I remember the first time I grieved. Sycamore trees lined our residential streets bursting with a pageantry of color that fluttered on delicate limbs. The leaves tumbled, spiraled, and whirled upon an autumn breeze, discarding golden memorabilia that quilted the asphalt. Now whenever I see hues of seasonal change flaunting its beauty, I step back in time. I crave lost innocence…
“23, 37, 18” rang out his call. The huddle had broken up seconds before. We scurried to the scrimmage line. With arms hung limp at our sides, we stood posed as manikins. Draped in oversized white fruit-of-the-loom t-shirts, we modeled our jerseys as the felt-tip marker fumes lingered. Odors from the numbers we had drawn on our shirts orbited, intoxicating us into hallucinating about other dimensions, dream of new worlds. The frigid air gripped bare skin. Fingers tingled. Hands grew numb. Snot oozed from our nostrils.
It was the last play of the game. Parents were getting restless; calling us for the third, now fourth time as dinner waited. Aromas of mesquite drifted from outside grills, blending in flavors that caused us to salivate. Street lights buzzed on, revealing a playing field where the cars roamed. Evening mist lurked on either ends of the street, bookends of haze encapsulating a moment that later proved to be a means to something greater. My mind raced. I rehearsed what was to come next: visualizing the precautionary steps; obsessing over the appropriate execution; romanticizing the outcome.
“Hut… hut… hike…” Off like a bullet, I shot. The ball was rifled into the sky. I concentrated of how to outwit, outmaneuver my opponent. He kept a leisurely eye on me, not at all concerned about me catching the ball. I passed the lamp post entering into the end zone. The football now descending, it was heading directly to the center of my hands. Time had warped. Slow motion crystallized in strobe light fashion. Paparazzi camera flashes. I imagined the ticking clock winding down – 5…4…3…2…1! I had scored that winning touchdown…
I have often wondered about the feeling of success underneath stadium lights. Within the realm of sports, I savored this one day on a street of autumn gold that remains enshrined in the annals of my thoughts. I was in seventh grade. A stroll down memory lane often widens into boulevards instigating sentiment, deepening with emotion. I grieved not recognizing such acclaimed innocence until it had already sifted through my fingers.
My achievements would be reserved for another time, another place, used in the context of a different light. I would spend years, though, wrestling with an awkward appearance, a peculiar gait, and a speech difficult to decipher. I strived to understand this debilitating disability: I yearned for simpler times; standard routines; day-to-day luxuries that so often I took for granted yet never had the chance to revisit. They were lost forever. Thus, I began my journey with God. Does He exist? Does He love? Does He care?
It started on a day when I simply woke up. How I hungered for any inkling of normalcy as hordes of spectators now watched my physical demise through ignorant and often demeaning eyes!