind us–everything that was Micah, that is Micah, will come with us.

We will struggle–not just tomorrow, or the next day, or on the day of the move three weeks from now.  We will continue to struggle because we all loved Micah, and our memories are all that remain.


Some Days Are Darker Than Others

The clouds are there, but only I seem to see them.  One seems to be following me today.  My plans for the day became afterthoughts.  From active participant to observer, from structure and idea to abyss–the downward path I feel I have followed since morning…

I suppose this started last night, when I determined that my body has conspired to penalize me for every type of food that I love to eat.  Ate dinner, paid the check…and then around 4am I paid the second check, and again around 6am I paid the third check, and again around 10am I paid a fourth check.  Last weekend, I experienced similar issues with another favorite–and the long wait at the airport and the flight that followed, well into the evening upon my return.  Italian Beef?  Better than a 50/50 shot at triggering a gout attack.  Stuffed pizza?  Digestive nightmares.  Stir Fry?  Sour stomach for hours.  BBQ brisket?  Sour stomach and digestive nightmares.  Coke/Pepsi?  More issues.

Of course, the other price I have paid–watching my weight increase by 15 pounds over the past month.  Nothing lowers your spirits like the sinking feeling when you put on a pair of pants that used to fit six weeks ago, but now can’t be buttoned.

Everyone has their solutions to offer.  “Try this powder diet miracle cure!  It’s only $160 for a month’s supply!”  “What about this diet plan?  I only pay $15/week plus special diet foods.”  Why is it that every solution begins with serious weight loss to my wallet?

I woke up this morning and challenged myself to lose that recent extra 15 pounds, plus ten more, before my summer vacation trip, five weeks away.  I’m not sure how I’m going to do it.  I suppose I might go back to a mile or two walk every morning, maybe go back on my soda-free diet, try to reduce portion sizes and overly fried/fatty food.  Maybe I can convince my brain to go back to undereating when I get depressed instead of constantly snacking.  (I know, neither one is healthy.)  With the level of stress I expect during the month of June, a little undereating might work wonders.

Meanwhile, I find myself sitting at this computer, listening to the sound of my own breathing.  The daughter is out to the theater with friends.  The wife is out at a friend’s party.  I’m sitting here making sure no one breaks into our house to steal the chair I’m sitting on.  Not a chair thief in sight…

I’m wondering if I need to take a vacation from social media.  It seems like every time my mood dips and the skies around me darken, my timeline fills with everyone else having a fantastic time with friends and family.  Every once in a while, Facebook will deliver an extra gut-punch with a photo or video of Micah smiling, playing hockey, singing, playing with friends.

I look at the list of “friends” and wonder what happened to some of them.  For some, I wonder why they were ever a Facebook friend to begin with.  Part of this is a feeling of self-fulfilling prophecy, I suppose.  When I made the break with most things youth hockey, I thought the silence would become deafening.  I knew there would be people to whom, once I no longer served a useful purpose, I would become a memory.

I guess I can start by thinning the herd by dropping off those “friends of convenience.”  They’ll never notice.  Micah hasn’t played hockey in 18 months now.  He’s not anyone’s goalie.  I’m not in a position of current knowledge or authority any longer.  Just one less person posting liberal “nonsense” about how horrible 45 is, how little our representatives actually care about all their constituents, rich and poor, white and minority, Christian and non…

Maybe my second step should be what I’ve seen many other friends do: tell people to post something on my timeline that shows they’re actually a friend, or to ask me in a message to not unfriend them.  Yeah, that’s not really my style.  If I unfriend someone and they find that they need my friendship still, they can always re-request it.

Loneliness sucks, even if it’s only temporary–or imagined.  The silence acts as a reminder of what loneliness feels like…


The Speed Bump You Didn’t See Coming

Some dates I could mark on my calendar: his birthday, the anniversary of his death, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, the date he played his last hockey game…  Other dates, however, just spring up and bite me.

