When you don’t see any posts from me for a few days, you know that I must be incredibly busy…this has been one of those weeks.

As much effort as it took to hold myself together attending another organization’s tryouts a few weeks ago, I knew this week’s tryouts for my own Arizona Hockey Union teams were going to be incredibly demanding.  Sitting at a table checking kids out from equipment sizing, looking at their birth years, remembering when Micah was a Mite or a Squirt or a Peewee or even a Bantam going through this.  Punching in kids’ jersey number choices, coming across kids choosing #37 and wondering to myself, “Is he/she choosing this number out of respect or memory for Micah, or has this always been her/his number?”  Seeing the familiar faces, having people ask if they can give me a hug, hearing people comment how great it is to see me at the rink, still actively working in youth hockey–even after “what happened.”  Leaving the rink three nights this week after 10pm with the tears forming and the emotions swelling…

No, this doesn’t mean that I don’t want to continue doing what I love doing.  I don’t want to stop volunteering and working with the fantastic people I’m working with.  Some people have suggested that maybe I take a year or two off from hockey all together.  I guess it’s hard for someone else to understand–I don’t just volunteer around the rink because of Micah, I have developed a love for helping these kids, parents and coaches.  My time at the rink is my time to socialize, to spend time with other adults that share my passion and interests–to feel like I’m not alone.

I know sometimes I appear extremely strong–to be able to deal with what I’ve had dealt to me over the past four months and still go to the rink, still work with the CVHS Choir Boosters, still do so many things where Micah is still there.  The truth is, it’s a symbiotic relationship.  Yes, I can be strong and show that strength, but I draw much of that strength from the people around me in those places.  I don’t know where I would be right now without the overwhelming support of our hockey community near and far, without the support of Matt Flora, the parents and kids from the CVHS Advanced Vocal and Concert Choir chorales.

Yes, being at the rink for several hours on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday night this week was emotionally exhausting, but the handshakes, hugs, conversations and just knowing, comforting looks from so many people also gave me the strength to go on.  Having coaches break from evaluating kids on the ice to come over and say hello, give me a hug, ask me how I’m doing–it meant so much.  Having my planned team evaporate, only to be received with open, caring arms by another team that wanted to have me around, have me working with their parents and kids.  Spending those last hours of each evening being part of a coaching team that wants to not just win, but to develop kids and be a true hockey family–a family of which they want me to be an integral part.  To be exhausted, but excited enough when I get home at 10:45pm to want to tell Cynthia about everything that happened and how excited I am for this new opportunity.  Makes the hours and efforts all worthwhile.

With all this, it also makes me start to rethink the idea of friendship.  While I constantly examine what it means to be a friend–or to have friends around me, this is more just thinking about people that I have considered friends.  Not everyone will be my friend Tim, friends since sixth grade (when we got in trouble for throwing food at each other in the Old Orchard Junior High school cafeteria), friends through the miles and the years.  A friend that I could call up, after–for one reason or another–having not spoken in over a year, and just pick up, do lunch and catch a movie.  Not everyone will be Pete, my friend since moving back to Chicago to finish my undergraduate degree some 24 years ago.  We text or message regularly.  When Micah passed away, Pete was the first friend on a plane to be here for us.  I can’t even begin to talk about my best friend, my wife Cynthia. There are other examples–I could go on for pages…but the question in my mind is the gray area: people that I like to think of as friends, but that I feel like I’m always the one doing the heavy lifting.

I understand that I’m the kind of person that frequently does things for others.  I don’t do those things expecting repayment (though occasional appreciation is nice).  However, e when I go through my more self-reflective, quiet, and–yeah–isolated-feeling moments, I wonder how many of those people are friends, as opposed to acquaintances that I’ve helped out.  Not that there’s anything wrong with being an acquaintance (or from accepting my help)–I think it might just be an issue of how I perceive those people.  In my worst of times, it’s just hard to see certain things going on and wonder why I’m not there, why I’m not included.  Self-doubt creeps in and I wonder, what did I do wrong?  How did I exclude myself from this activity?  Finally, I reach the stage of denial and acceptance: “Eh, I wouldn’t have had a good time anyhow.  Probably better that I wasn’t included.”

It would be nice to get to the point where I can skip a lot of the mental gymnastics and just skip straight to the realization (or delusion perhaps) that those activities, those groups, aren’t really for me.  And perhaps that those people I previously perceived as friends were just friendly acquaintances.

Yeah, it’s been that kind of a week…and even my Cubs haven’t been able to win exciting games to pick up my spirits.  Sigh.