Monday, October 19, 2015

Dirt roads and stinky gear - March 2015

OK, I realize it's almost Nov and I'm blogging about what happened in March but some things take time to get it right. And I procrastinate. I will do better this year. 

March marked a turning point for me when my 17 yr old son played his last minor hockey game.
There was fake smoke and a photographer taking pictures as they skated through the fog. Each player who was playing their final game was presented with a certificate, and the National anthem played. It was a fitting end to the boys’ journey into young adulthood and to my career as a hockey dad.

At the conclusion of the game the boys were presented with their medals, their jerseys were turned in, and the gear was thrown into the back of the truck for the last time. He and his mother left together and I headed out of the parking lot in somewhat of my own fog, not wanting to believe it was really over.
On the ride home I found myself wondering what happened to those two little stinky boys that rode shotgun with my over endless miles to and from the rink for more years than I can remember, and like many in my situation, wondering where the hell the time had gone.

Since my sons first strapped blades on their feet fourteen or fifteen years ago, they were both hooked on the sport. Not fanatics mind you, just two kids who loved to play hockey. Any time, any place, with or without skates, with a puck a ball or a wad of rolled up tape, on ice, grass, dirt, concrete, or pavement.

My hockey dad days were likely not that much different than those of many hockey dads; early mornings, a travel mug of Tim Horton’s tea, an hour drive to the rink, laces being tied, and then cheering from the stands and beaming with pride regardless of the outcome of the game.
Then came the hour drive back home complete with foul smelling gear and kids in need of a shower, the miles filled with the endless chatter of them retelling their version of the events of the game. On Sundays after the game the boys went back home to their Mom’s.
But from the time I picked them up from school on Friday afternoon until they went home we were three Kings, free to do whatever we wanted within reason, and we did it in fine form.

Most Fridays we’d cut off the highway and stop at Nannie and Grampie’s house for a visit, after which we’d head for one of the two old dirt roads that run cross country and led to that little piece of heaven that was our home for seven wonderful years.
The boys both knew once we hit the gravel it would be their turn to drive, and each waited somewhat patiently for his turn to be the wheelman. In good weather and bad, they each drove us from pavement end to pavement start and as the distance between legs and pedals shortened, they eventually took control of more than just the wheel.

In the years since they started playing hockey the boys graduated from Timbits to Atom, then to Peewee and Bantam, and it was then that my oldest son took to the water while the other continued on ice. In the process they’ve made it through Elementary school and Jr. High and they are both now in their last years of High School.
As for me, this next birthday will be the last of the ones that start with a four and the dirt road of life continues on.

Their mother and I split up when they were too young to remember us being together, and for a long while when she and I worked completely on opposite rotations she would have them on her days off and I would have them on mine.
As our work schedules changed so did our sharing of the boys, and I made the transition to from almost half time dad to weekend dad, then later to being an every other weekend dad.

Until I started working offshore in 2009 I could count on one hand the number of the boy’s games I had missed, even when they played in different divisions, which happened every other year and was an absolute pain in the ass; a pain I wouldn’t trade for anything.
In the years since being seduced into the offshore world I have been physically away for over half of almost every year since, and as my sons continue to become more and more independent young men, our time together becomes less and less frequent.

This past year or so was the toughest for me in a long while, with an offshore travel schedule even more unforgiving than usual, but what was toughest for me was that I missed the vast majority of my son’s hockey games this season.

So here I sit off of Mumbai India, half a world away from everything important to me and wondering how I will make the next transition I can’t help but look back at it all and smile.
Our times together covered thousands of miles of blacktop on four wheels and on two with them on the back of my bike, and hundreds of miles of dirt roads and potholes that were often dusty and muddy, and sometimes snow covered.
Through them all we only had two mishaps; once when Grampie had to come rescue us from the alders (my fault not theirs) and once that involved a partridge that made the ultimate error in judgment by choosing to stay put and expecting us to yield the right of way.
Fact: The rules of the road for partridges are not the same as for pedestrians. Feathers flew; the partridge did not. Well, not of his own accord. The three of us still laugh like hell when we think of that day.

It’s true you can’t turn back the hands of time, but even if I could I doubt I would, for fear of things not ending up exactly as they are today, especially if it might mean potentially missing even one of the memories I have from my career as a hockey dad.

But I’d give anything do it all over again exactly the same way we did it then, making dust and memories down the dirt roads of the past.

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