My bum is numb. Most of my outer layers of skin have lost feeling, but for the random involuntary shivers. This hockey rink is freezing. Despite my efforts to stay warm – donning a full body sleeping bag/coat, thick stodgy Uggs, and matching teddy bear hat and mittens, complete with bulbous knitted nose and ears. Very chic.
I sip at my flask of pretend coffee, wiping the deep red wine stains from my lips after each little swig. I’m trying to fit in here and hoping my teeth aren’t noticeably purple/grey.
The parents in the stands jump and shout after each play. “Noah! Rebound control buddy!!!” It’s all very aggressive and serious. The players out there are 7 and 8 years old. The smallest one is my nephew.
It is our last day in Canada – unless the winter storm warning in effect delays us by a day. We’ve been here, visiting the house I grew up in, for over two months. At once I am sucked back into the rhythm of suburban winter life, and also repelled and alienated by the contrast to the life I’ve led for the past 21 years away.
My captain – so far out of his ocean realm, sits beside me on the stands, enthralled by the fast paced game on the ice below. His new cozy winter toque, pulled down over his ears, he blows into his bright red, dry and freezing hands in the futile attempt to warm them. I’ve dragged him here, into my family, my past, my people. And despite hockey’s foreign rules and cultural intricacies, he has fit right in.
Hot chocolate, egg nog, minus 21 temps. He’s shoveled snow, used the snow blower, poured warm water on our frozen car doors to get them open. Welcome to Canada baby!
I cannot believe it’s been 4 months since we left Shiloh and our sailing life behind – left her to face hurricane Matthew alone while we visited potato festivals in West Virginia and sampled Moose pie in Newfoundland. We 'oohed' and 'aahed' at the colours of the Cabot trail in Cape Breton, and marvelled at the 40 ft tidal swing at the Bay of Funday. We walked the red sand beaches of Prince Edward Island and sampled the world's best scallops in digby Nova Scotia.... Luckily Shiloh and her boatyard friends all weathered the storm without a scratch.
It’s been months since I had to steer the 15 ton boat up to a fuel dock, weather a storm, navigate a port entry… All my life stresses have been replaced by GPS driving stresses, finding motels, and finally juggling all the family and friend visits over the holidays.
Everything about life is in flux. Within a few days we will evolve from our hats and scarves to capris and flip flops.
Everything has been in flux – we’ve visited over 80 cities, towns, villages, islands in 2016. We are lucky. And yet the worst tragedy to befall a mother is my reality.
There is the matter of my six year old son, who today would be eighteen.
There are things I can reconcile – weather, financial strains, family differences, friends who disappoint.
But my baby boy – the one who coveted his can of red Pringles, who cuddled all the girls and declared that food is not food without rice! My Shiloh – who loved Power Rangers and Bob the Builder and Spiderman. My little guy, with stubby brown fingers and a soft blond peach fuzz on his silky little neck… that he was born 18 years ago today. I cannot reconcile this in my feeble mommy brain. My mommy heart has missed the years between 6 and 18 where my boy would have grown, but where instead there was a void. A void within my heart, a place where the world stopped spinning and simply sat, dumbfounded by a loss so great.
So today, as I watch my little nephew barreling down the ice, caught up in the spirit of the game, I decide there is no reconciling the things that happen in this life.
We simply find ourselves in places in time and we must soak them in. We must exist in the here and now – all the ‘what ifs’ and the ‘could haves’ held at bay. Life is in this moment. This right here. The smell of warm chocolate contrasted by the bitter cold air and the cry of the overbearing parent. The sour kick of red wine with the metallic aftertaste of the flask. My boy is gone but this boy is here, and he is life – all new and hopeful. And there is love that transcends. It holds families together, it holds us all together across time and space. But all we have really is what is in front of us right now.
I have memory, and love and family and the frivolous concept of plans. Adventures await.
For now, happy birthday my angel boy and Go Adam! Our boy of the day.