Tonight is Graduation Night at Micah’s high school.  No, Micah would not have been graduating tonight–he would have only been celebrating the end of his Junior year, but a number of his friends are graduating tonight.  Many of his other friends are busy posting their relief of another school year gone by, their excitement of becoming Seniors, looking forward to their graduation in May, 2018.  Micah was a part of the Class of 2018.

It has been 16 months since Micah died.  At first, I did not spend a ton of time sobbing and crying and hysterical about losing my son.  I rationalized.  I internalized.  I thought about how he “wouldn’t want me to break down like that.”  I started blogging as my means of self-care and therapy.  For a while, it worked…until it really didn’t any longer.

I took breather trips to Chicago to immerse myself in the Chicago Cubs World Series run.  Just two-day getaways, mainly by myself, to sit and take in the atmosphere at Wrigley Field, to walk around the neighborhood and breathe in everything I thought was right with my hometown.  Each trip found me reconnecting with old friends or spending quality time with my brother.  Each trip had those moments of peace and contentment, but also moments of loneliness and realizations of my loss.  Each trip had moments of guilt–I would not be taking these trips if Micah was still here, and so taking these trips was like accepting blood money for my son.  Each trip ended, feeling like I was coming down hard from an ecstatic high.

I tried keeping my routine the same–still doing my bit for youth hockey, scorekeeping, public address announcing.  I continued being a team manager.  I continued helping the organization that Micah played five of his nine seasons with.  I continued walking the tightrope pretending that everything was the same while trying not to look down to glimpse the painful reality all around.  Every once in a while, I would look down and feel the pain of those jolts of reality.  Until–eventually–the pain became too much, too frequent, and the tightrope seemed to have no safe platform in sight.  In the end, I leapt off the tightrope and just hoped that the netting below would break my fall.

The more time flowed under the bridge, the harder reality became to ignore.  As more memorials, mentions, memories were observed and commented, the harder it was to keep a calm outward appearance.

It’s silly, I know.  There is no reason why I shouldn’t be able to have an emotional moment, or hour, or day, now, 16 months later.  But every time I do, it still makes me feel–guilty.  How can I have these reactions now, when I did not have them around the time I actually lost Micah?  I fear that people around me will start to see these outbursts, meltdowns as somehow contrived.  Yes, I know that how others react should not matter to me–they don’t know, can’t know, should never know what I’m going through.  But still…

As I took a few free moments today to reach out for help in our moving process, I saw the social media posts of those friends of Micah, moving on with their lives (as they should), thinking about their upcoming high school graduations.  I think about recent posts of Micah’s friends and teammates making college visits, attending combines and draft camps for hockey, planning for their futures.  My mind drifts to Micah, and the plans we might have made, the things Micah might have done, the graduation that we would have celebrated next year…and the empty room our upcoming move will soon leave behind.

Even thinking about getting people to help us with our move next month sets my mind on its path of sorrow towards the heart.  After Micah died, we needed to move.  We needed to leave the memories of that fateful night behind, and not be constantly reminded of them every time we looked into his room.  We tried to just get rid of the bunk bed.  Not enough.  We tried to put a futon in the room for guests to sleep on.  What were we thinking?  Who–that knew us, that knew Micah–would be comfortable sleeping in the room that was only made available by our loss?  The only solution was to get out of that house, to start fresh.

Before three months had passed, we had found our new house and signed a contract.  Little did we realize that we would linger in the old house for over 14 months before the new house would be finished.  And even when it is finished, some five weeks from tomorrow, it will always be Micah’s house: 3706.  The Fates decided that our new house needed to serve as a forever memorial to Micah, and blessed us with Lot 277 having an actual street address of 3706: “37” – the number Micah wore throughout his nine years of travel hockey; 06, the year he started playing.

