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

Random thoughts from the most random of minds…

My Annual Pilgrimage to Wrigley (Part I?)

There’s nothing quite like the feeling of getting on the plane in Phoenix, 80 degrees and beautiful, and stepping off in Chicago, 31 degrees and snowing. If it was late November, or even early March–sure. But it’s April 9th!

Let me rewind a bit here. (I just wanted to get that temperature thought out first.) Okay, I’ll start be rewinding a lot. In April 2016, after Micah’s death, I decided that I needed to get back to some of the things that allowed me to clear my mind and bring me great joy. For many years, when I lived in Chicago (or the Chicago area), I spent many a summer day sitting in the stands at Wrigley Field watching Cubs baseball. Part of that annual routine was Opening Day. No matter how cold, regardless of the weather, I would make my way to the ballpark in late March or early April, and be there, in the moment, as the Cubs kicked off their annual regular season campaign.

After moving to Arizona in 1998, the trip to the Friendly Confines became a little more expensive than a five block walk, or a $2 “El” ride. And so, as priorities shifted, my trips to Wrigley Field became far fewer and sometimes with years in between–and Opening Day became a non-starter. Sure, I still watched from a distance, on WGN and the Extra Innings package at first, and eventually MLB.TV. I went to Chase Field (Bank One Ballpark initially) to cheer on my Cubs when they came in to play the Diamondbacks. But trips for Opening Day just weren’t in the cards.

Micah’s death, and my constant attempts to try and find ways to deal with it, led me to the realization that I really needed to stop keeping ridiculously busy and find some time to take care of myself. Taking care of my wife and daughter was a natural, and one of the things that drove the insane busy-ness at times, but I just continued to shove my own well-being deep into the background.

I needed to find something that was almost uniquely a “me” thing to do. I needed something that would not make my wife and daughter feel jealous or left out over. The answer was simple. As much as they tolerated baseball and allowed me the Cubs-themed man cave otherwise known as my office, actually spending six hours a day at the ballpark, often in less than ideal conditions, was not something either of them really desired. (Not to say they wouldn’t have done it, if I asked, but I would know they weren’t truly enjoying themselves, and would push myself to abandon my happiness I’m exchange for theirs.)

So, the first plans were made. Airfares secured at a very reasonable rate. Tickets were purchased. A hotel room was reserved. And a partner in crime was even found–David. More about David in a later entry, but suffice it to say that he was a high school friend that had also fallen on emotional hard times, and a friend that needed the pick-me-up as much as I did.

Opening Day 2016 arrived, and I had my escape. It worked out pretty well for the Cubs too–they won the game…and went on to break the 108-year old curse, winning their first World Series since 1908. En route to that championship, I ventured out to Chicago for three more brief Cubs trips, and then tacked on Game Four of the World Series, courtesy of my equally fanatic, fantastic brother.

Back to the present, same setup as 2016, except the tickets were a bit more expensive (three consecutive NLCS appearances and a World Series win will do that), and scheduling made it easier (?) to fly in on gameday morning, attend the game, and fly out the same night.

This trip comes at the perfect time. We had a very emotional weekend, lots of Micah reminders, spent time with one of Micah’s best friends that needed a chance to talk, vent, reflect, and just to be around something Micah. The whole family has been an emotional wreck. If I ever needed a diversion, some good news, it was right now. But, just as these things go…

Urgent News Flash: As I’m sitting here typing this, listening to my favorite Chicago sports radio station do their live broadcast across from Wrigley Field, word has come down that today’s game has been postponed. So, this trip has turned into the most expensive trip to the movie theater that I’ve ever had. Sigh.

To say I’m disappointed is a grandiose understatement. Can’t really change my travel plans to stay for the game tomorrow without a significant additional expense. I have $200+ worth of tickets that may well have fallen in value significantly, as they would no longer be used for Opening Day.

Amazing how a great, relaxing day can turn dark and depressing in a heartbeat.

Oh well. Time to make the best of it, I guess…

David

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Art Reflecting Life

It’s been a while since I sat down to add a serious blog entry.  (I did add a couple entries to my sports-only blog, ponderingthecubs.wordpress.com.)  I’ve had a lot on my mind, but just couldn’t find the time to focus and put my thoughts into “print” — until now.

A couple weeks ago, we took the first serious, non-sports-related, family vacation we’ve taken in years.  After lucking into the ability to buy Hamilton Broadway tickets at face value last summer, we decided it was finally time to head to the Big Apple.

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Thanks to a wonderful offer from a good friend, we got to stay in a beautiful row house in Weehawken, New Jersey — right on the Hudson River, with a view very similar to what you see above.  (This picture was actually taken from the Port Imperial ferry port a few blocks down from my friend’s place.)

In the weeks leading up to the trip, I was able to fill in our week’s Broadway plans a bit, adding good tickets for Hello, Dolly! and Kinky Boots.  When all was said and done, a dream trip, three Broadway shows in three days, was planned and ready.  We added a little sprinkle of family visit plans, and headed to the airport.

