A month or so ago, Ian declared he wanted to play hockey this year. Ok, dude, sure.
Hockey is not cheap. There's the cost of the season itself, the jerseys and socks, and all the other equipment. Then there are time costs. Practice is every Tuesday and Wednesday and games are every weekend. I'm tired just typing that out. But hockey is important to our family.
Ian played beginner hockey a long time ago. November of 2014, to be precise. That's when things starting going downhill for us all as a family. That first season was fine, but Ian was five years old. All of his equipment was put away after that season. We all were trying to survive, and not all of us did.
Ian and I went back to Iceland for a fresh season last Monday. It was a whole other world. As an 8-year-old, Ian is a "squirt", meaning he plays in an 8-10 league. He's taller than all of them by quite a bit, but they all skate much better. Much. Better.
The other kids are faster, more agile, can skate backward and stop on a dime with ease. Ian is not that good. He could have been that good, but we were busy the last few years.
I sat on the tall bar stools at the glass and watched my giant child repeatedly fall with each drill he attempted. The first practice was an hour, and I cried the entire hour.
I didn't cry because my kid is not an advanced ice skater. I cried for everything that could have been. That should have been. I cried for the smell of chemical ice and body odor that hangs in the air at Iceland. If some couples have a song or a destination, Rich and I had that smell. It felt so awful to be there without Rich.
I was convinced that Ian was going to walk off the ice any minute. That he would come out in tears and tell me it was too hard and he didn't want to do it. Crying in the lobby was certainly too hard for me, and I didn't want to do it.
I talked to a few of the other parents. They were polite and didn't mention the shine in my eyes. They noted how tall Ian is. I told them that I'm 6' tall and his dad was 6'5". I'm not sure they caught the change in tense.
There were two little goalies out on the ice. They were in Rich's crease, making all the same moves he used to make. My heart wanted to burst with happiness for them learning to glove save and the grief of never seeing Rich in his pads again.
Ian walked off the ice after his first hour delighted. He was soaked in sweat, just like Rich would be. He was grinning just like Rich would. He had on an orange jersey even. As we drove home, I told Ian how incredibly proud I am of him. I reminded him that his dad and Uncle Lee didn't skate until they were teenagers.
After the second practice, the coach pulled me aside and said Ian couldn't play this season until he can skate better. He was worried Ian would be crushed so wanted to tell me first. I told him Ian just wants ice time. We're in this for the long haul.
Vickie is the manager of Iceland. I adore her. She recognized Ian and me from the memorial skate we had for Rich (Vickie gave us the rink for free that afternoon). She said she would transition it all for us and we’d be fine. Ian would play on a team in no time.
Ian asked me to read him the brochure for Learn to Skate and Hockey Initiation before bed several times last week. He made a list of the items he needs to pack for skate lessons. He is utterly undaunted.
Vickie refunded our season fees and gave me credits towards the Learn to Skate program. I decided to join Ian on the ice. I can skate decently, but I'm not great.
Our first lesson was last night. Ian had a blast. I can already see a marked improvement after just one hour. And I learned how to do turns. I'm in an adult class with two ladies in figure skates. We make quite the team. I'm noticeably better after just an hour too. There were no tears last night either. We both had so much fun.
Vickie said maybe I'll want to play goal like Rich did. Maybe.
I should note that while Rich can't be there with us, we're not alone. I have a new boyfriend named Brian. He’s in my phone as “Code Monkey” because Senior Developer Design Engineer Monkey is too awkward to say. He supported me over the phone while I cried in the rink. He came to Ian's second hockey practice to support us. He made Ian's lunch while I was upstairs getting Ian settled for bed. He met us for dinner after our first skating lesson. He can't skate and it doesn't matter. He’s very much on our team.