Becoming something larger than you ever imagined you were going to be, with the realization of the limits you set against yourself.
There is none able to decide what they are brought into. To grow up with aspiring opportunities or to strive for the next sunrise are close yet far. With struggles in life that deny our wishes or stomp out our dreams only succeed from our failure to ourselves.
Finding something that seemed as unique as I was, something that seemed to have every great aspect of any other sport slapped into one hard puck, finding someone who knew how to play the game and make a name by his presence during the Lindros years of the Philadelphia Flyers, it became the great escape. I knew I could be something in it. Something like he was, my own saga.
Without money for food or a stable home most the time, how the hell would one pay for hockey fees let alone make the team? I never wanted to give it up. I worked for change to buy supplies to make baked goods to sell at my library or gas stations but never enough. When the time came, I gave in and kept the channels tuned in, as that was all I would ever get.
Thirteen years later that forcibly matured kid is working 70 hour work weeks as a lineman, still recording Flyers faithfully. The choices and decisions, friends and enemies in those years came and went as they do for everyone.
As few do, one friend stuck out and close greatly. We were un-biological twins. Our bond had many layers, including the militaristic brotherhood as being ex-Navy and he being not-yet-deployed-Marine. Always thinking the same, doing the same, joking, laughing, crying, we shared it all, did it all. The road our future was on had turns but had no stop in sight. His motivation and life views always so motivating, we always fueled each other to keep humanity, to pay it forward, to help out no matter what.
In due time, it kicked my own ass into gear. This is your life, made just for you, and it comes to a close at any given moment. Why waste time regretting anything, you’ll only end up regretting the time you’ve wasted. I never forgot my dreams, I only forgot how to chase after them. I changed my life around. I put together my list of things I must accomplish before kicking the bucket, the a.k.a. Bucket List. I didn’t put much on there at first, but hockey took the first slot.
I spent a month on Google looking up Madison Hockey Leagues. Several came up, but one caught my attention. I pondered, contemplated, then questioned why I was even second guessing.
It was a Gay hockey league, and it admittedly frightened me. I never thought myself to be gay, but born into the wrong body. For lack of any understanding, gay was the only way to label what I was and would be most accepted to. But with so many labels and limits society places on us, why add to them? I myself was living my own life as it were to not interfere with others. To admit I was gay wasn’t shameful. I’ve always supported everyone in their lives, no matter what. But I couldn’t come to grips with what I was, or was going to be. A strong supporter vicariously chiming in at supportive gatherings that I never went to, and still haven’t.
On my lunch break, April 4th 2012, from the job that I worked myself into oblivion, and financially set me to be able to do whatever I wanted, I sat at a food joint and used my phone to complete the form for new players to join the Madison Gay Hockey League. I took a deep breath when I looked out the window upon completion. Excitement and nerves hitting the same chord. To see what the future brings.
On April 5th I had woken up, another 4AM work day, only for my life to be changed forever, as is so possible in just a second, just one moment.
My dearest friend, my military brother, the only person who had my back, the reason I had even filled out that application, that I ever considered improving my life by changing it 180 before self-destruction, had taken his life in his room on the 4th, the same day. Without a word, without a cry for help, without a second thought, without any attempt, he was, is, gone forever. It consumed me, as it would. He was always there, always over, always near, now he would never answer my calls, never reply, never know.
We would never know.
I could never get my head right. I tried to not let it go in vein, by remembering to be happy or live on or any of that junk. Easier said than done. As it never will, none of it made sense.
I had to force myself to realize, this is not my life. It was not meant for me. It was meant for me to live for others. To take that drive I’ve always had to help others, and to use it as fully as possible. The Navy for Search and Rescue, the child’s dream of being a Fire Fighter to save others, to live fuelling the fire of the embers he left us.
With my miles and time and thoughts behind me through checking out of life and into work, half a year passed before I realized it. August came with a random email, ‘Welcome New Player’. I had forgotten. I had entirely forgotten I had even filled that out. I forgot my dream?
I got what equipment was needed, as orange as possible for my beloved Flyers, then hit the ice for the first time in my life. Never had I put skates on my feet before. Once at Tenney Park when I was 3.
I didn’t know how I was going to perform, but I knew I would give it my all. I had to and I would. I learned what I needed to, and took what I knew. The fear was overcome by the happiness from accomplishing something I never thought I would ever do, and meeting people who in turn, also ended up changing my life. By gaining a whole new understanding I thought I already had.
To support something, it isn’t about you. It is about that, about supporting it all, supporting others, them, those who cannot, the familiar strangers from afar, and them whom were like me, like he was, struggling to find themselves in the universe. Because you can, and they cannot.
We later put together his struggles with himself, questioning himself. That he could help everyone else but not himself. Too familiar for me than I wished to admit.
With every game I hit the ice it was for Elmo as the other players caught onto. For him. For myself as well, I did not forget. It was because of him, but for me.
What it means, to be apart of something bigger than I originally expected. That I ever imagined being. Ever imagined happening. To be with a group of excellent people of my city, who are happily accepting of you, as you, not because you are gay or straight, but because you are here, as we all are, to have the best time we can playing the best sport there is. The over powering feeling it was to have that be my first ever hockey game I ever seen in person, to have people asking me for advice, to get critiqued, to be there, to hold the stick, slap the puck, have my first goal, assist, shoot out, to find out my dearest friend’s favorite color was orange, to have orange to do everything with hockey then, to have his initials on my hockey stick, to pass by the bench dedicated to him at Tenney Park while practicing hockey for hours at night for the first time, to have the persons from hockey in my life as well, to help and be helped, to accomplish this all, by simply playing hockey,
Means a hell of a lot.