We arrived in Newark around 7pm on Monday evening, and right into the waiting arms of my friend, Ann.  After getting a little acquainted with Ann’s place, her husband and kids, we ate a little dinner and headed to sleep.  We had a busy Tuesday to come…

After a good night’s sleep, we headed over to the ferry, and into Midtown Manhattan.  Tuesday’s main objectives were the Guggenheim on the Upper East Side and then back to Times Square and…Hamilton.  If you’re going to go from Midtown to most other areas of NYC, your first stop should be…Grand Central Station!

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Neat to look at and walk through, but not really a tourist destination for us.  We found our way to the NYC Subway lines, and off to the Upper East Side.

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Guggenheim Museum, NYC

The Guggenheim was nice, but I discovered that it’s basically a one-exhibit art museum (with a couple permanent exhibit rooms off to the side).  In this case, the artist being showcased was OK, but I wasn’t really drawn in to his installation.  Cool building though…

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Hamilton at the Richard Rodgers Theatre

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The big night on Broadway: HAMILTON.  Orchestra-level seats (this picture was the view from our seats) for our first-ever Broadway musical.  The lights dimmed.  The music started.  The show began.  The emotions flowed.  Here was one of Micah’s favorite plays.  We were seeing it on Broadway, one of Micah’s dream destinations, not just for seeing a show, but for being in shows himself.  Michael Luwoye was the best all-around Hamilton we have seen (we’d seen the Chicago and touring company casts as well).  The rest of the cast was solid, and a good time was had by all.

Wednesday brought our adventure to Downtown Manhattan and the Lower East Side before taking us back to Broadway for Bernadette Peters and Victor Garber in Hello, Dolly!

I won’t bog this down too much with sight-seeing details, but suffice it to say that the most amazing architecture we saw on this trip was at The Oculus (top left).  Started in 2004, not finished until 2016, this amazing art installation slash high end shopping mall slash NY/NJ transit center is a must-see.  You walk out of the western side of the Oculus and find yourself at the 9/11 Memorial, and the foot of Freedom Tower.

Walking around the Oculus and gazing at the 9/11 Memorial and Freedom Tower built up a definite hunger…

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Katz’s Delicatessen, of When Harry Met Sally fame…

Just stepping into Katz’s sent my senses on a trip back to Chicago in the 1970s.  The smells and sounds of a Jewish deli triggered memories from trips to similar delis in Chicago with my grandparents.  Food was good, but honestly not “have to go back there for lunch every day of this trip” good.  (I should add — one goal that we stuck with until heading to the airport on Friday afternoon, was to only eat in places that we could not find in the Phoenix area.)  Expensive place to eat–and, in case you plan to visit, bring cash for quicker check-out.  One full corned beef sandwich, two half-sandwiches with bowls of Matzo-ball soup, an order of fries and three drinks wound up at nearly $85.  Perhaps all worth it to sit at this table…

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We had what she was having — at Katz’s Deli, NYC.

Stuffed from lunch, it was time to head back to Times Square and Midtown for our second Broadway musical…

See that odd angle of the second picture?  Yup, that’s where we were sitting.  Second row, far right (or, in theatre parlance, far stage left), so we could see the beads of sweat forming on Bernadette Peters face.  Ms. Peters was fantastic, as was Victor Garber as Horace Vandergelder.  Two days on Broadway, two great shows!

After the show, we headed back to Times Square to rendezvous with my cousin, Lorne.  He led us into our second borough of NYC, Brooklyn, to have dinner with his wife and kids.  It was a nice evening visiting with my cousin for the first time in several years.  We’re hoping they’ll come visit us again sometime soon.

Thursday was a lot more relaxed.  We didn’t head into Midtown until around noon.  We grabbed a bagel at a local eatery and took a ride out to borough number three: the Bronx.  One purpose for this side-trip:

PANO_20180315_133758.jpgYup.  We took a 40-minute trip on the subway out to pay homage to Yankee Stadium.  No, I’m not a Yankees (or even really American League) fan, but this is still one of baseball’s great palaces.  After snapping a few pictures, we headed back down into Midtown for one last musical extravaganza.  Time to visit Price and Son’s…

A couple years ago, I happened to catch the movie version (non-musical version that the Broadway musical was based on) of Kinky Boots on one streaming service or the other.  I instantly fell in love with the story.  I had been dying to see this play ever since.  I was not disappointed in the least.  Apparently, we were supposed to see Wayne Brady as Lola/Simon, but he was off that night…and we didn’t really “miss” him at all.  The young man that played Lola was simply AMAZING.  Jake Shears was fantastic as Charlie.  Kristin Maldonado of Pentatonix fame was wonderful as Lauren.  We knew Kristin could sing from our experiences with Pentatonix, but her acting was spot-on as well.

I was so taken with the show that I could simply NOT pass up the opportunity to make a nice donation to Broadway Cares and take this home:

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Yes, those are the actual autographs, including Wayne “Not Playing That Night” Brady.