Fourteen months later, his hockey bag still sits in his bedroom.  His hockey sticks still sit in the back of the garage.  I cannot throw them out.  I cannot give them to someone else.  I do not know where they will go in the new house, but I do know that they will travel with us.  Micah’s trophies, medals and theatre and music memorabilia are still in his bedroom.  I cannot dispose of them either.  We will find a suitable trunk to place them in, and they too will join us to the new house.  Micah’s jerseys still hang in the closet in his room.  They will be packed up and brought to the new house.  Perhaps we’ll shadow box a couple and put them on a wall.  Maybe they will go in the trunk.  Whether displayed or not, they will also accompany us on the move.  I only wish the owner of all these things was moving with us too–not in spirit, not as memories, but in person, decorating his own room with his things…

How many speed bumps will I not see until I hit them?  I guess I can plan on the graduation day speed bump next May, and drive carefully from there…


Signs and Struggles

Humankind tends to be very good at hiding and disguising things that we find unattractive.  Putting on airs, excessive use of makeup, fake smiles and laughter, kind but empty words when saying nothing would make more sense…  All examples of trying to triage the unseemly to seem acceptable.  In my case, it’s smiling or making a funny comment to try and cover up the pain and struggle within.  I even try to fool myself sometimes…

One thing I have discovered over the past year and a half is just how easy it is to puncture the facade.  We’ve all heard it said, “you can fool everyone else, but you can’t fool yourself.”  Oh how true that is.  Last year, I started taking these little two-day getaways, trying to give myself a chance to breathe and engage in “self care.”  With the painful connections between hockey and the loss of my son, I turned to my original sports love: the Chicago Cubs.  Last year, including an impromptu trip for Game 4 of the World Series, I made four trips to Wrigley Field, three solo and one with Avi.  So far this year, I’ve taken two to Chicago and one to Denver.  All quick trips–one nighter to Chicago for Opening Night, one nighter to Denver to meet up with one of my closest friends for a Cubs-Rockies game, and now the current basically one night trip.

Each trip has had its peaks–checking in with my friend David and hearing/watching him perform, spending a little time with my brother, hanging out with my friend Pete.  Unfortunately, each trip has also had its valleys.  One thing has dogged all three trips: Mother Nature.  Opening Night at Wrigley Field was one of the coldest nights the the ballpark that I’ve ever encountered.  Windchill must have been around 30.  The start of the game was delayed over two hours by rain.  The Cubs won, but not until the following morning.  The Denver trip looked unlucky from the start– the initial forecast was bad enough that they did not expect the game to be played.  However, the rain let up after an extra 45 minutes, and the Cubs played.  A chilly, damp day–not Denver at its finest–but that trip was more about seeing Pete than the Cubs.  (Cubs lost 3-0, being no-hit into the latter innings.). This weekend’s games–one played in the rain and a windchill under 35 degrees, and the second postponed two hours prior to gametime, only to have the rain stop before the game was supposed to begin and remain stopped more than long enough for the game to have been played.

Is it a sign?  It kind of starts to feel that way.  Maybe Micah is telling me that I’ve spent enough time trying to run from my emotions, from my pain.  Every time these trips start to go south, the pain is there–raw as ever.  Whether it’s the disappointment of a fun experience turning cold and miserable or seeing things that remind me of Micah.  Right now, I’m sitting at the gate waiting for my significantly delayed flight, watching a mother trying to deal with two children that have serious mental illness.  One, a young girl, maybe ten or eleven years old, that appears to have pretty severe autistic traits, and the second, a younger four or five year old, that appears even more severe, appearing unable to verbally communicate with her mother, fidgeting and hitting herself on the leg and foot.  Micah was never that severe, obviously, but we certainly had our trial and tribulations with Micah’s severe ADHD and mood disorder, especially when he was 3-4-5-6 years old, and then his partially ADHD-triggered depression in his last year or so.  My heart goes out to the mother, but at the same time, I can’t help but wish that I was still dealing with those issues instead of writing this blog entry.

