The Last Match

June 1, 2014 at 11:21 pm (Amateur Wrestling, high school, High School Sports, High School Wrestling, Parenting, Single Mom, Single Parent, sports, Teenagers, Wrestling) (, , , , , , )

It has taken me over three months to get the courage to write this post. The post I’ve been dreading since the moment I started my little wrestling mom blog. This is the post where I tell you about his last match, and the end of his wrestling career.

As I’ve mentioned in other posts, my boys have played many sports and been involved in a myriad of things over the years. From gymnastics at age 3 because he needed an outlet for the inhuman amount of energy he possessed (and he was too young for soccer), to the other one wanting to try the violin and later the guitar, to one earning a scholarship to a fine arts camp for his artistic talent, to marching band and more. They’ve played soccer, baseball, football, lacrosse……and wrestled.

I truly think that only people who are close to people who have wrestled can know what this sport is really about. It’s hard for people who have no experience in it to wrap their head around the strong emotions it brings out. Most don’t even try. But those of you who get it, know. You just know, and it is you to whom I speak.

My youngest son, the sophomore, had a decent year; he improved on last year’s record in that he stayed eligible the entire season. That was cause for celebration in itself! He won some, he lost some, he wrestled JV. It was good. My oldest, my senior, also improved his record. I was just happy he was there; compared to last year, this season was going great even if he did not make it to state. He was alive, and wrestling, I think, is what made that possible. Last year was the most terrifying of all my years as a parent. I watched my son hanging on by the tips of his fingers to school, to wrestling, to life. I felt like this year was just borrowed time after that, and not much else mattered – win, lose, I didn’t even care. I was just blissfully happy that I was able to watch him do it.

Then along came Districts. Round One of eliminations on the road to States. Michigan is a pretty competitive state for wrestling, at least in my limited experience it seems so. We are no Iowa or even Pennsylvania, but you have to work your ass off to even make it to States. The kids that make it didn’t pick it up in high school, not unless you are a mutant freak with mutant freak talent who is a reincarnated gladiator from 400 B.C. The kids that make it are very good and have a LOT of mat time. The kids that win are the kids that took it up as 4 year olds and forgo all other activities in favor of wrestling until they are seniors. Ok I might be exaggerating, and I’m sure plenty of deserving “latecomers” get their chance at the state tournament, but I think the overwhelming majority have done it all their young lives. But I digress.

So, along came Districts. I had been so busy with my new job that the season just flew by and it seemed like just another Saturday at first. But about 15 minutes after I took my seat in the stands, I was overwhelmed at the gravity of it. My son had never made it past this round so far, and this was his last chance. But he was better. He was older and more experienced, and most of all he had his head on straight this year. I threw up a desperate plea to the Universe that he would please, just this day, make it through. Just….Please. Please show this kid that there is a reward for doing the right thing. Please show this kid that the thing that kept him going during his darkest hours was worth hanging on to. Please.

And then I let it go. It was all in the hands of the Fates now.

He won his first match with a quick pin in the first. I was over-the-moon thrilled! That meant he had to lose TWO MORE TIMES in order to get knocked out….yay for long days at tournaments!! He too, was thrilled.

On to the second match and a much tougher opponent. This second guy was from a school that just dominated all day long. He had taken third at state last year. So while my son was upset about this loss, he was still in it for Regionals, and had nothing to be ashamed of. The kid was a tank.

Third match, and at this point he’s at sudden death as far as what will happen next week. He had to win this one to stay in. He did. I couldn’t really feel physical feelings at this point. You know those colorful, wobbly rubber bouncy balls you get out of vending machines? That’s what I felt like. Except more fragile and neurotic. I wasn’t sure which way I’d bounce next at any given moment.

Honestly, I’d have to ask him if he had another match after the third one. I think he did, but being a wobbly rubber ball, frenetically neurotic, some of this day has escaped my memory. If he had one, he won it. That’s all we need to know.