Micah would have absolutely adored Kinky Boots.  Avi and I looked at each other and agreed: Micah would have loved to have had a chance to play Lola.  If only Micah could have been there with us, in person…

Friday was our sleep in and wrap-things-up day.  We paid a quick (chilly) visit to Liberty Park before heading back to the airport for the five-hour flight home to Phoenix.  Before Liberty Park or the airport though, there was one more place we had to visit.

Alexander Hamilton had his famous duel against Aaron Burr right up the hill from where we were staying, in Weehawken, New Jersey.  The Weehawken Dueling Grounds were also believed to be the place where, a few years earlier, Hamilton lost his son Philip in a duel with George Eaker.  Emotions swelled again…but I got a few pictures to remember the place by.

We got back to Phoenix, rested up for the weekend, and headed back to work on Monday morning.  What should have been an easy week for me personally, one half-day back followed by two three-quarter days and then two full days, seemed to stretch on forever.  I never complain about handling PA duties for the Roadrunners–I love my time in Tucson with my Roadrunners family and friends.  But after a long week in NYC, those two very long nights…ugh.

The weekend finally arrived though, and with it, a request from my daughter to go see Love, Simon.  This afternoon, Avi and I headed over to our favorite theater (yes, Alamo Drafthouse Chandler) to check Simon out.

The first thing we noticed, on arrival, was that Love, Simon, was playing in one of the two smallest theaters in the building.  I think theater eight has about 40 seats total.  I had to explain to my daughter that the area we live in is just simply not sophisticated and open-minded enough to truly enjoy a movie about a 17-year old boy “coming out.”

I know this isn’t completely true.  I know plenty of people in the Phoenix area that are very open-minded, LGBTQ-friendly folks.  But overall, Alamo knew that this was going to draw smaller crowds than big box office hits like Black Panther (even six weeks into release) or Tomb Raider or A Wrinkle in Time.  I was just happy that, in its second week of release, I still had a local theater that would give me an opportunity to see this movie.

The movie was excellent.  Well-acted, well shot, great sound and soundtrack.  It packed a solid emotional punch to everyone in the theater.  Humorous, but at the same time serious and thoughtful, it was a strong film from beginning to end.

For me though…I saw Micah.  In at least two characters in this movie, I saw what Micah might have become, would he have still been here with us.  Micah was on that screen this afternoon.  My wife and I were on that screen.  Even Avi, my daughter, was on that screen.

They say that life imitates art…or is it art imitates life?  In so much art that I’ve witnessed over the past two weeks, I see my life displayed right back at me.  The life I have, the life I lead, and the life that might have been.  Would I have known if Micah was gay or bisexual?  Despite, like Simon’s parents in the movie, us being very open and accepting and practicing what we preached in those respects in front of Micah and Avi, would Micah have trusted us enough to “come out” to us?  Would Micah have been accepted at school, if he were to have come out?  Would he too have lost most of his friends, at least for a time, after coming out?

In the movie, Simon has a best friend of 13 years named Leah.  Micah had a best friend of many years named Leah.  Leah loved Simon.  Leah loves Micah.  Even small, trivial, silly things — like Simon’s hidden love interest eventually turning out to be, yes, a thin, athletic black Jewish kid…

I’m left to wonder…did I just see a parallel story of Micah’s possible life?  Unlike the ending to the movie, I’ll have to sit on the Ferris wheel forever, never truly finding out.

David

 

Utility Man

Always smile at the utility man–
At least while he’s of good use to you.
While you can get him to fix this,
Fix that,
Cover for someone else,
Get the chore done.

The utility man must love doing things for you.
He’s always smiling when you see him.
Always has a witty joke,
Playful banter,
Interesting story to tell.
You’ll humor him,
After all, you’re getting what you want.

When the utility man has served his purpose,
Its time to move on to our friends,
Our buddies,
Those who we just like to be around.
After all,
He’ll still be smiling,
He’ll still be telling jokes,
He’ll be fine.

The utility man goes home.
The smile disappears.
The jokes are no longer funny.
He wonders why no one calls.
He wonders why no one offers.
Deep down inside he knows
That he’s run out of his usefulness,
His utility,
For the time being.

Someone will call the utility man again,
When his utility serves their purpose.
Like a fool, he’ll answer.
Like a fool, he’ll help.
Like a fool, he’ll be back home again–
Soon enough–
Waiting for the next call.

 

David

Change of Season

Last Saturday night marked a changing of seasons in my life.

From July of 2006 until Saturday night, I spent countless days each week, each month, each year, working with and for youth hockey in Arizona.  Initially, this was just being a dutiful hockey dad: taking Micah to the rink for practice, taking Micah to the rink for games, taking Micah for off-ice conditioning.  As the years went by, this took on more of a global perspective, working as a team manager to schedule practices, games, parties and get-togethers.

One day, many years ago, I was sitting at the rink watching a game when a fellow parent asked, “Why don’t you just learn how to scorekeep games, run the clock, that kind of thing?  You might as well get paid to be at the rink so often.”  The idea really struck a chord with me.  I loved announcing, scorekeeping, playing with technology (read: controller for scoreboard).  A couple emails and phone calls later, and I had become a youth (and adult league) hockey scorekeeper.

