I walked down to the field, looking for my son in a sea of white and red. It was eerily quiet despite a celebration from the other side of the field. Big behemoth sized boys wandered in circles.
Mine stood with his back to me. He was talking to one of the kids from the other school. One of the boys he had grown up with. Had played with. They were hugging and talking and my son was congratulating him. I waited for a moment, holding back, allowing them their time together. And then he turned to me. There were tears in his eyes.
“I can’t believe it’s over,” he said. “Football is over. 3 years of my life. Just like that. It’s over.”
His friend Eddie walked towards us. “I can’t believe how much this hurts,” Eddie said. “I didn’t know how bad it would hurt.”
And just like that, it was gone. 3 years, 4 for some. Practices and weight training and games and team dinners. Game planning and film Mondays and pre-game trips to Panda Express. Their identity as football players.
I didn’t get it last year. Last year as we stood outside the locker room at the Home Depot Center after the State Championships, it was the other guys. We were coming back. We would play again. I watched as the seniors, one by one, came out of the locker room to the warm embrace of their parents, to the waiting arms of girl friends and brothers and sisters and mothers and fathers who knew what I now know. This is the end.
My eyes filled with tears as I hugged my son and his friend. It had happened so quickly. One minute we were cheering and wishing and hoping for a comeback. The next moment we were facing the inevitable. Life is like that.
In a moment, things change forever.
I had spent the day creating a keepsake for this same behemoth. Hours earlier, my dear and talented friend Frances and I sat hunched over her computer, creating an ad for the senior yearbook. I had searched through photo albums for days trying to find just the right pictures to include in this traditional senior memoir. There was the sandbox that we built that year in the backyard, and the trip to Disney World. There were Little League pictures and Pee Wee soccer photos and birthday parties with train shaped cakes and too many balloons. There were pictures of Great Grandparents and Grandfathers who we miss and vacations we remember. The first day of kindergarten and the 3rd grade play. How could I capture 18 years? How could I do it justice? In the end I threw a couple of photos in a bag and headed to my friend’s house, unsure of what we might do.
I needn’t have wondered. It turned out beautifully.
When one door closes another opens. By Sunday we were looking forward. College applications were due and despite a lingering sadness, it was time to think about what was next. There will be a tomorrow.
And yet, despite the excitement of what is to come for him, I can’t help but linger.
When we sold our first home, I walked from room to room and stood in the doorway remembering, soaking in the images of the moments that had been. I took my time, scanning the rooms that, despite being devoid of furniture, would never be empty in my mind. I took a deep breathe and turned out the light.
On Friday night as we stood on the grassy field, as the sweat mixed with the tears, and we soaked up the memories, someone turned out the lights for the last time.
I wasn’t ready.