Yeah, I do.

Sitting in this quiet house, I feel like I need earplugs to squelch the screaming silence.  While many are out and about, enjoying friends, parties, fireworks–I’m listening to my own thoughts.  No music playing.  No conversations to be heard.  The faint sound of fireworks being set off in the neighborhood.  The gentle whirring of the computer fan and air coming through the ductwork.

I find myself to be an enigma.  I consider myself an outgoing, social person–but I rarely go out or find myself in social situations outside work and work-like environments.  I love the random conversations that are struck up at the bar, but I don’t drink, and I often feel like the fifth wheel when I go to a bar.  (And no, having to repeatedly explain why I choose not to drink does not contribute to the enjoyable random conversations.)  I imagine that I cause my own fifth-wheelness, but it’s usually difficult to tell.

I could go on-and-on-and-on for thousands of words about how much I miss Micah tonight, how 2017 will be the first year without my tenor goalie, how the eleven and a half months has not allowed the loss to fade.  Perhaps, in light of my comments above, I should focus on the peripheral things I miss without Micah here.

Over the past several months, I have tried to convince myself that it would be good therapy for me to stay around youth hockey, keep doing the same things I did while Micah was alive, and through those actions, maintain my social connections to the hockey world.  What I have found instead is that, in many spheres, Micah was a vital link that cannot be replaced.  Many of the things I did for Micah’s teams just don’t feel the same done for teams without Micah present.  Where sometimes my only reward for doing things was the pleasure of seeing Micah happy, or seeing Micah’s team succeed, now…sure, I love seeing the other kids happy too, but it’s not the same.

One night recently, I spent a little time at the rink to scorekeep a game, and wound up being present for a friend’s team meeting, discussing the team’s upcoming out of town tournament.  I remembered having those meetings myself, filling people in on important information, and looking forward to giving Micah the details of our upcoming journeys.  As I listened, it struck me how distant it all felt.  This wasn’t my life any longer.  As much as many of the people in the room were my friends, that friendship now looked different.

Even scorekeeping–which I have done regularly for the past eight years–has lost its luster.  I learned one skill, added another and another, made my own personal refinements, and became what I thought to be one of the best scorekeepers in the area.  But one thing that has become ever more obvious over the past couple years is that saying you’re one of the best scorekeepers is kind of like saying you’re the city’s best garbage man.  It’s nice and all, but so what.  Did it mean I got bigger paychecks?  No.  Did it mean I got special requests to work big games?  Very rarely.  Sure, it was a nice ego stroke to have people compliment me, to say how much more they enjoyed games when I was playing music or sound effects and announcing.

What you realize when you lose a child–but still have another–is just how precious that time with your kids can be.  I know it sounds cliché, but it is so true, and never clearer than when you lose one.  I think I mentally wrote off spending those hours at the rink scorekeeping as being “near” Micah when he was at practice, or playing in the games himself.  I rationalized that I was working the games because the money was helping pay for Micah’s hockey expenses.  On a very personal level, I enjoyed the ego-stroking from families telling me that they loved it when I scored their games.  Now, I need to spend more time with Avi.  I need to spend more time with Cynthia.  I need to spend less time at the local rink, earning a few extra dollars that we really don’t need (and some 16- or 17-year old kid could use far more than I can).

End result: my scorekeeping has tailed off to perhaps two or three games per month–just games that I agreed before the season began that I would work.  Games that feature some of Micah’s former teammates, and hockey families to which I feel especially close.  When those games come to an end in mid-February, so will the majority of my scorekeeping career.  When the current youth hockey season is over, I will retire from managing youth hockey teams.

Will I disappear from hockey completely?  No.  I will likely continue working for the benefit of all youth hockey players through my co-chair position with the state youth hockey league.  I will continue working with my newest hockey family, the Cactus Cup committee, to help run their tournaments.  I will continue to be the public address voice of the Tucson Roadrunners (and satiate my desires to “scorekeep” by helping the off-ice officials sharing the announcing booth with me).  Those things will undoubtedly still take up a considerable amount of time–but still less than I devoted in the past.

With my shifting perspective on hockey has come some pleasant surprises.  I have developed new, closer friendships with people that I was barely acquaintances of in the past.  I have started to really consider the future possibilities of focusing more on my public address announcing interests.  And I have started to see the benefits of spending more time with my family.

Despite all this, I am still brought back to my home office, sitting alone in the silent house, just considering my thoughts.  The Roadrunners games for the weekend are done.  My Roadrunners friends and colleagues have gone off to their home lives for a couple weeks.  My wife and daughter are asleep, but my brain is not yet ready to rest.  There are clearly more thoughts it wants to let me hear about, taking advantage of the silence.

Happy New Year everyone.  May your 2017 be memorable in all the right ways.