I worked on being faster, more accurate.  I learned the on-ice official hand and arm signals for penalties.  I started to form a “patter” for announcing in-game developments.  Along the way, I became the public address announcer for Arizona State University’s ACHA club hockey teams.  Even with those additional duties, I kept scorekeeping youth hockey games.

Some weeks, I had one or two games to score.  Some weeks, I had six or seven games.  Tournament weekends, I might scorekeep anywhere from eight or nine to twenty games.  As my scorekeeping skills strengthened, I found myself scorekeeping the occasional college game–even a couple games handling scorekeeping, music and announcing at the same time.

Early in the 2015-16 season, Micah started asking me why I was still scorekeeping so many games.  He was concerned that between managing, running (or helping run) the state youth travel league, scorekeeping, roller hockey commitments — that I was overdoing it, overextending myself, and needed to cut back.  I gave it some thought.  I tried to explain to Micah that the money was helping pay for his hockey fees and travel.  In the end, I pushed the idea off and continued burning the candle at both ends and in the middle.

December 6, 2015.  Micah is playing in a league game up in Las Vegas.  Early in the third period, a shot from just a few feet away finds the seam in between the chest protector and shoulder guard sections of his chest armor.  Micah suffers a non-displaced fracture of his left clavicle.  This would be the last time Micah would wear hockey gear.

As Micah’s clavicle healed, I continued to go to the rink, tend to my team manager and other organizational duties, and–yes–continued to scorekeep youth hockey games.  Micah came with me to the rink for his team’s games, and even once or twice when I just had to scorekeep some other team’s game.

Thursday morning, January 14, 2016.  We took Micah to the orthopedic specialist to check the progress of his healing clavicle.  Good news!  He was “roughly 85 percent” healed, and given full clearance to get back on the ice and play hockey.

I should have read Micah’s reaction better.  I should have heard the stress in his voice as we talked about him going back to practice that night.  I should have realized how his brain chemistry might have changed, being off the ice for six weeks, nowhere near as physically active as he had more-or-less constantly been for nine years of playing ice and roller hockey.  I should have seen the warning signs…

Thursday night, January 14, 2016.  I leave for a tournament steering committee meeting for the Cactus Cup.  Micah hears me tell him that I love him — for the last time.

Friday night, January 15, 2016.  Micah dies.  I take the longest drive any parent can ever take: from the hospital to home, without my son.

Saturday night, January 16, 2016.  It’s not real.  Micah is just away at a friend’s house somewhere.  He’s just sitting on the couch playing Xbox.  Cynthia and I attend Micah’s team’s tournament game in the afternoon.  With Cynthia at my side, I announce the ASU hockey game that night.  It’s not real.

I continue to announce ASU games.  I continue to scorekeep youth hockey games throughout the season.

This would have been the right time to walk away from youth hockey.  Micah was gone.  I had no selfish reason to spend tons of time around the rink.  No one would have thought any less of me for putting the youth hockey part of my life behind me.

No.  I convinced myself that my help and dedication was still needed around Arizona’s youth hockey rinks.  I accepted not one, but two team manager positions with Micah’s now former organization.  I agreed to continue as the organization’s equipment manager.  I continued on as an important part of the organization’s tournament committee, including helping as a tournament schedule auditor.  And, of course, I continued to scorekeep youth hockey games.

I pushed the pain down deep and continued going to the rink.  I showed up for hockey practices where I had no child on the ice.  I tried to mediate parent-coach conflicts.

After Labor Day Weekend, a mutual decision was arrived at: one of the teams I was managing would be better off having a player parent take over the managerial reins.  But the pain grew worse, each time I went to the rink and looked out at a Micah-less team, each time I looked at the parents and realized that I really didn’t know the majority of them.  I made a commitment though, so I was going to stick it out…even if it meant handing off more at-rink responsibilities to other parents.

I cut back my youth hockey scorekeeping to a couple specific teams plus some tournament games.  My help was still requested for occasional adult league games and other youth games, but it felt like I was working less.  Every once in a while, I would see a goalie wearing number 37, or a darker-skinned player, or would just almost see Micah skating out to the net between periods.  I would find myself in the car after games, crying, talking to Micah, who was not physically there.

March, 2017.  I had spent a good deal of time putting together a plan for future state youth travel hockey league chairpeople to get paid a stipend for the hundreds of hours per season of year they put in to little thanks of applause.  I had worked with representative from each organization.  I had made it pretty clear that I would stay on for one additional year to transition to a new chairperson (I had been chair or co-chair of the league in it’s current iteration for three years), and that while I would benefit from the first year of the stipend, this was more aimed at people who would do the work in the future.  The league committee voted unanimously to approve the plan for a stipend.  At the state board meeting, the wheels came off when the organization that put in the least actual work and effort, but complained the loudest, led a charge to block any stipend ever being paid to the people who ran the state league.  Feeling completely slapped in the face and punched in the gut, I decided this was a sign that it was time for me to step away.  I resigned on the spot and walked out the door.