On the shuttle from the airport to the car rental desk earlier, I spied a pair of taped goalie sticks sitting next to a goalie bag.  The young man that grabbed the bag and sticks when the shuttle stopped looked to be not much more than Micah’s age.  As anxiety-ridden as some of those hockey trips were, how much I miss that one-on-one time with my son.  This afternoon, my brother and I went to lunch at a restaurant that was in a very familiar location.  Why was it familiar?  Hockey trip with Micah.  Suddenly reminders everywhere…

I can no longer run away and hide.  Every time I do, I feel like I am conceding defeat.  Maybe our upcoming move, away from the room where Micah ended his life–maybe that will help.  Maybe settling into a new routine once we’ve moved…

The struggles will continue.  I will continue to face and battle whatever gets in my way.  I will still take one more trip to Chicago in June–though more for a reunion of a number of friends from high school theatre.  I will focus on the positives…

Crashing and Burning

This unfortunately seems to be the theme of the end of my week: crashing and burning.  From the minor and relatively insignificant to the more prominent:

  • The Cubs.  Major league history is replete with examples of teams winning the World Series and then really struggling the following season.  The Cubs won 103 regular season games in 2016 and won their first World Series in 108 years.  There was bound to be some hangover from celebration, some fatigue from pitching, hitting and fielding from early March through November 2nd–playing an extra month of baseball, and some degree of coming back to earth after a record-setting season for the starting pitchers.  However, just because this seems to be the norm does not mean it’s easy to cope with.  The Cubs have spent the past week grounding out, striking out, leaving runners in scoring position (when they can get on base), and demonstrating a real need to improve the starting rotation.  Now–despite all this, the Cubs have won four games, and won a tough series with Philadelphia–taking three of four games. Unfortunately, they also had a starting pitcher (Brett Anderson) pitch two total innings, giving up 12 earned runs, and burned their bullpen to the point where they decided earlier today to, at least temporarily, go to a NINE-man bullpen.  Yes–nine relievers, five starters, and only 11 position players (eight starters and a bench of THREE, including the backup catcher).  (Good thing overall, since Anderson left after two-thirds of an inning and the Cubs have needed the bullpen for eight plus innings today.)  Are the Cubs done?  No.  Not close.  But it still stings to look up and see them likely at 16-14 after tonight’s loss to the Yankees (trailing 11-6 into the top of the ninth inning with backup catcher Miguel Montero on to pitch for the Cubs), and tied with–of all teams–the Reds for first place in the very mediocre NL Central (where no team is more than 3.5 games out of first going into tonight’s action).  Still…I care about my Cubbies.  I got spoiled last season, and I like to see them win.
  • Hockey.  No, this isn’t about any particular NHL or AHL team’s fate in the post-season so far.  This is about the simple things…20170506_120746 This weekend is the State Roller Hockey Finals.  While I was not as foolish as last season–I did not volunteer or agree to work the entire 56-game slate of games for the weekend, I did agree to work 25 games, spread out over the three days.  Overall, this has been a weekend relatively free of emotional turmoil, but not without some minor frustration–or without some pangs of loss.  I walked into the building this morning to see this trophy sitting on the tournament table: the trophy that bears Micah’s name, given to the top performing goalie during Finals in each division.  Uploading this image, I realized that the tears in my eyes may have led to difficulty getting the name plate of the trophy in focus.  The most emotional moment of the day: being approached by the winner of the 16/18u division trophy, a young man that knew and played against Micah over his last couple seasons, who thanked me for everything that I have done, and told me he was proud to have won “Micah’s award.”  Funny story about this kid.  In the summer of 2013, Micah was asked to play on Team Arizona for the State Wars Midwest Wars inline hockey tournament in Chicago.  Micah and his teammates did pretty well, making it into the playoff rounds.  Micah competed in the skills competition that weekend, and wound up winning the goaltending title.  The runner-up to Micah was a younger, blonde-haired kid representing Team Ohio.  Yes–the runner-up, who also did a fantastic job in the skills competition was the same young man that today told me he was proud to have won Micah’s goalie award.  It’s funny how things work out…
  • Work.  It was a long week.  I attended a conference on Thursday and Friday, but found myself distracted and tired for much of it.  Too many moments of all too quiet contemplation in my office.  Looking forward to a day off this week for my trip to Denver to see one of my best friends and hang out for a day at Coors Field and watch the Cubs take on the Rockies.  When I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about my next day off while sitting at my desk…I just don’t see that as a good sign.
  • The Audition.  Over.  Done.  I will not be portraying any character in the local production of Joseph.  I wish I could say, “Hey, I expected this.  No big deal.”  I can’t.  Did I expect to jump back onto the scene and swipe a role without effort?  Not at all.  However, it still stings to not even get a shot at callbacks.  All the thought, planning, and hope led to a 90 second audition (if it was that long), and that was it.  What went wrong?  I can’t read music.  I can’t play piano or keyboard (which kind of goes hand-in-hand with not being able to read music).  I apparently either did not ask the right people or at the right volume to get help with rehearsing for the audition.  Maybe, you know, being able to carry a tune in high school and at the odd religious program doesn’t equate to being able to sing well enough to garner a callback for a community theatre musical.  Am I giving up?  No, but I am going to need to work on a few things before trying again: memorizing a couple contemporary monologues to audition for non-musical shows, learning how to read music and at least how to identify and play simple chords on a piano, and probably losing some weight and getting in better shape, so that directors and others won’t decide against me due to my shape or fitness.  I guess I have until early Spring 2018 to work this out.

