Sunday, September 29, 2013

Hindsight is...

(Thank you Georgene for making this suggestion...I think...)

Ok. It's been awhile since I blogged and now the competitive season is rapidly approaching. It's our last one after nearly 25 years. 
A quarter of a century. 
A lot of water under the bridge and a lot of ice in the glass. 
It got me thinking about all the times we thought things heralded the seeming "End of the World."

Surprise! It wasn't..

The first "EoW" moment came at about age 6 when we were told the crossed toes our skater was born with would have to be broken and reset. Tragedy...I mean Greek tragedy of heroic proportion, complete with a chorus of wailing voices with seemingly no "Deus Ex Machina*" to come to the rescue.(*Latin: "god from the machine" pronounced [ˈdeus eks ˈmaː.kʰ]; plural: dei ex machina) is a plot device whereby a seemingly unsolvable problem is suddenly and abruptly resolved, with the contrived and unexpected intervention of some new event, character, ability, or object. Depending on how it is done, it can be intended to move the story forward when the writer has "painted himself into a corner" and sees no other way out, to surprise the audience, to bring a happy ending into the tale, or as a comedic device.)hat goes specifically into the grey matter.[3])

What happened? Nothing. He grew out of it.

The next was at age 8 and a series of plantar warts* on the sole of one foot. The suggestion was surgically removing them then resting for up to three weeks. Again, high Greek drama; a chorus of wailing voices chanting, "Feet will be permanently damaged. The end of an oh-so promising career is at hand..or foot."(*Plantar warts are usually self-limiting, but treatment is generally recommended to lessen symptoms (which may include pain), decrease duration, and reduce transmission.) Heads bowed. This couldn't be happening to our incredible prodigy. Disaster of heroic proportion. 
What happened? Some waterproof tape applied over the warts dried them out and they came out on their own.  

Then there was the ditch. This one was actually close to being disaster.
I was on the phone with my father when I heard a small voice. 
"I'm on the phone."
"Wha............OH MY GOD!"
There was my skater standing in the bathroom doorway with a huge gash in his leg, just below the knee, and blood running down onto our chocolate-brown carpet. He had been playing with his sister, step brother and a neighbor friend when he decided to jump a ditch. He didn't make it and crashed his knee into a metal pipe nearly severing a tendon. He was standing in front of me - no tears - but with a huge hole in his leg. I actually stayed relatively calm but I think I hung up on my dad as I grabbed a washcloth and antibiotic cream, a large bandage (we had a lot around the house because of his sister's non-stop ski injuries), propped up his leg in the car with pillows and an ice bag on top and headed the 16 miles to the emergency room. Multiple stitches later we were headed home. Ice pack in tact. My nerves - not so much.
What happened? About two weeks off the ice until the stitches came out. 

Little did we know that a similar but  more serious scene would repeat itself years later in a small town in Italy, but with my husband, not my son.

Then there were the  dreaded figures tests. Six of them, to be exact. The one that "really counted" was on the deadline weekend of qualifying in Juvenile for what was then called Junior Olympics. I have the test papers somewhere in the files. It doesn't matter now. By what seemed like a paper-thin margin (which was actually not that close, to be honest) he did not pass. Devastation. Greek Tragedy of Heroic Proportion. The End of the World as we (well..I) knew it. All I remember is the club president at the time saying to me, "He'll make a wonderful show skater." 
It was meant as a back-handed putdown.. but in retrospect was rather prophetic.  

Then there was the heart murmur detected during a checkup to see why our skater was having trouble breathing and was coughing a lot. The doctor discovered a rapid and slightly irregular heartbeat and sent us in for tests. "I'm not sure what this is but if we can't get this controlled, it may be the end of skating." HIGH DRAMA almost beyond Greek Tragedy. We had left our jobs, sold our home, uprooted our lives and moved to Colorado Springs. Everything had been invested in the sport. What were we going to do now?

What happened? The diagnosis came back as cold-induced asthma from skating that, because of U.S. Anti-Doping rules, required a special inhalator for about six months. He grew out of it, though he still coughs.

Little did we know that a similar but more serious scene would repeat itself years later in San Jose, but with my husband, not  my son.

Other "Greek Tragedy" moments include: 
  • A hairline vertebra fracture from learning triple Axel, and a discovery that others had been there, undiagnosed, from skating pairs. This one required PT, a back brace, a 16 week recovery and a return to the ice in one of the most bizarre Regionals competitions ever (another funny story for another time). 
  •  Breaking of a blade screw during Sectionals in Fargo, North Dakota, when our skater was in the lead after the short program (yet another funny story for another time). 
  • Coming in 5th at Sectionals first year Senior and missing the U.S. Nationals in St. Louis for the 2006 Olympic qualifying year. (We did end up going to St. Louis to watch since we had our plane tickets already. This was the competition where just about everyone got the flu, including our son, and ended up on IV's being hydrated because of throwing up for days.)
I know there are many, many more. Time and distance have some buried in my grey matter* never to be dredged up again, except at 3 in the morning when everything seems to rise to the top like 25 years of curdled cream. 

(* Grey matter is made up of neuronal cell bodies. The grey matter includes regions of the brain involved in muscle control, sensory perception such as seeing and hearing, memory, emotions, and speech. While 20% of all oxygen taken in by the body goes to the brain, 95% of that goes specifically into the grey matter.[3]) Some were much more serious, but mostly they were part of what happens in the normal course of raising athletes.

So, as we begin this final competitive season, I can now think about how truly lucky and truly blessed we've been to have this unique, and unorthodox experience. There have been many peaks and valleys; many ups and downs - highs and lows. It's not a journey I'd recommend for everyone, but it is one I wouldn't trade with anyone else, either. In hindsight, life is beautiful. 

Now, you'll have to excuse me while I go in search of my E Ticket? I need to turn it in and board this ride one last time.   


  1. Once again, a terrific story from the point of view of the parent of an elite athlete. Humorous, to the point, and a terrific read.

  2. I just read this to my son. He too has had a year of ups and downs. A blade for 6 months that just wasnt working for him, a broken wrist,a huge growth spurt.He is almost 5 8 and will be 13 in a few months.He knows he will never be small and is in a sport where he towers over most of the skaters he know.We have talked about how some seasons are filled with injurys but the ones that really love it keep coming back. We have talked about working through it and knowing that next year will be better. Couldnt have written a better article with regionals in a week! Thanks :}

    1. Remind him my son is 5'10". Brian Boitano is 6' and so is Robin Cousins. It's a marathon. We wish him ALL the best!

  3. Also, Angel, we've found that things seem to happen for a reason. It's not always clear what that might be, but sometimes what you take away from the experience is reason enough. It's difficult to step back and look at it that way, but truly there are always lessons.