My presence was still requested though to help scorekeep the District and National tournaments being hosted in mid-March and early April.

The 2016-17 season ended, and I again contemplated my youth hockey future.  I decided that I would continue in very limited fashion.  I was retiring from being a team manager–I just couldn’t handle being at the rink like that without Micah being there, and was not motivated to deal with the team and organization duties that accompanied the position.  I was stepping down from all duties with the hockey organization.  As a favor to a group of parents who had always treated me well, I agreed to scorekeep just two teams’ home games, which I figured might be 15-16 total games during the upcoming season.  I would still help cover scorekeeping and announcing duties for the affiliated Junior A team when there was no conflict with the Roadrunners.  I would still schedule and help run the Cactus Cup for my other group of hockey friends.

Enter 2017-18.  My agreement to work those youth hockey games falls to only roughly 12 games, as both teams combined to have their initial half dozen games at Gila River Arena on the other side of town (a two-hour minimum round-trip commute for a 75 minute hockey game).  Next, I discovered that a couple more games were in direct conflict with my Roadrunners schedule.  Finally, I made contact with the ASU Women’s Hockey coach, who wanted me to handle the scorekeeping and announcing of her team’s home games.  (I’ve always been a big supporter of girls/women’s sports.)

In the end, I wound up working two youth hockey games a month on average, around everything else.  For the first time since I started scorekeeping youth hockey, I found that I had little to no internal motivation and little interest in working many of those games.  I cancelled one for an ASU softball conflict.  I cancelled another for an ASU Women’s Hockey conflict.

I found that working the Junior A games was more of a challenge than I expected.  Physically, I could work the games with no problem–but emotionally, as I watched Micah’s former teammates playing on the ice with the Juniors, it became unbearable.  After working a couple games in December, I withdrew from working two mid-January games for an ASU Women’s Hockey conflict, and decided that my time working Junior A hockey was over.

Last weekend, I finally turned the page on the youth ice hockey chapter of my life.  Back in January, I had reached out to the scheduler of officials to offer my services as scorekeeper for two days of the huge Presidents Day Weekend Invitational hockey tournament.  Originally, Cynthia and Avi had planned to spend the weekend visiting family in San Diego, so I thought I’d spend most of Sunday and Monday morning scorekeeping youth hockey games.  I set my preferences accordingly on the scheduling website, waited a couple weeks, and discovered that I had been scheduled for one block of three total games.  Almost ten years I had been scorekeeping youth hockey, and I got three games.  From being a popular request by teams that appreciated the skill I displayed in scorekeeping, DJing and announcing, to being given three games to scorekeep.  I wasn’t expecting to have twelve games shoehorned in last weekend, but six, maybe eight or nine games?  No.  Three.  The message, whether from the scheduler or from another less human source, was clear: my time had come to an end.

Today, I sit, writing out these thoughts that have been bouncing around in my head for almost a week.  The reality has dawned on me: my only remaining connections to youth hockey are my involvement with the Cactus Cup Tournament, and my involvement with the state roller hockey board.  I’m not upset about this.  Micah would probably tell me that it’s about time that I moved on with my life, did something different.  I’m still staying involved in hockey, through the Cactus Cup, state roller hockey board, and announcing the Roadrunners and ASU Women’s Hockey team, but clearing the deck otherwise for other things.  My thirst for involvement in hockey and team sports can be satiated by announcing for the Roadrunners, ASU Women’s Hockey, ASU Softball, and whatever other sports the ASU sports information director throws my way in the future.  The extra money from that sports involvement can help pay for my dream car later this year.

Maybe, just maybe, the more of my involvement in Micah’s past that I let go, the more at peace I can be with Micah’s death.  I will never be completely at peace, that I know all too well.  I’m not even sure Micah’s death will ever truly feel real.  I just know that I need to close this chapter, transition from one season of my life to the next.  I’m sure the flashbacks and nostalgia will be sufficient to keep fond memories alive.  I’m sure every time I wear my #37 Roadrunners jerseys to the Tucson Convention Center, I will remember Micah, and will feel him with me, doing what I love…

Am I completely burning the youth hockey scorekeeping bridge?  No, but it’s a rickety enough bridge that I doubt it would hold me for more than the rare game now and then.

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven
A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep
To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven
A time to build up, a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together
To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven
A time of love, a time of hate
A time of war, a time of peace
A time you may embrace, a time to refrain from embracing
To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven
A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to rend, a time to sew
A time for love, a time for hate
A time for peace, I swear it’s not too late
(Turn! Turn! Turn! by the Byrds)
It’s time for my seasons to change…

 

David

18

Today, Micah would have turned 18.

Today, Micah would have legally become an adult.

Today, Micah would have registered to vote for the first time.

Today, Micah would have been talking about his after-graduation plans.

Today, Micah would have insisted that we get Red Robin for his birthday dinner.

