I lost and found my son this weekend on the ice
He was there, and then…. he skated into a corner away from sight
I imagined him in the middle of a scrum of bodies and sticks – eyes locked on the puck
Somehow he looks bigger as he wheels around the net, glances past the crease and backhands a pass to his waiting teammate
It is his ease of movement that makes me search for the answers I don’t really want to reflect on – just, how did he grow up so fast? And what’s next?
I blink. He’s gone… then I focus to see that he has gathered in the puck from his opponent’s blade and has nudged it forward;
He spins off his back leg and begins a deliberate, looping stride towards the side boards, flicks the puck against the boards and accelerates over the blue line
It seems he carries the puck in slow motion,
Yet I realize that this game is really in fast-forward
He’s skating too fast, as there’s no stopping his advance
So, I need to ask these questions:
In five years – will he get the shot off – and find his mark?
In ten years, which arena might I find this young man?
I study his moves. I need to burn it all into my memory.
With a burst of energy he cuts around a player, and with shoulder down, stickhandles neatly beyond two defenders and swings in towards the goal – mere seconds of ice time capturing years of development
A whistle, some yelling from the bench and pounding music from the arena’s PA system
He circles around to line up for the faceoff – what’s next?
University courses; wedding receptions; a first day at a new job?
He sets for the drop of the puck – and I’m processing a whirl of freeze-frames:
tugging his sweater on overtop of his shoulder and elbow pads
tightening his laces and clicking the snaps of his helmet
my parting locker room words of endearment: “Skate hard every shift. Have fun.”
then after, his tired, satisfied smile; that smell of sweat from soaked mats of hair
and the car rides to and from the arena; and those questions that start with
Peering through the glass, I’m witness to this game, yet unable to be part of it
I watch his boyhood in flashes now – with our family turning on his every blade stroke
He’s reaching forward, stick extended, body twisted – anticipating a pass
And I’m anxious with hopes and aspirations for his future happiness…
In another instant, he’s stride for stride, leaning in against another body, locked in a match of force and determination
Yet, I remember vividly those precious moments when I held him in my hands, and ran around the house carrying him piggyback
There’s another whistle, he twirls on one skate, right in front of me, and skates away towards the bench – it’s him, yes, I see it is, but only after focusing on our name on the back of the jersey.
There are times I see my own breath rise in the cold of the arena, and our reality is caught up in a few seconds of blurred colours, sticks, a puck – and my son
He’s turning and digs in to push off, the puck dances on his stick in front of him, and he darts ahead to open ice, sure of himself and where he must skate
On the ice, he’s always enjoying the moment, yet I see that he’s stretching, honing skills
He circles, glides with one leg lifted in front of him, lifts his head towards me and grins
I stare upward; the game clock is going too fast for us at this rink. I don’t want to avert my eyes – there is only so much time to etch these glimpses of our lives.
— Chris George