His last match was a good matchup. It was the kind you like to watch from high atop the bleachers when it’s not your kid out there. Double overtime. Kids very closely matched in skill and strength. My kid happened to get stuck trying to use a move so as not to be called for stalling. The other lady’s kid saw it coming. This would not have been a loss to hang his head about, not even close. However…..

As I looked at my buddies the stats girls, tears welling up in my eyes, I tried to tamp it down. “Don’t look at them, don’t look at your youngest, and by any means neccessary, do not look at the young man out there who just wrestled his Last. Match.” I guess I said that to myself, but I can’t say for sure. That’s what happened, anyway. I looked in his direction, waiting to see in what manner he would exit the gym, but we didn’t make eye contact. I knew then and I know now, he couldn’t. I watched him push gracefully and calmly through the door, warm-up clothes in hand, and stood there as the blazing red door slammed in my face, as heavy gym doors do. But the slam carried with it the entire weight of the day.

I went outside into the harsh, cold, very snowy day to get some air. I collected my thoughts and shed a couple of tears. I knew I’d have to go back inside and eventually see my boy, but I knew he needed time.

For what seemed like hours, I couldn’t find either of my boys. My youngest had gotten knocked out of the tournament in the first round, paired up with another state placer from the same team that beat pretty much everyone that day. Usually I can find him at the food table. Eventually after a couple of trips from the food tables to the gym and back, I saw him. We saw each other across the cafeteria and started walking toward each other, and he had a look on his face that I don’t think I’ve ever seen before. It was pain and sadness, but it was also pain and sadness for what he knew his brother was going through. And his mother. When we met, we ended up three feet away from our cross-town rivals. He hugged me, and it just all came out.

Thank goodness he is a strong enough young man that he feels it’s ok to cry in front of his biggest “enemies”, because we both did. I was louder and sobbier, but he was sniffly too. Thank goodness he has big shoulders. Thank goodness he loves his family. It was a very touching moment. No words were said, because we both felt and knew the same thing-it’s over for him. Finally, I asked him where his brother was. He was still in the locker room with the other senior on our team who had also just wrestled his final match. I am very glad moms are not allowed in locker rooms.

When I eventually saw my Drew, he was sitting at the food table with a few other wrestlers and the stats girls. It was very gloomy over there. He wasn’t really ready to see me yet, but I couldn’t wait any longer, I had to see he was ok. He stood up and we hugged, and cried. This son is not as comfortable in public, and I knew he didn’t want to cry in front of his friends. There was just no stopping it or helping it. It’s hard to describe the feeling I had. I’ve never had this feeling before as a mother. Of course, I wanted to take it all away from him just like we want to when they’re little, but that of course, is impossible. No words we can find, no actions to divert attention, nothing can make it better. And I know that each time any of the three of us thinks about it in the years to come, even though life has of course gone on, we will remember that feeling.

I hope he never lives with regret that “maybe I could have tried harder, put more effort into it, not totally screwed my life up junior year”….regret is a bitch to live with. I hope he looks back and sees what could potentially be regretful and just realizes that’s the path he chose and he is who he is today because of it. I hope he’s got a Buddhist mentality about it; it is not good and it is not bad, it just is.

I love this young man very much. And I am sorry he didn’t get to fulfill his wildest dreams as an athlete. But I do know that he learned a lot about life participating in this sport, and a lot about himself. I know he made friends and did accomplish things many others could not. I know that he learned that only he controls his destiny with his choices, and that choices have consequences. He learned that the depths he needs to reach to pull out success, do exist in him, and how far reaching those depths are.

I’m so very lucky to have had the chance to ride along for this journey of his. The highs and lows of it; the tough lessons and the triumphs. At times it’s been the glue that held us together. When we had nothing else, we had this. I expect it might be different for a Dad, but I enjoyed it to the fullest.

Thank you, son.

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Mrs Married and Milestones

June 11, 2013 at 7:02 pm (empty nest, Essay, graduation, high school, Parenting, Single Mom, Single Parent, Teenagers) (, , , , , , , )

I have been a solo parent for seventeen years, six months, fifteen days and forty eight minutes.