Today, I would have given Micah some kind of meaningful birthday present.

Today, I sit alone.

Today, Micah’s physical body sits at the Mesa City Cemetery.

Today, there may be a birthday dinner — but Micah will not eat.

Today, I helped a local hockey team with fundraising — but it was not Micah’s team or organization.

Today, I woke up with tears in my eyes — and they have not left for more than a few random moments since that time.

Today, I continue to struggle with the reality that my first-born child will never get married, never have children, never go to college.

Today, I struggle with the notion that my daughter will never again hug or be hugged by her brother, never again get to star in one of her brother’s videos, never get to watch her brother cross the stage to get his diploma, never get to feel the pride of watching her brother perform, never again get to cheer on her brother on the ice.

Today, I had to watch my wife struggle to get ready for the day ahead, because she feels everything above–and so much more–but does not have the ability to take the day off.

Today, I wish I could stop time and turn back the clock to Thursday evening, January 14th, 2016, and, no matter what, regardless the cost, not leave his side until he was safely asleep.

Today, I wish I had done more to help my son while he was alive, so that I would not have to write things like this.

Today, I still don’t know what to say to people when they tell me, “I’m so sorry,” or, “I can’t imagine how hard this is for you,” or even, “Please let me know if there’s anything I can do to help.”

Today, all I can say is Happy Birthday Micah, and weep.

Hamilton Experience II

Last night, we got the chance to see HAMILTON (in Tempe, AZ).

I’ll start by saying that the Tempe cast of HAMILTON is very good, and no one attending one of the performances over the next four weeks is going to be disappointed (okay, save anyone that got to see the original cast on Broadway).  There were a couple minor issues with microphones that were either glitchy or not placed very well on the actors.  Sound, in general, was a little less than superb — when Hercules Mulligan came on during the opening number, it sounded like the microphone was in his nose–I could hear exaggerated breathing (this problem seemed to be solved by his introduction in AARON BURR, SIR).

Overall, the show was fantastic.  The actors brought a few different twists to their interpretations of their roles (nothing significant that changed the tone or pacing of the story), but it all worked well.

My issue with HAMILTON is a deeply personal one.  From STAY ALIVE midway through the second act until the final notes of WHO LIVES, WHO DIES, WHO TELLS YOUR STORY, I am an emotional mess.  Read just the first verse of the lyrics to IT’S QUIET UPTOWN…

There are moments that the words don’t reach
There is suffering too terrible to name
You hold your child as tight as you can
Then push away the unimaginable
The moments when you’re in so deep
Feels easier to just swim down
And so they move uptown
And learn to live with the unimaginable

(I found this brief article about this particular song…also a good read: http://ampthemag.com/the-real/the-gentle-genius-of-hamiltons-its-quiet-uptown/ .)

We live uptown now.  We moved uptown to get away from the home where Micah took his own life.  We moved uptown to get away from the room where it happened.  It’s quiet uptown…

Every day, we deal with the unimaginable.  We push away the unimaginable.  We live with the unimaginable.  Its inescapable.

I try to keep busy to ignore it–but then a reminder appears out of the blue.  I try to focus on other things–but then my focus blurs and I see his face, I hear his voice.  I go to bed at night, and I see him in my sleep.  I read an article about the movement to make hockey for everyone, and I remember Micah’s uniqueness in Arizona youth hockey.  I check my phone and see a text from a former teammate, reminding me that he’s always thinking of Micah–complete with a picture of a batch of sticks bearing 37s in his honor.

Compounding my emotional issues today–physically not feeling well.  Sniffles, sneezing, feeling “out of body” for much of the day.  While out of body, my mind wanders.  I think about a comment a friend made about people that I never hear from, which makes me think about the friends I no longer hear from.  It’s quiet uptown…

Next Wednesday is Micah’s birthday.  He would have celebrated his 18th birthday.  He would have legally become an adult.

Sunday, we will have a quiet dinner and a birthday cake, in Micah’s memory.  One of Micah’s best friends will join us.  We decided to not make a big deal out of this celebration–everyone that might have been interested in undoubtedly going to be watching the Superbowl somewhere.  We are not.

No, we’re not big football fans, but there simply weren’t any offers.  Everyone is heading off to enjoy their own social circle.  It’s quiet uptown…

I spend hours in the garden
I walk alone to the store
And it’s quiet uptown
I never liked the quiet before

For the record, the quiet is even more deafening now than it ever was before.  I still don’t like the quiet; it’s simply what I’ve become used to.

David

Emotional Release: Denied

I’m in that place again.  Over the past day and a half, any picture of Micah, his initials, the number 37, or heartfelt comments from friends and loved ones commenting on his loss, send me into a nearly uncontrollable tear-filled spasm.

