Monday, January 25, 2010
Up until the age of fifteen I had always considered myself one of the luckiest girls in the world. I had great friends, good grades, and I was the younger sister of the most popular boy in school, which automatically helped me fit in when I entered high school. My older brother and best friend, Eric, was an amazing athlete. He played football and ran track, but he was most well-known for being a star hockey player. His name was constantly in the paper for his infallible skills. He was a senior and had many, many schools willing to give him a full scholarship to play hockey for them. He was smart, garrulous, altruistic, and all around one of the most amazing people I’ve ever known. He was my hero.
Then one day, February 19, 2004 to be exact, disaster struck. I got into a fight with Eric that day, which didn’t happen very often. I was mad because he wouldn’t let me go out with Kyle Roberts, another very popular boy in our high school. He kept saying ‘he’s too old for you’ or ‘he won’t treat you right.’ It wasn’t until after this unfortunate day that I realized all he was doing was looking out for me.
When I was done screaming at Eric, I stormed into my room and slammed my door in his face. He kept trying to get me to come out and talk to him, but being the obstinate person I am, I refused. My mom came in to mollify me, but I kicked her out, too.
An hour later my dad knocked on my door. “Mary, let’s go! Eric’s hockey game starts in 20 minutes; we need to hit the road!”
I opened my door to respond. “Dad, you guys go ahead. I’m not going.”
“Mary,” my mother pleaded. “Please come with us, it would mean a lot to him if you came.”
I rebuffed her request. “NO! I’M NOT GOING!” I yelled acrimoniously. I had never missed one of Eric’s games before. I was still upset with him, though, and no amount of begging from my parents would convince me to go to his game. That is a decision I will regret for the rest of my life.
A few hours later my parents and four younger brothers returned home. I immediately filled with trepidation when I saw the tears streaming down my mother’s face. “What’s going on?!” I yelled in a panicked tone.
“Mary, get in the car. We’re going to the hospital,” my dad said. This made my mother start another round of heavy sobs.
I was compliant and got in the car like my father said. We rushed to the hospital, but when we got there it was too late. Eric was dead. I fell to the ground in tears when I heard the news. Eric had been in a car accident that night. They rushed him to the hospital, but there was nothing they could do. We eventually went home, not knowing what else to do.
I sat in my room alone the rest of the night. I couldn’t believe what had happened. I was lying on my bed, trying to remember the last words I said to Eric. They were “I hate you.” I couldn’t believe the last thing he heard me say was “I hate you.” I didn’t hate him, I loved him. I was outraged with myself for ever treating Eric with anything other than the respect he deserved.
The next few weeks were a blur to me. Between the hectic planning of the wake and funeral and all the sympathy cards, phone calls, and gifts sent to our house, I still hadn’t had much time to wrap my head around what happened that night. When it finally hit me, I began heading down the wrong path. Though I had obviously never played on a team before, I loved playing hockey with my brothers when I was younger. But after Eric’s death, I gave it up completely because it reminded me too much of him. I fell in with the wrong crowd. I got myself into all kinds of trouble in school, and eventually with the police. I fell into depression without Eric, and I didn’t know what to do.
Then, one day I was lying in bed late at night when my mind went wandering. What am I doing? I asked myself. Eric wouldn’t want me to be morose all the time. And, I know he’d be worried about me if he knew where my life has been heading. That’s when I made the decision that my life would not continue like this. I was going to turn it around. I wanted to make Eric happy, and I knew exactly how I was going to do it.
The next day I approached my dad who, like Eric, had been a start hockey player in high school and college. “Dad, I want your help?”
“Ok Mary, with what?”
“I want you to help me play hockey. I want you to train me, and help me get on the team, on Eric’s old team.”
“I don’t know, Mary. They’ve never had a girl on the team before. I don’t even know if it’s allowed.”
“Dad, I can do it. I know I can. I’m better than half the guys out there I just need a coach. I need you.”
Reluctantly, my dad agreed to help me train. Starting the next day, we would get up at 5:00 every morning. He had me running before school everyday. I did crunches, push-ups, sit-ups, and lifted weights everyday. On weekends he made me do hill sprints. My dad was a very fastidious trainer. He always told me I wasn’t running fast enough, or wasn’t lifting enough. Some days I would get very mad at him and frustrated with him, almost to the point where I considered quitting. But I persevered for Eric, and it paid off.
Six Weeks Later
Finally it was the day of tryouts. As I walked onto the rink the boys all gave me disapproving looks as they whispered what I’m sure were cruel comments to each other.
“What are you doing here?” the coach asked.
My dad ran over to the coach, who didn’t want to let me even try out. I watched as they were discussing me, though I didn’t know exactly what they were saying. Eventually my dad convinced the coach to let me at least try out.
The tryouts were brutal. The boys were nefarious. They all ganged up on me and pushed me around, trying to prove to their coach I wasn’t strong enough to play with them. They wanted to see me fail, because they didn’t want a girl on their team. I didn’t let them bring me down, though, and I earned myself a position on the junior varsity team. Though I thought I deserved better, I decided to be tenacious and continue playing, for Eric.
A month later it was time for our first game. My heart was beating the whole way there. We were playing the team we had played the night of Eric’s death. When we got there we all gathered in the locker room. Our coach gave us a long harangue about how this will be a tough team to beat, but if we learn to converge as a team we can win.
After Coach Marcus was done speaking to us, the varsity team went to go take their place on the bench to watch the JV game, which was first. I was about to go get ready with the rest of the JV players when I heard Coach call my name. “Mary!” he yelled. I looked over as he tossed a varsity jersey at me. It was number five. It was Eric’s jersey.
“Coach, you serious?” I asked in disbelief.
“You earned it, kiddo,” he said with a smile. “Now go out there and make us proud.”
I sat and watched with the varsity team as the JV won their game 5-0. It was impressive, but I knew the varsity team would be much harder to beat.
I felt the eyes on me as I took my spot on the ice. I had never been under so much pressure in my life. I felt like the team was depending on me.
Three minutes into the game I got the puck. I froze up as a prodigious player from the opposing team came towards me. I was knocked hard onto the ice, and for a moment everything looked garbled. I quickly got up, though, and I was back in the game playing my heart out.
Time passed quickly. The game was intense. I glanced up at the clock, realizing there was only a minute left. We were tied three to three, and I was determined to make that winning goal. My teammate then got the puck, shot, and scored. However, a player on the other team did the same thing shortly after.
Now, there was ten seconds left and we were still tied four to four. All of a sudden, the puck was in my possession. I knew this was my chance, and there was no way I was going to mess it up. I was speeding down the ice when I saw my open teammate. I passed to him and continued on towards the goal. I was open once again, so he passed it back to me. I aimed carefully and shot quickly. The puck went flying threw the air. The goalie reached out to stop it, but it was just out of reach. The puck landed in the net. I had scored! Once second later the buzzer went off, leaving no time for the other team to make a come back. We had won the game.