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Sunday, June 01, 2008

That Which Does Not Break You Only Makes You Stronger


My wife has been out of town since Wednesday morning.

She had a pre-planned business trip to the Mid-Atlantic region and then - now this didn't come as a surprise - an unplanned visit to her hometown to attend the funeral of her grandmother who happened to pass away the morning she left.

Due to the timing, me and the boys stayed behind it just seemed easier on everybody.

I most likely won't see my wife until late this evening.

Five years ago, the prospect of spending 5 days without spousal support was daunting. Granted the kids were younger and a lot more demanding but I also hadn't developed my ability to go long stretches without so much as a phone call with another adult back in the day.

Wednesday through Friday was a cakewalk: the usual routine of school and backyard shenanigans in place. I was fortunate enough to have my neighbor called Friday to check on my wife and ended up coming over for a cocktail after the kids went to sleep.

Saturday was a beast though as my oldest took part in a 3-on-3 soccer tournament. His bracket had games at 10am, noon, 2pm and 4pm (12-minute halves, 2-minute halftimes and no stoppage of the clock so they were quick ones). I had the foresight to pack a cooler with sandwiches and cold drinks which was a damn good thing because it was hot as hell out there on the pitch. My initial plan was to retreat to the comfort of our home between games because we only ive but 10 minutes from the fields. But that was shattered when we showed up at 9:30am and couldn't find a place to park. It was like the Kentucky Derby of soccer - there were team tents sprawled out everywhere, a concessions tent, some tent sponsored by a local soccer distributor called Eurosport and even a cop directing traffic.

I was ill-prepared.

After game one, which found the Chicago Pizza (hey I didn't name the team) victorious, we headed back home so I could:
a.) get a hat so I wouldn't burn my forehead and scalp
b.) lube the boys up with lotion
c.) replenish the two sandwiches my 5-year-old ate during the first game
d.) buy some Gatorade to keep me and the boys alive during the long haul.

When we returned for game 2, I landed a choice parking spot and the deal was sealed that we would not leave again until all this was over. Between games my 8-year-old's coach would get them to sit in the shade and drink water and chill out. He 's got this collapsible 8-seater bench type thingy that was totally crucial for the day's events.

So crucial in fact, that I believe his smarts to keep the kids hydrated and in the shade led them to bringing home the championship.

It never ceases to amaze me how unfazed kids are by the elements, whether (er,weather?) it be a freezing cold ocean or blazing, 90 degree soccer field. It also never ceases to amaze me how many parents seem to let their children run amuck and unsupervised. Several teams were sucking wind by game three and most of these kids were the same kids that I saw running around chasing each other playing tag or throwing empty water bottles at each other between matches.

After the third game, a bunch of us saddled up in the shade and hunkered down with food and drinks to wait it out until the last game of the day, the game that would decide the championship for that bracket. The coach's wife had these things called Sharkies which I'd never seen before that were little fruit chews except they were packed with electrolytes. I made a mental note about these because they most definitely should be kept around the house for flu-like bouts of diarrhea and dehydration. What kids won't choke down a little baggy of fruit chews?

Several times throughout the day I tried to reapply lotion to my 5-year-old (and even myself) but by the day's end it was clear that the lotion had either expired or that hole in the ozone above us had gotten bigger in the last few weeks because we both came home with patches of sunburned skin.

It must have been the shade (or the Sharkies) but my son's team played like madmen considering it was their fourth game of the day and four o'clock in the afternoon. One of his teammates - Charlie - was on fire and after the opposing team scored first he came back and nailed two quick ones to give them the lead. I joked to his mom that it must have been the Sharkies. Even better was that the other team was coached by a bunch of douchebag dads who barked and yelled and harassed the kids in what was one of the truly saddest examples of the byproduct of little league sports: the dad couch who takes things way to seriously.

Of course after the Chicago Pizza scored two more goals, the other team was in tears (my hunch is that they knew they were going to get an earful, if not a spanking, on the way home) and pretty much just fell apart, resorting to cheap, aggressive play and name-calling.

Medals were presented after the game in Olympic-like fashion by the coach as they stood on the cooler (how awesome is that!) and then I treated my boys to a post-game celebratory meal of tacos and enchiladas.

On the way there my son said, "I want to dedicate this medal to mom and Grandma Sadie."

He watches too much ESPN me thinks.

We all washed up and then crashed hard. But my youngest relocated to my bed and soon was taking up just about as much space as a 5-year-old could possibly take up. My rest didn't come as easy to me as their's came to them.

Beat down and bushwhacked, we (mostly I) spent the majority of the day today doing chores (grocery store, laundry) and chilling out comfortably inside (it's fucking 90 plus degrees out) too hot for even the pool (especially with the sunburn) yet financially-challenged enough to not break out the Sunday matinee at the local cinema.

I shudder to think what they've been doing since I started this epic post, but hopefully it doesn't involve putting Play Doh in the DVD player or Rescue Heroes in the fishtank...

So I am stronger I suppose and a better man, father and husband for taking this all in stride.

I foresee some really cold beer in my near future.

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