So, imagine my complete feeling of nirvana when I saw that big Motion hit my work inbox yesterday evening.  No, I didn’t jump right into the document–but I had that sense of dread regarding what would be awaiting me when I returned to work this morning.  Without getting into the nitty-gritty details, this is a case that I have worked on multiple times over the past fifteen months.  A very sad case where a foster parent’s political (or other) connections have caused the Department of Child Safety to act as though the most important thing in the world is keeping this Mexican child with his nice, white, wealthy foster parents in Mesa, and to throw up every roadblock possible to this kid reunifying with his father in Mexico.  Maybe it’s racism.  Maybe it’s something even more insidious.  Whatever it is, my heart breaks for this dad.  Every time the judge calls BS on the Department, the Department fights back by challenging the court’s decisions to the Court of Appeals…and that has not gone particularly well either, regardless of my efforts.

Instead of dealing with my emotional turmoil today, I sat down at my desk around 8:45am this morning and did not leave it until 5:10pm this evening.  Almost eight-and-a-half hours spent reading, researching and writing my response to the Department’s Motion, pending before the Court of Appeals.  I have to push through and get this done, before the Court of Appeals decides to just render its decision based on nothing other than the Department’s very one-sided view of the case.  Sometimes I can detach myself and understand, even quietly agree with the Department’s point of view in it’s filings–but in this case, the BS gets laid on so thick, the excuses so phony, the omissions so obvious…it screams to be called out and addressed.  I just hope that I can finish and file this in time for the Court of Appeals to at least read and consider my arguments on behalf of my client.

It’s an absolutely horrible feeling when you have so much sorrow and grief packed up inside you, but you absolutely can’t let it out because there’s a task that must be done, done now, done right, and done by you.  After a few hours, everything numbs–and you don’t even realize you’ve been sitting at your desk for hours without so much as standing up, changing positions at all, sipping water, grabbing a snack.

I finally left my office around 5:15, and just felt — empty.  I couldn’t reach those inner emotions.  I couldn’t think of anything other than getting myself home.  I battled back the temptation to continue hashing out my legal brief in my head as I drove home…but as soon as dinner was over, I started feeling that anxiety of having to address the response motion again first thing in the morning.  My eyes are teared up, but I can’t feel the emotions causing the tears.

As I prepare to rest tonight, I just hope that I can sleep through the night without dreaming about work, and hope that tomorrow brings the end to this particular response motion, and the release of those walled-in emotions…

David

Yahrzeit

Tonight, at sundown, we will light a candle in Micah’s memory.

Yahrzeit is the Jewish custom of remembrance for those who have passed on from our physical world.  We light a candle which lasts the evening, reminding us of the light that was Micah’s life.  It is said that someone in Israel will also light a candle in his memory this evening.

My day was going relatively slowly today, until the random thought hit me: I need to stop on my way home from work to pick up a yahrzeit candle for Micah…then I saw someone’s post about suicide awareness and sharing the #SuicideAwareness Hotline — 1-800-273-8255.

As my focus unraveled, I saw a post stating that today was (also) the anniversary of the birth of Philip Hamilton, Alexander Hamilton’s first-born son.

Micah was starting to fall in love with the Hamilton soundtrack when he passed away.  Not that I’m claiming to be (or even be close to) A.Ham, but I started to see parallels between Hamilton and myself.  Hamilton was a rebel with his mouth and pen.  I tend to be a rebel with my mouth and pen.  Hamilton, as a “second” career (after fighting in the Revolutionary War), went to law school and became an attorney.  As a second career (after teaching for eight years), I went to law school and became an attorney.  Hamilton lost his first-born son, Philip, at the young age of 19.  I lost Micah, my first-born son, at the young age of 15.  Hamilton was known for his writing (and a lesser degree, his speaking).  I (think I) am known for my writing, and to a lesser degree for my speaking (and, again–I am NOT saying I am anywhere near the writer or orator that Founding Father Hamilton was).

When I listen to the Hamilton soundtrack, I have a hard time getting through Stay Alive and It’s Quiet Uptown.  It just hits too close to home.  When I got the chance to see Hamilton in Chicago last summer, I could not see much of the staging of It’s Quiet Uptown through the tears streaming down my face.  I can’t imagine things will be much different next week when I see Hamilton in Tempe…or in March when we get to see Hamilton on Broadway.

You were the light.
You reminded us of everything the world could get right.

You were not afraid to move at your own speed,
To laugh at your own jokes,
To be the young man that you wanted to be.

Challenges–you had plenty.
Uncertainty was never far away.
You battled your demons through pucks,
Through notes,
Through games.

You made an impression
On everyone that saw you,
On everyone that heard you,
On everyone that gave you their time.

You still do
In photos,
In videos,
In memories.

You will always be remembered.
You will always be missed.

Public domain image, royalty free stock photo from www.public-domain-image.com

Mourner's Kaddish

Frustration, Fatigue, Fight

The last seven days have presented me with a labyrinth of obstacles.  I know my blog is filled with instances where I comment that staying busy is a key to burying the hurt and loss, but this past week strained that theory to the breaking point.

