My first column for Messenger Post Newspapers appeared on July 31, 2008. It was called "Returning Home Alone."
I somehow turned it into a sports story by recounting a baseball trip taken with my son Kyle between Rochester and Chicago with stops along the way on I-90, culminating in a visit to Wrigley Field. But the real point was how difficult the return trip was without him. Kyle stayed in Chicago for work and I was, as the title implied, returning home alone.
Six years, three months and some 300 columns later I find myself in pretty much the same place. The youngest of my three children leaves for Queens at the end of this month to begin his career as a forester. Yes, in Queens.
Carrie was the 1998 and 1999 Section Five diving champion. She would bring a Disney coloring book to the major meets and color between dives to keep her mind off the pressure. She also played a little softball. Her last play in left field for Webster came in the final inning of a sectional championship against Fairport. She threw out a runner at the plate. Sports helped get her into Holy Cross.
Kyle was the only member of his senior class on the Webster soccer team to play past high school. He was third team All-SUNY at Geneseo as a senior on sheer will. His moment of truth came in a game at St. John Fisher. He was the victim of a hard foul and a penalty shot was called. The Knights had a designated shooter but Kyle, as the aggrieved party, insisted on taking it himself. He missed. The walk of shame back to the bench couldn't have been any more difficult for him than it was for me in the stands watching that day.
Nathan never met a game he didn't love, but it was evident a few years before the actual moment of truth, that he might not have the ability to play either varsity soccer or baseball at Webster Thomas. That turned out to be the case. After playing JV in both sports, he was cut trying out for the varsity. Twice in soccer. He took the slights in stride. Even helped me sculpt a column on the pain of being told you weren't good enough. There were few hard feelings.
So now Carrie is in Seattle, Kyle is in Missoula, Montana, and Nathan is on his way downstate. I couldn't be prouder of their ambition and accomplishments. Still, it might have been nice had one of them been a little less adventurous and stuck closer to home, so we could play a round of golf, have lunch at Sticky Lips, or take in a Red Wings game at the spur of the moment.
That of course is a totally selfish sentiment. The point here is, those of you currently buried under the burdens of youth sports, driving to practice and attending games, escaping work to drive forty minutes to see the last five of some contest somewhere, and as often as not, getting lost along the way, are more fortunate than you know.
Appreciate those moments. They go by in a blink. And you'll miss them when they're gone.