Let’s go back a ways for this one. I think I was 12 years old. I played hockey and baseball growing up but hockey was my true love. There were times when I didn’t feel like going to baseball- practices were usually pretty boring, and the cold weather games were a drag. Hockey, though, was a different animal. The days I had hockey were the ones circled on my calendar. Even practices were fun as a kid. Games were even better. But tournaments were the best. That meant a weekend of at least three, if not five or six games. All hockey, all weekend. I remember, for this particular story, it was an end of the year tournament. We were to play one game Friday night, a few more Saturday, and then the elimination games on Sunday. What could possibly go wrong?
I woke up Friday and headed to school, knowing that at the end of the day, it would be hockey all weekend long. Early on, I realized my buddy who was on my team wasn’t at school. “Anyone know where Mike is?” “I think he’s sick.” Uh oh, not good. Mike was a good player, too. As the day went along, I started to get those butterflies in my stomach. This was a common occurrence for me growing up, so no big deal. After school, though, my butterflies were feeling huge. This was the end of my hockey season, I’m just anxious I told myself. I ended up playing that Friday game at a decent enough level to convince myself that I was fine heading into a weekend full of hockey.
You can only convince yourself that you’re not sick, just nervous, for so long until it becomes apparent that you are indeed sick as a dog. That became evident that night for me. I didn’t sleep much, spent some time hanging out at Club Toilet, and emerged the next morning looking like a demented aye-aye.
My dad took one look and me and knew I was sick. And I knew that he knew. But I couldn’t let him know that I knew that he knew. And he didn’t want to let me know that he knew. You know? I wanted to play hockey, but he had to be a good parent and question me about it, “you okay to play today?” My dad knew how much I loved hockey so he didn’t want to be the bad guy and take this away from me. “Yep I’m good.” And with that, off to hockey I went. Interestingly enough, as soon as I hit the ice it was like I was magically cured. Maybe I was playing more like Valeri Bure than Pavel, but I was still out there, skating hard, not puking my guts up. I guess I’m all better, I thought. When the game ended, though, I went back home to my death bed, occasionally crawling over to the bathroom to sniff the toilet water as I barfed up my intestines.
I obviously looked progressively worse as the day wore on because my dad became more hesitant to take me to my next game. “I’m fine pop, I swear.” The next game was much of the same, though; hitting the ice was seemingly the only cure for this flu. From that point it was a continuation of that routine- sleeping and puking at home, back to hockey to score a goal or two, then back home for more sleep, and finally some dry heaving as there was nothing left inside me.
At the end of Saturday, we had made it to the elimination games. It was the semi-final and then the final scheduled for Sunday. I was hopeful that I’d have a good sleep, wake up healthy and be good-to go for the big games. Unfortunately, it was not a one day flu. I battled through another tough night before waking up for Church the next morning. Here was my Sunday schedule- 8 am mass with the family, hockey at 11, win that to play in the finals at 1.
Step 1- prove I’m healthy enough for hockey by going to Church. You can’t skip mass due to illness and expect your parents to let you play hockey just a couple hours later. My dad asked me how I was feeling before church and I told him I was good-to-go. Lying to your father is never fun but when you know that he knows that you’re lying, it’s not as bad. We headed to mass.
This was, to my best recollection, my brain during mass that day:
Make sure you sit next to dad, really prove your health, here. Luckily, this is the early mass, the one without all the singing. And it’s Father French, he’s quick and to the point. I’ll be out of here in 45 minutes, get a quick nap in and be ready for hockey. Alright, let’s follow along with the church book today, really make it seem like I’m not half dead right now. Uh oh, time to stand up. Why is this so hard to stand up, damnit? Okay, I’m up. Our Father time, just move your lips to make it seem like you’re praying along but don’t open your mouth because something chunky might come out of it. This ain’t so bad! Okay, back to sitting. Thank God. Relax, you’re doing great. Oh what the hell? Stand up time already? Why is it so hot in here? Holy mother of God it’s a sauna right now! Wait no, I’m shivering. What is going on? Okay, back to sitting. By my count that’s two stand-ups already. Just three more stand-ups, two kneel downs, some handshakes, a walk-up for the host and we’re out of here. You feel great right now. Ignore your headache and the shivers and the hot flashes and the urge to puke and the overall body weakness. You’ve got this. Oh crap, time to stand. I can’t do it. I’m about to die. Oh no, Dad just looked at me. If I don’t stand, I’m not going to hockey. Get up! Now! Oh man, I feel like–.
The next thing I knew, I was outside the church with my dad holding onto me. In my desire to stand up and prove my health, I fainted and had to be dragged out. I battled as hard as I could to play the game I loved, but my body betrayed me. I spent the rest of the day in bed, getting the news part way through the day that my team had lost. I woke up Monday morning, feeling 100% healthy, just in time for a full week of school, with no hockey to be played for the next few months. Go figure.