The Moment During My Son's Hockey Game That Broke My Heart
From the moment he walked on to the court, you could tell he was trying too hard. His desire to belong and connect with others emanated from every pore of his soul. I could see how much my son wanted to be like everyone else and just have fun.
The ﬁrst activity was dodgeball. He was just as interested as the other boys were in collecting the balls, and he willingly shared his extra ball with teammates when they asked. As I saw him continually go to the line, I wondered why he just threw the ball with no care as to where he was throwing it. At ﬁrst I reasoned it was probably his eyesight. He unfortunately lives with the same nearsighted astigmatism that I have, plus a form of amblyopia that I overuse as an excuse for why he “can’t” do many things. But as I kept watching, I realized he had no issue catching the ball. Maybe he just didn’t get the point of hitting his friends with a ball on purpose.
Next was softball. He didn’t know the rules at all. His tennis expertise helped him hit the ball (twice!). But at some point when he was running around the ﬁeld avoiding the bases, he ended up staying in the outﬁeld not realizing that he needed to run home. My bad. I made a huge mental note to play baseball with him when we got home. While he was in the outﬁeld, he kept getting the ball and holding on to it. I could see him trying to figure out how this game was similar to dodgeball. I pulled him aside and shared some of the rules of the game with him. I stressed that it was a team effort, and he needed to throw the ball to the pitcher as soon as he got it. The pitcher was the adult in charge of the group who was doing his best to keep the peace amongst a sea of 6-year-olds. As I stepped off the ﬁeld, I could see my boy running around the field out of the corner of my eye.
Somewhere during this period of him running around in the ﬁeld, he came over to me. I offered him something to drink and fought off his intruding hugs. He then ran back to the ﬁeld at full speed, which I could tell was slightly slower than his real “full speed.” He was running on empty.
Finally, it was time to play hockey. I couldn’t be more proud watching my son. He was weaving in and out, blocking balls and hitting them in the right direction. Glancing around the court I noticed how all the children (mostly boys by now — most of the girls had left to play with the scooters) had their heads down while they were chasing the ball at full speed. What really got to me was their faces. At this point, the game was getting serious. Kids were slamming sticks at the floor when they missed and pushed and shoved each other to get the ball into the goal. Then I saw him. He was on the side, and as his team made the ﬁrst goal, this boy who knows so little about the rules of any sport was jumping, smiling and cheering like he’d won the Stanley Cup.
Then came the moment that brought me to tears. He held up his hand to high-ﬁve any of the boys around him from his team. They all ignored him, one by one. By the fourth time he failed to engage any of his teammates, my heart fell to the ﬂoor. In that moment, he realized what the game was about, and I saw he was not being accepted for who he is. Demoralized, he walked over to the goal and remained there to play goalie. He still kept up his enthusiasm, but he stood there alone. By now, he was fully depleted. His hours of hydrating from an IV and overnight feeding through his g-tube were wearing off. He gave it everything he had.
At home, my son battles to prove he belongs in first grade and out of the hospital. All I see is an incredible example of childhood. He works hard, loves with all he has and is grateful for everything. These are all things that are so easily lost when we focus on the things and qualities we don’t have. He lacks a lot because of his disease, but he gives more than anyone I know. I have so much to learn from my “special” son.
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