Last weekend was many things.  It was the two-year anniversary of Micah’s death.  It was the Cactus Cup youth hockey tournament that I schedule and help run.  It was a weekend with a three-game set of ASU Women’s Hockey games.  It was a weekend with much noise and little peace.  When the weekend drew to a close, I had spent, collectively, over 55 hours at ice rinks over a four-day span.  To put my current hockey life in perspective, in the previous two months, I had spent roughly 60 total hours at ice rinks — and that includes the previous eleven Roadrunners games.

I was smart and thought ahead–taking off not only Friday for the tournament, but Tuesday afterwards to relax and unwind.  I also took off Wednesday to announce the Roadrunners inaugural School Day Game, a 10am start against the San Diego Gulls.  It didn’t matter.  My drive home from Tucson on Wednesday at the early afternoon hour of 1:00pm was one of my scariest drives home in two seasons of making the commute to Tucson.  The fatigue has carried forward all the way through to this afternoon, seven-plus days later.

As you (or me anyhow) start to approach the point of exhaustion, the walls that you build up by staying incredibly busy begin to crumble.  At the same time those walls fall apart, your inner strength also starts to wane.  Add in a couple random social media posts, emails and text messages with people talking about missing Micah, and…

But no, I can’t crumble, weep, turn into a big pile of emotional mush, because while I was away from work, one of my most vulnerable clients had again managed to not only win a major decision in juvenile court, but once again draw the ire of the Department of Child Safety, who–unable to comprehend how a judge could possibly rule in favor of the biological parent instead of the foster parents and Department–filed a notice of appeal and a largely frivolous motion to stay the court’s order and prevent the child from going home to his Father.  (This case is a subject for another, long blog post.)  End result?  I spent most of my afternoon yesterday and a good deal of my day today writing, editing and revising a motion to the court of appeals to reconsider their snap decision of yesterday afternoon–a motion that, most likely, will be met with a relatively swift response of DENIED.  So, not a time for David to melt into a wet, weepy ball of mush…

So, here I sit, ready to head home for the weekend.  I have a junior hockey game to scorekeep and announce tonight.  I have a club college roller hockey tournament to scorekeep tomorrow night and Sunday afternoon.  Wife and daughter will be taking an extended day-trip to Anaheim for a Disneyland Day (officially for my daughter to compete in a choir competition being held within the park), leaving this evening, returning early Sunday morning.  Probably won’t sleep in tomorrow, as I’ll need to walk Ellie in the morning.  Maybe a movie in the early afternoon?  Maybe an overdue visit to the cemetery to see Micah…

I know what you’re thinking.  WHY?!  Why on Earth would I want to do so much extra stuff to the point of near-exhaustion?  The answer is still primarily that a busy brain has no time to get bogged down in loss and mourning.  Part of the answer is my drive to get debt paid off and money saved up for my dream car by the end of the year (my Tesla Model 3, should it actually become available to me sometime in ‘Late 2018’ as the Tesla website suggests).  Another part of the answer is my love of hockey — as painful of a reminder as that love can be of the loss of my son.

It gets better, right?  Umm, not necessarily.  February is collegiate softball month, and my dozen or so chances to sit in the press box at Farrington Stadium in Tempe and announce NCAA softball games.  As much as I love hockey, I love baseball and softball even more…

Right now, I’ll choose to focus on these nine targets:

  1. Cubs Spring Training!  Pitchers and catchers report on Tuesday, February 13th, position players on Sunday, February 18th, first game on Friday, February 23rd, first game I’m attending: Sunday, March 4th at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick against the Diamondbacks.
  2. Broadway Bound in March.  (No, not the Neil Simon play–been there, done that in community theatre, Peoria, Illinois, Fall 1991.)  Family trip, first time for any of us, to NYC to see Hamilton and two other TBD shows on Broadway.  Staying with a friend from high school across the way in Weehawken, New Jersey — the site of the dueling grounds where Alexander Hamilton’s story ended.  Nine day weekend, week in NYC/Manhattan, Hamilton, time to breathe…
  3. Paying off my car in late March/early April.  Paying it off early to save roughly $2500 in interest.  Paying it off early to enjoy a few months with one fewer car payment before #5 happens, and to simplify the trade-in process at that time…
  4. Cubs Opening Day.  Monday, April 9th at 1:20pm (a day game after several successive opening night games).  Plane tickets already secured, just waiting for individual game tickets to go on sale in February.  Going to be a whirlwind trip: flying in Monday morning on the red-eye, watching the game, flying back on a 9:30pm flight home.  No hotel.  No car rental.  Just flight, L, food, “W” (game), L, flight.
  5. Cubs Trip #2 – Tuesday, May 1st.  Spending the night this time, since it’s a 7:05pm night game against the Rockies.
  6. Our 23rd Anniversary!
  7. Phoenix Comic Fest 2018 (formerly known as Phoenix Comicon) – Memorial Day Weekend
  8. Third Annual Las Vegas Weekend with Pete (and now Elliot) in mid-August
  9. Taking delivery of my 2018 Tesla Model 3, hopefully before the calendar turns to 2019…

I guess I’ll leave this entry with that positive thought, and wait for the right time to turn into that big pile of weepy mush…

David

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