Crashing and burning.  Having your week wrap up on a low note.  Needing a pick-me-up, but at the same time not feeling like you really want to seek it out.

Not to say there weren’t highlights this week.  Spending some quality time with my wife and daughter.  Catching a couple cool movies at my favorite theater–sneak preview of RISK, a new documentary on Julian Assange of WikiLeaks fame, and the first opening night show of Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 (incredibly funny, a rare sequel that is just as good as it’s predecessor).  If you live in an area that has an Alamo Drafthouse theater, I highly recommend you check it out.  There’s so much more going on there than the latest releases and eating popcorn.  Kudos to Lauren, the creative director for the Alamo Chandler/Phoenix location, for turning movie nights into actual social events.  Looking forward to my next night there–next weekend.  Cereal Party for Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 on Saturday morning and special Mother’s Day screening of The Sound of Music on Sunday afternoon!

It was also nice seeing some dear friends last night and this afternoon at the rink, and getting to show off the new house and have early dinner with the Sanchez family today.  The little things that keep you going…

Back to the rink I go…four games tonight, sleeping in tomorrow, and then wrapping up the weekend scorekeeping the championship games tomorrow afternoon.  A couple sleeps, as one friend calls them, and then off to Denver to hang with Pete!



Past, Future and the Space in Between

Sometimes you can talk about something repeatedly, tirelessly, endlessly–but it really doesn’t really hit home.  Until the exclamation point gets put on those endless sentences…

This weekend, the separation of past and future became real.  As I looked on, my Facebook feed filled with people talking about hockey tryouts.  It was time for the choir end of year awards ceremony–where a new award was being rolled out in honor of Micah.  Hockey and choir–two worlds that I am no longer involved in (except for the Cactus Cup for hockey).

No one forced me out of those worlds.  I chose my exit ramps, for the most part.  To paraphrase Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon, I found that the pressure was exceeding the pleasure.  Being in the choir room just brought up too many memories–too much pain–and I needed to try and give myself a break from it.  Being around the rink was not getting easier, but harder.  Without having my kid on the ice, my enthusiasm was slipping, and my emotions were harder and harder to control.  It was time to go.  A group of parents and hockey administrators made that even easier, as their continued entitlement, continued insistence that everything be handed to them, provided for them because they somehow were owed it because their kids are all superstars, or because they play at “elite” organizations, or because–well–because.  That’s not to say that all hockey parents and administrators are like that.  They’re not.  But there is certainly a large, if shallow, pool of folks that feel like their money, their power, their privilege entitles them to not lift a finger to help, but simply to demand whatever they think they deserve.

