Saturday, January 19, 2013

It's a Great Day for Hockey
This is not a post about hockey.  Not really.  This is a post about using tools and perhaps abusing tools to move past trauma.  I've both advocated it and been cautious about it in here before, depending upon where I was in my head at the time.  Both are right, I think.  With the important caveat that whatever one chooses as a tool shouldn't be abusive, either to one's self or to others.  Yet, for my part, I've rationalized that I've done what I had to do, used what I had to use to get through the years since mid-2009 when my daughter died, but sometimes I think what I really did  was set myself up for a potential big fall if those props were ever taken away.  And I nearly found out.

Hockey ended up being a big part of the process.  As I've explained before, the pace of the game, the back and forth on the ice, the almost constant flow became hypnotic.  You just can't think about anything else when you watch hockey - if you're really watching.  Over the last two years my love affair with it has grown to where if you asked me whether I'm a bigger Steeler or Penguins fan, I'd have to think about that, and I'm not sure I could give you an honest answer.  Like one's children, they are different, but you love them equally.  So, when the lockout happened, I was devastated.  At one point early on, I wrote a letter to Commissioner Bettman practically begging him not to forget the fans in the process.  I copied Donald Fehr, head of the NHL Player's Association, and the Penguins organization.  I'll give Fehr credit; he answered the letter.  And I could tell that he actually read it.  I appreciate that, but the lockout continued.  And the other avenues for hockey in America, college and junior league, weren't the same, in part just because access to watch them was limited, but also because the talent level is uneven and the speed of the game is so different that it seems choppy and sloppy to me.  International hockey is great, but again, it's a chore to get access to it.  No worries, I tell myself, I'll throw myself into football.  Well, as the Steelers' season tanked, so did my hopes.  As I drove home with Marissa from the last game of the season, it occurred to me that I was about to find out exactly how together I really was in my post-grief life because I was totally exposed now.

Then a miracle happened.  The lockout ended!  The league threw together a shortened season that, in a way, for those of us who stuck around, is pretty exciting.  Forty-eight games in 99 days, it will be more like a football season in that your team can drop a game here or there, but if you have a streak of bad games, you're in trouble.  It'll test the players and will be a battle of attrition most likely.  This could indeed be a lot of fun to see what happens.  And Pittsburghers, unlike other markets, have embraced it fully and are just happy to have the team back.  As evidenced by the scrimmage the team put on this past Wednesday.  They allowed the public in for free.  Not only was it completely packed, they opened the luxury boxes, and still ended up turning people away.  I was one of the people who couldn't get there in time, so I had to come home and watch it on TV.  As the two sides took the ice, I started to cry, surprising Greg and myself actually.  I was so disappointed I couldn't get in to watch them live.  I explained to Greg when he asked me why I was crying (translation:  "What the hell is wrong with you?") that I realized hockey is like my Prozac, and I just really wanted to be present to welcome the team back onto the ice.  I will get my chance officially on Wednesday for our home opener.  Today the team is in Philly against the hated Flyers.  Marissa is here and we'll all watch together.  I am contented.

Yet, the ultimate question lingers:  am I masking something and not actually dealing with it?  Will that come back to bite me someday because I've read, and do truly believe, ignoring one's grief does not make it go away?  In reading the five stages of grief, nowhere in there does it say that finding something to take your mind off of it is one of the normal processes.  I'm not sure.  Today I don't care.  Today I'm watching Sid the Kid and Geno take on the Flyers on national TV, looking for revenge from last year's playoff loss.  Today is a Great Day for Hockey and that's good enough for me.  

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