March 3rd- The Missing Teammate – Chris Ritchey
The Missing teammate………..
These past 10 days or so have been particularly gutting for me. I am not sure why the emotional incontinence is so chronic it causes me to wear the protection of my home. I daren’t venture far and concentrating on staying upright and trying to stop the flooding of tears has been very difficult. It isn’t any particular “anniversary ” or an event for which I had to prepare. It has just been overwhelmingly hard.
Yesterday , Nikki and I met one of your soccer buddies for lunch- I know how fond you were of him and your”last team”- you all shared a common bond – they were just that 4/5 years older than you . They played with class, skill and humour- and they won most of the time because they were a team – they supported one another, they passed , they defended and the pushed forward always as a team . The last time you were all together you once more lifted the “championship” T -shirt. The T-shirt representing the bangs, the bruises, the late nights on a field of plastic, the goals, the skills , the camaraderie.
I wasn’t sure if I would be able, in my pathetic state, to keep myself from becoming the “puddle”. Thankfully Nikki and 5 week old Braedyn were there- and thankfully Braedyn slept through the whole lunch. Gavin stayed with Poo Bah and they were “fixing the fish” once more. Nikki would sense when I would start to choke and would carry the conversation until I could “breathe” once more.
You, quite naturally , were the topic of conversation- the good times- how the guys laughed because ,thanks to you, we were their ” only indoor soccer fans” on those nights at 11 p.m. Because your dad and I would meet up with you , you coming in from your college apartment and we from Lorain- halfway .
Like some traders of disrepute we would exchange our bundles in the parking lot- dirty laundry for clean, a weeks worth of meals for the empty containers of the previous week, and money for extras. But the mere fact of seeing you and watching you laugh, playing the game you loved, the goodbye hug –see you next week, or I’ll be home on the weekend ( which meant I want roast beef) was worth those late nights .
My nights are still late and my mornings even earlier than the sun but I hear no laughter , I can only see there is a “missing man” from the team – my son-