What about scorekeeping?  Jury is still out on that one.  I’ll probably still do some, now and then…but only in very specific situations.

One small step into the future this weekend–I auditioned for a musical for the first time in 28 years.  The thing about auditions though, like job interviews, is that there are no (or very few) sure things.  I think I did decently at the audition, but that does not mean the director and creative team watching the audition feel I’m a fit for their show.  I’ll find out in the next couple days, but I definitely feel like I have things to work on before my next auditions.  Yes–regardless of how this particular audition goes, I plan to try others.

While I plot and plan my future auditions and wait for the start of the 2017-18 AHL season, I feel the emptiness that the departure from those worlds has left behind.  There is no work to be done to get equipment ordered for the upcoming season.  There is no planning for the final concert or the end and then beginning of the school year.  No tryouts to attend, no preseason planning, no rules to edit or rewrite–just quiet.  A weekly movie has replaced a weekly meeting.  Planning for our upcoming move has replaced planning for a new season.  Thinking about buying a new tablet/laptop has replaced thinking about buying hockey gear or paying for a choir trip.  Weekend trips to Chicago for Cubs games and a very special reunion have replaced hockey tournament trips.  I just have to get to the next trip…the next purchase…the move…

It’s the space in between that leaves me vexed.  It’s not knowing the outcome of that first audition in decades.  It’s the awkward feeling of cutting things off cold turkey and putting myself on the outside looking in–even if I’m not sure whether I want to be looking in or not.  It’s either controlling my emotions when I see things that trigger memories–reminders of what I’m not doing and why, ignoring a lot of posts so I can avoid seeing those triggers, or ignoring Facebook all together for a while.  All difficult choices.

Maybe I’ll spend more time baking…haven’t made cookies in a while.  I’ll get more creative cooking dinner for the family–tonight was my first attempt at stir-fry (watch out YC’S Mongolian Grill, DL’s Mongolian Grill was tastier–even just working from scratch without a recipe).  And I did start tinkering with the 3D printer again for the first time in a long while.  Maybe I’ll get that running and start seeing what creative things I can do in plastics…

Here’s to an upbeat, happier week!  And, yes, good luck to everyone out there trying out–or auditioning!



Audition Eve and Other Not-So-Tall Tales

After much debate and contemplation, I have decided to press ahead with my plans to audition for a musical tomorrow morning–my first such audition in 28 years.

Working this story backwards, in the end, I decided that I’ve done plenty of things to embarrass myself over the years, or at least to open myself up to embarrassment and ridicule–what’s another 10 minutes?  How did I get to this point?  Simple.  I’ve been rehearsing three possible audition songs over the past two weeks — in the shower.  See, unlike many performers and musicians, I cannot sight-read music (aside from generally knowing when notes are higher or lower than the ones that preceded them)–I have always learned my parts by ear–listening, rehearsing, rinse and repeat.  I do not know how to play piano/keyboard/organ/other-white-and-black-keyed-instruments.  I put a couple messages out to people asking for help in practicing or rehearsing–and heard crickets.

So, as no one in my home can play piano, no one in my friend circle saw/responded to my call for help in doing so, and at least one of my chosen songs is not on any of the online sheet music websites that will offer to play a basic MIDI version of the music… I was left with one actual method of rehearsing: singing to myself a cappella.  After much shower and bedroom practice, as well as thinking about the nature of the show I’m auditioning for, and the characters I figure to be considered for, I had to let two of the songs go…

My final three were: If I Were a Rich Man from Fiddler on the Roof, Bui Doi from Miss Saigon and The Buddy System from City of Angels.  Three roughly Baritone-range songs that I was already familiar with, had heard performed before, and that I felt comfortable with performing to my very special audience of one: myself.

