I’m sorry, Honey, that I didn’t come out to play with you when you asked over and over and over again. I’m sorry I didn’t come out just to watch – you loved that just as your dad had, and I never did it enough. I didn’t understand why you would want me there just to watch.
Now I do.
I wish I had scooped up all of the views of you while I could. I wish I had captured every laugh, every wry smile, every bit of exuberance you had when you were at play. I would like to have them now – all of them.
Watching Conner playing lacrosse (and Loren and Rob watching him) brought me back to your days in high school. Lacrosse was a club sport, but it was just right for you. When your Ba came to visit, we traveled to watch you. We craned our necks to see every play and cheered (not so quietly). At the game’s conclusion, your arm around Brooke, we both beamed. You were living the life we had imagined for you.
You weren’t a super star with colleges and coaches seeking you out. You played because you loved it, but I would have loved the glory for you. I am not even sure now what position you played; I think it was defender. But I didn’t go to every game as Loren and Rob do. And, though you asked, I didn’t have the skill to throw the ball around with you.
Oh sure, I played an occasional game of HORSE (usually reduced to PIG) but never stayed outside as long as you wanted me to. You loved that I could make that one layup shot and how I struggled with the outside shots that you always presented to me. You wanted me to play more, though, and I guess I thought I was too busy for play.
When you got your first Nintendo system, I could keep up for a while with your five-year-old self. But soon, even when I practiced after you went to bed, I couldn’t keep up, couldn’t get to those other worlds…and I slowed you down. You found other playmates who could keep up. And I stopped trying.
The new principal at my school is only a few years older than you would be. He and another young male teacher were talking the other day outside of my office about the newest Xbox and PlayStation systems. I listened as they talked about how they used to play Golden Eye or Madden, the moves they made, the tricks they knew. I asked a few questions. I wanted you there to tell them how you had played those games and bettered them; I wanted to be able to tell the story of your playing – but I couldn’t. I hadn’t watched as you played those games, though I know you would have loved it. I guess I was too busy.
Today we had a paddle tournament in your honor. The second one since you left us.
Your friends were there. The day was perfect – sunny and chilly but not windy. I brought bagels and beers. The guys played hard – Dan and Basil won the tournament. Sami put the brackets together, even though she really didn’t know how. Jeff’s uncle Jim rented the courts for us. Some people came just to watch and to remember you. Dan said you brought us the good weather. All I could think about was how much you would have loved the day. You would have loved to have had your family there with you, watching you play. I would have loved that, too.
The guys all knew which paddle you played with. They knew your moves. They all would have wanted you as their partner. I knew that you loved to play and that you were good. But I don’t know the details. Didn’t play with you or watch you enough to know. All I could do was watch the other guys and imagine you there. I could see you sometimes, running hard and making the best play. Smiling that smile.
I can’t tell you how often I have given advice to parents about playing with their kids. You taught me that. I tell them that they don’t have to offer rewards to their children for doing good work or the right thing. I tell them that the best thing they can give to their child (one who is usually struggling with something) is time with them. I tell them how the greatest gift I ever gave you was time alone with me – usually playing a game. I know this. I knew it then. I wish I had done it more. But I was busy.
When you went to Rob’s house for the Fourth of July, you always asked all of us to go with you. We were shy, didn’t feel comfortable. You wanted us there with you. Rob won’t mind. His parents won’t mind. They love me. You are welcome to come with me. Billy went a few times. I went once. I couldn’t relax and enjoy like you could.
But seeing Rob’s sisters today at the paddle tournament, I know you were right. They all loved you. And they would have accepted all of us, have accepted all of us, because we were part of you.
Brian posted on FaceBook about the day. He wanted to be sure we hadn’t forgotten to get the bagels at Bagel Masters. We didn’t forget. But I got them near home at the Corner Bagelry. I’m sorry. I know that isn’t what you would have wanted. But I was busy – trying to get ready to be there. I didn’t want to miss a minute.
And I didn’t. I stayed until the very end. And then I couldn’t wait to see the pictures that people posted of the day. Cory sent me two. Susan and Sami posted some. I saw your beautiful face – mutual friend.
I couldn’t resist.
I clicked on your FaceBook page. Stacy posted about the day there. There were some Likes. I clicked on your photos. I saw you looking handsome, arms around your friends, laughing and loving it all. I cried. The tears just kept coming.
Looking at the hard days is sad and heart-breaking. Looking at pictures of you as a baby and a young boy brings me back. But it is almost like that was another life. And I look back from afar.
But looking at the pictures of you as an adult is the hardest of all. That is the you that I mourn the most. That is the you just beyond the grasp of my fingertips. The you that could still be here with me.
Yes, you wanted to play more than you wanted to work. Yes, you always played full out – too much when it came to the parties. And it was never enough. You always wanted more. But that is the you I want back. I want more chances to just watch you play. I want more chances to just give in and enjoy you.
I’m sorry I was too busy. Nothing will ever be as important as you.