Wow, I’ve never drilled it down like that. But I felt it was necessary to give some gravity to what I’m trying to say here. Sure I’ve had some help from friends and family over the years, but it’s been just me and the boys through the good, bad and ugly. It’s all I know as a parent. I barely even had to share them for holidays…maybe three times over seventeen years, six months, fifteen days and forty eight minutes.

I don’t feel different than a married mom. I don’t look different than a married mom. And I don’t love differently than a married mom. Granted, I have never walked in the shoes of a married woman, so I guess I can’t say for sure things are different for them. But some people in my life act like I have the word SINGLE tattooed on my face in bright, neon colors. They just can’t get past it. “Next holiday, bring someone with you” say my family. “Don’t you get lonely?” Ask acquaintances. “We need to hook you up with a nice guy” say friends. I know, I know, they all mean well.They are coming from a place of caring. But today, someone (a co-worker) who REALLY can’t get past my single-hood said something to me that I just don’t understand.

This woman married her Jr. High sweetheart about five minutes after graduation. 35 or so years later and they are still blissfully happy. Good for them! They are very lucky to have each other and I’m happy for her. I’ve known her for seven years, and at least three times a year she will say some crap to me that is totally inappropriate. She is very preoccupied with how often I have sex, for one thing. (Which i dont divulge…I’d have to be fucking crazy to tell her things like when I get laid). One time she even told me I better find a man soon cause my “stuff” would all “dry up” if I didn’t start using it soon. She’s not always that crass. But she also likes to tell me how every parenting decision I make is wrong. I have recently stopped confiding anything in her. Who needs that shit.

Today the subject of graduation came up. We started talking about how my oldest is now officially a senior…then I started seeing this imaginary, futuristic movie reel playing at hyper speed. It showed me senior pictures, my last trip on the mat on the arm of my eldest for parent night at a wrestling meet. It showed me his friends that we’ve known since Kindergarten that are now young men and women, prom, caps, gowns, grad night. This little movie lasted just as long as the wink of an eye. But sometimes what you see in the wink of an imaginary eye can tug at your heartstrings enough to make your real eyes fill up with tears.

Normally you’d expect that three women standing around talking about something that one is finding very emotional would give each other a knowing pat on the shoulder, and maybe you’d hear “Oh, I know, I did the same thing”. Not this crowd. Mrs. Married and Ms.Thank God I Never Had To Go Through Any Of That Sports Stuff couldn’t believe why I was emotional. Seriously, they didn’t get it. They said that they were happy for their kids to be moving on to college, and/or just growing up and giving them an empty nest. I told them that I was excited for that stuff too, but I just found it very bittersweet. Sniff sniff. Blank stares.

Then Mrs Married piped up with her solution! “I honestly and truly feel that you’re so emotional about it because you’re single!”. Um, what? Did you really just say that? Apparently she feels that my life is so wrapped up in my kids that I’m terrified of being alone when they leave and that’s why I was emotional. Sorry honey, wrong answer. Because I won’t be alone. Being the only one in the house on a cold February night with a 7 month old who’s spiking a 106 fever and you have another little one sleeping in the next room and you have to drag both of them out in knee deep snow to the emergency room, that’s alone. Being someone like my kids father who has to face the fact that he created a strained relationship with his kids and knows they have little to no respect for him because of they way he treated them, that’s alone. I’m not afraid of being “alone” in the form of an empty nest. I’ve been through way tougher shit in my life than having no mate. That’s small, small potatoes. And who knows, maybe I’ll just focus on getting my groove back when I have more free time.

This woman pities me because I’ve raised these kids on my own. It hasn’t been easy, I’m not gonna lie. But maybe I’m actually lucky for having done it. I do have to assume 100% of any blame for their not-so-great behavior when it happens, but I also get 100% of the credit for the good stuff. And I am wildly fortunate to have received 100% of the love. For seventeen years, six months, fifteen days and forty eight minutes. I know I won’t miss them when they leave, because I know my boys will never be far from me, even if we are hundreds of miles apart.

So I got emotional and a tad weepy at the thought of my child, my heart, approaching this milestone. You don’t understand why I did. I don’t understand why you didn’t.

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