Wednesday, 24 December 2014

The pain of loss

Courtesy of Naypong at
Four weeks ago, on a sunny Sunday morning, I watched my 24-year-old son play football (soccer) for his local pub team. It had been a while since I last attended one of Ryan’s matches. The experience moved me in a way I had not expected.

Throughout his childhood, I would routinely take him to his junior football games, stand on the side line shouting words of encouragement, and deliver a sweaty, mud-splattered boy to the safety of home. During the return journey we’d discuss the match and his performance, analysing his strengths and weaknesses. We’d share our delight about a thunderous tackle and a defence-splitting pass. We’d discuss a dubious refereeing decision or the histrionic behaviour of the opposition’s manager. Often I would nag him about trailing sludge into my car and sullying the upholstery, and he’d urge me to “chill out”.

Ryan is now over six-feet tall, with a build like a spinach-fuelled Popeye. In an entertaining game, his pub team defeated their local rivals, 4 – 2. My son impressed in the central midfield area, spraying precision passes around the field with his cultured left foot – an asset (I insist) that he inherited from his father. Ryan scored one goal, and created two others.

At the end of the game, I bristled with pride as I marched onto the pitch to congratulate him.
“Well played son; that was a great performance.”
“Cheers, dad” he replied.

And then he left with his team-mates, heading for the pub to celebrate their victory with some post-match beers and sandwiches, an enjoyable pilgrimage I had made multiple times during my football-playing days.

I returned to my car, alone. As I set off for home, a profound emptiness engulfed me. A ridiculous voice in my head screamed, “He should be with me!” The voice of reason retorted, “He’s crossed the threshold into adulthood; he no longer requires your chaperone.” My vision blurred as I struggled to see through a watery haze. I pulled over to the side of the road. The pollen count must have been high.