Sunday, August 27, 2006

Watching Soccer: Performance ANXIETY

Yesterday Jacqui, our friend Dave and I traveled to Kalamazoo. We went to see my brother play in a soccer tournament. Now some people might say that the climax of the sporting year would be the super bowl or on a year such as this the World Cup or the Olympics. Now those sporting events are all great in there own ways and each undoubtedly has numerous fans but yesterday we witnessed some of the most intense competition EVER. It was sweet.

My brother is a really good soccer player. There I've said it. You can quote me. I never played soccer growing up so the fact that he can do such amazing things with just his feet always impresses me and the "watching him is exciting because he's my brother" factor is also just plain fun for me. He plays defense. He's what's called a sweeper. He's sort of the last guy the opposing team has to get by before the goal so he's pretty important. Even watching him play in just your normal, average, run of the mill game is always fun for Jacqui and I but when it's a game like yesterday it gets down right intense.

It's a weird thing to feel so invested in someone else's performance. I guess I've experienced that watching friends on stage but in that situation I can usually suspend my belief and see them as their character; watching a sporting event just feels different. On a base level I suppose that's why people watch sports: they enjoy investing something of their own time and emotions in something larger than themselves. It's why people hold their breath when their favorite team is up to bat or their favorite player has a chance to win the game. I'm sure it'd be even more intense if you actually had a personal connection to that player or team. How did Michael Jordan's mom handle it?! How does Rodger Federer's grandpa cope?! Maybe they're so used to it that it's just normal, but I know that my nerves were definitely on edge, especially as the game came to an end.

Jordan's team won the first two games of the tournament pretty handily and then seemed to be on their way to a third win and the tournament trophy. BUT THEN...the other team scored in the last minute to tie things up at 1-1! The game then went into penalty kicks. I've never seen a live soccer shoot out but let me tell you it is concentrated excitement. The first kick was stopped on an amazing save by Jordan's goalie so it looked like his team was a lock for the win BUT of his team-mates missed so it was a draw after five kicks. Now I wasn't super familiar with the penalty kick format but at this point the competition goes into...DUN DUN DUN: SUDDEN DEATH!

Jordan didn't kick in the first set of five but after it headed into sudden death he got to give it a go. I could barely watch. If he missed his team was out. That's just so much pressure to put on one guy. I had to get up and walk around. Heck, even writing about it now it feels like my pulse is picking up. As he wound up for his kick I could only watch out of the corner of my he nailed it right in the center of the net! I screamed my head off. It was awesome. It stayed tied for a few more kicks but then Jordan's goalie got pulled, a confusing last minute substitution was made and a new goalie was called in. Now this kid hadn't played goalie the whole tournament but he stepped up big and stopped the first shot and then in dramatic fashion, with his goalie gloves still on, went to the line and kicked in the winning penalty kick. It was exhausting and exhilarating to watch.

I was so proud of my brother, who played so well, and I was just struck by how fun the whole thing was to watch and what an interesting thing it is to watch someone you know perform well.

Monday, August 07, 2006


I watered the flowers this morning. At the house we're sitting we have to water the plants and flowers everyday. Usually I don't enjoy this task. Task. What a great word. Usually having to water the plants the takes on all the negative connotations that come with a "task". Some days though I like it. I woke up this morning and had a sudden desire to water the plants. Someone once told me something about work. I don't know if it was a quote or just a moment of brilliance on their part but it had something to do with work and how, although we complain about having to get work done (especially physical work) there is something about giving your hands a specific job that allows your mind to wander free. I like that feeling. Sometimes when I let my mind wander all that comes into it are old episodes of "Lois and Clark" but sometimes it gives me a chance to get my brain in order and sort things out.

I'm usually pretty good at pushing sad or mean thoughts away. Sometimes this is a good thing. But sometimes it's just me lying to myself about how I really feel. If I don't want to feel something I usually talk myself into feeling something different. Usually it's an emotion I assume I ought to be feeling. I've had this a lot recently. My dad has been in the hospital for over a month from a huge heart attack he had at the beginning of July. The recovery has been agonizingly slow and not really visible. He's been mostly unresponsive, not really aware of where he is or what's going on. Over that time it's been really easy for me to fill the positive, helpful son role. No negative thoughts, no sadness, no discouragement. Sometimes I win this battle but sometime anger, and tears have a funny way of leaking out in weird ways or at unusual times.

I thought about all this when I was watering the plants this morning. It felt nice to stand on the grass in bare feet and listen to water gushing out of the hose. There was something good about the way the water would sit on top of the dry parts of the ground in a little puddle and then slowly seep into the dirt when I wasn't looking at that part any more. My hands and legs just sort of movd on auto-pilot as I shifted the hose in my hand or walked to a new section of lawn. After awhile I realized that I was thinking about my dad a lot.

Last Friday my dad had what I would call a break through day. The doctor had just finished telling me that because dad was so unresponsive that there was a good chance that he had suffered brain damage. He told me that there was a pretty conclusive EEG report to support this theory and that it probably happened because at the time of his heart attack his brain had been without oxygen for too long. I took this news calmly, smiling at the doctor and thanking him for his help.

The next minute the physical therapist was calling me into my dad’s room. "We've got him sitting up on the edge of the bed again, would you like to see?" I walked in and there he was sitting up on the edge of the bed. Then they stood him up supporting him with some sort of physical therapy belt around his waist. This was pretty amazing because I had only seen him flat on his back. Then they started asking him questions. "When is your birthday?" "Do you know who these people are?" and to my amazement he answered them fairly coherently. For the rest of the day he was more or less awake and able to talk in a garbled sort of way. This was the most alert and with it I had seen him since I'd been back. It was pretty incredible.

I thought about all this while I watered the flowers. I'm still processing a lot of questions and fears and it was good to have something to do while I waited for something to happen internally. Sometimes when I sit with my dad I put my hands to work, squeezing his hand because I need something to do while I wait for something, anything to happen. I felt like that this morning as I listened to the hose gush. I'm still trying to sort through/am still stuck at the moment the doctor told me that my dad had brain damage. "How could I be so calm?" "What would I do if he really was brain damaged?" All those thoughts and more: Feeling guilty because through a series of miscommunications no one went to visit my dad yesterday, even though I told him someone would be there. Trying to sort through what having my dad in the hospital means for Jacqui and I as far as moving, because although I like staying at this house of a thousand plants that has to end in a few weeks when its real owners come home. Mostly I was, and still am, trying to sort through being sad and afraid to lose my dad.

It's been a weird sort of morning but somehow holding that hose and watching that water helped.