My Lightning lost game seven to the team of my youth.
I’d like to introduce Chara’s long stick to his large intestine as much as the next Lightning fan, because Florida is my home now. When I say I’m going home, I’m always referring to Dunedin, not Boston or Billerica.
It took a long time for this place to become home. We moved from a neighborhood of young families and friends to a less than half developed, walled in compound in a remote corner of God’s waiting room. (In case you were wondering, compound is a term of affection, referring to the suburban subdivision.) It was lonely until a young family built a house across the street and a strange hybrid of friend/bully moved to the neighborhood. It was me, him, my younger sisters, and the retired people. When I think back on it, I think my relationship with the kid across the street had more in common with the fear of being alone and recurring domestic violence than a friendship.
My crowning achievement occurred after I earned the freedom to venture into adjacent compounds. It was when I received a well deserved beat-down from a girl my age (about ten if I recall). That’s all I have to say about that.
Life ebbed and flowed from there. My family went through the stuff any normal family goes through: broken bones, beloved pets dying, a mother having a mental breakdown in front of her kids, complete with paranoid hallucinations, and a sister with a rare blood disorder requiring her to miss a year of school.
We also had our good times: boating on the lakes and out in the Gulf, anchoring off pristine beaches inaccessible by any other means. We went hiking through the numerous county parks, learning the surprising diversity of life and ecosystems for such a small, flat peninsula on the coast of west-central Florida.
High school was such a social disaster I don’t want to talk about it. Two redeeming consequences of high school were I met my future wife, and it got me into UF. But despite all of this living and education, I was still as dumb as a rock who decides to take a swim in deep water. Then I got married, got my first job, got married, left my first job on good terms and got my second job, had a child, had several heartbreaking children who never made it into this world, and finally had Adam. (Not many folks know this: he started out as a twin but his little sibling didn’t make it to term.)
A Facebook friend from my high school years recently mentioned my intelligence back in the day (referring to my daughter’s academic success). It’s funny how differently we see ourselves. I still don’t feel like the smart guy in the room, but I see a world of difference between then and now. I wish I had half the confidence I do now. I wish I had a fraction of the experience to lean on.
Yep, in many ways I bet I’m just like you.
Sometime during all of this, Florida became my home. I don’t know when it happened, but I know why. This is where I became me. It was this place that pinched, stretched, and shaped the wet clay of my young soul.
I am at home now, finally feeling up to writing after a rough patch which included a spell of forgotten medication and a dip into the deep end of depression. It’s been one of those ordinary weekends that make up most weekends, where I try to make a little magic from the mundane. I made a trip to a favorite market with Adam after a pair of haircuts. I made a snap decision wandering the isles. It was time to introduce him to one of my childhood favorites: cream soda bottled in glass. He had to know precisely when the bottles would be cold enough to drink/enjoy after we got home. It was an afternoon of giddy anticipation. When dinnertime rolled around we got out our little-used bottle opener and popped a couple tops. The sound of pressure, released suddenly… the liberated gas seemingly visible as it made its escape… the sudden, light smell of soda wafting towards my sensitive nose… it all seemed to transport me in time, if only for a flash of a moment. Grasping the neck, Adam and I took a generous sip and signaled our approval with a satisfied “ahhhh.”
It was a good day to be a dad at home with his kid.