My favorite was actually Bui Doi.  I really enjoyed Miss Saigon, and this song seemed to be a good demonstration of my range–but I’m auditioning the light-hearted musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.  Singing about the abandoned children of American soldiers left in Vietnam after the fall of Saigon is a bit dark and brooding…not exactly Jacob or Potiphar territory.  So, one down…

Probably the song that I’m most comfortable with–and have known the longest–was If I Were A Rich Man.  However, I wanted something a little more challenging, a little more humorous.  Though, even as I write this, I wonder if I need to switch and go with this comfortable song…

I chose Buddy Fiddler’s solo, The Buddy System, from City of Angels.  Up-tempo, solidly Baritone with a hint of Tenor.  Want to hear me rehearse it?  Listen here.  (Just a warning: this is me singing a cappella into a digital audio recorder in my office with a somewhat scratchy throat…)

Where do I go from here?  I suppose that will really depend on how things go at 10am tomorrow morning–for the immediate future anyhow.  Callbacks are next Saturday, and hopefully we’ll go from there.  If not, I don’t plan to give up–but I think my next step might be finding someone to teach me how to sight-read music, so I can be a little better prepared in the future.

In other news…

Youth hockey tryouts are this weekend–but I am not involved.  For the first time in ten years, I will not find myself at one or multiple hockey rinks during tryouts.  Obviously I have no child trying out, but I am also no longer affiliated with any youth hockey organization (other than my family with PWC and the Cactus Cup–but they’re all about the tournaments, no tryouts there), so I have no duties or tasks to perform.  No fittings, no note-taking, no tryout scouting–no reason to set foot into a rink this weekend.  It’s kind of appropriate that my first audition for a musical in 28 years takes place during hockey tryouts.  Transitions continue…

This has not been an easy week.  A couple days inundated with memories of Micah–everywhere I turned, everywhere I looked, something reminded me of my son.  Just knowing that this weekend was going to be travel hockey tryouts all over the Phoenix area–whether I would be there or not–got the memories (and tears) flowing.  Thinking about scorekeeping large blocks of roller hockey State Finals games next weekend didn’t help.  Add in discovering at 3pm this afternoon that the Court of Appeals reached a very disappointing conclusion of an issue in one of my biggest current cases, and the whole week seems like lost hours.

My recent transition has not been an easy one.  Sure–it was easy enough to step aside and essentially retire from all my youth hockey affiliations and duties.  On March 5th, I was still involved with everything–by March 14th, I was involved with nothing (outside the PWC/Cactus Cup).  Band-Aid completely ripped off.  On April 1st, the Roadrunners home season ended.  On April 23rd, my ASU Softball announcing duties came to their seasonal conclusion.  On April 24th, just a few days ago, I looked at my calendar to find–emptiness and peace.  Problem is, I have never learned how to handle those things.  What do you do with an empty calendar?

Part of my answer is just enjoying my two guilty pleasures: baseball and movie-watching.  I haven’t missed many pitches and at-bats of my Chicago Cubs this season, whether listening, watching or simply following on the MLB At Bat app on my phone.  This past week, I have been over to my favorite theatre — Alamo Drafthouse Chandler — twice to see fantastic films.  Monday night was my first chance to see Akira Kurosawa’s classic film, Seven Samurai.  Tuesday night was a little lighter Far Eastern fare, Stephen Chow’s Kung Fu Hustle.  Next week, I already have one movie lined up (Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2), and am considering a second movie for $5 Tuesday.  And, of course, the Cubs play all week–four against the Phillies, three against the Yankees, all at Wrigley Field.

Hopefully the next part of my answer will come from tomorrow’s audition…

Oh, and finally–and I do mean FINALLY, we have the closing date on our new house!  We now know when we’ll get to move into our new home–a home that will always be Micah’s home: 3706…


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