Correct Change

Saturday was Maggie's last soccer game of the season. It was threatening to rain when we got to the field but within minutes the sky was clear and the sun was out. The possible lightning storms never appeared. It was a perfect day for soccer.

Maggie ran over to join her team while Kim and I followed with the orange slices for half-time and a couple of portable chairs to sit in and watch the game. As game time neared, the parents set up their chairs on either side of the field. People we'd gotten to know over half a dozen Fridays and Saturdays in the fall and the same number again in the spring. We'd hang out on the sidelines and offer encouragement to the girls for an hour. Another perfect Saturday here in the midwest.

It's not even summer yet and Maggie's skin is already beginning to glow. Just from recess and playing outside and every day activity, Maggie's color is beginning to darken. There is a radiance that you can feel all the way across a soccer field.

Her play is timid. She scraps for the ball and kicks it once but doesn't make that second strike that is so often successful at this level of play. A couple of girls stand out as playing exceptionally well. The rest are still having a great time. As always, we play half of the game against one team and half against the other team. Maggie spends much of the second game in goal and isn't really challenged.

I shout instructions and encouragement from the side. She pretends not to hear me. Maybe it's not pretending. When she was younger, I would stand behind her while she was in goal so that I knew she heard me. Now I just embarrass her from the sidelines just as the other parents embarrass their children.

No one brought a snack today. We're all heading over to a pizza buffet for an end of season celebration.

We're one of the first families to arrive. The coach and Kim pull several tables together so that everyone can sit together. I stand in line to pay for our family. I pull out twenty-one dollars. It always costs a bit more than twenty dollars for us to eat there if we get the buffet plus drinks.

The high school student at the register tells me the price is a little more than sixteen dollars. I look confused.

"Did you add in our drinks?" I ask.

Now she looks confused. "Yes," she tells me.

"Did your prices change?" I ask.

"Well," she answers, "they went up a little."

"Up?" I ask more to myself than anyone else. I hand her seventeen dollars and she gives me change and a receipt. I look at the receipt checking to make sure that she has charged us for the drinks.

She has.

As she hands me our drink glasses I finally understand. Now when I take out the whole family for dinner, there's just three of us.

It seems so stupid. I've gone out with just Elena or just Maggie or just Kim or some combination. But I always knew I'd be paying less because we weren't all there. I haven't gotten used to the fact that now, when we are all there, we aren't all there. All of us is three. All of us now pays a little more than sixteen dollars.

Drinks included.

Published in: on June 7, 2006 at 2:06 pm  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I’d love to be able to write something wise to help, but I can’t. I can’t imagine how much or how frequently even small adjustments like this can blindside you.

    I just wanted to say that I am inspired by your writing. I’m coaching three children’s soccer teams this summer, that my kids are playing on. Although I occasionally hear the parents from the sideline, I only really interact with the kids on the team, and get to know them. I see the kids running, and playing and trying hard as they can – I see a range of skill and determination, of strength and timidity, joy and frustration, and sometimes surprise. I encourage, assure and advise.

    ‘Correct Change’ is quite the title for today’s entry. Your writing is so strong.

  2. I am a hospice nurse and a dad of 2 daughters, one wife, 30 year anniversary this December.

    I am deeply sorry for your loss.

    I wanted to thank you for your bravery in putting your heart on-line for us to read. The clarity and brevity you bring to some very deep and complicated matters really helped me clarify some things. I have not lost a child but am around loss. It would be grossly inappropriate for me to act in anyway that I understand. Because I am around loss I do imagine what it would be like. You describe many of my fears not only about what impact the death of a child would have on me but also have on my other relationships. Not being able to help my wife grieve and being impotent in the face of her sorrow, man that would be tough and as a husband is one of my biggest fears.

    One of the things we do have to be careful with in hospice is that we don’t “bring it home” in a way that smoothers our own families. We can’t be there for every moment in our children’s lives and it would be unhealthy to force our presence into every aspect of their lives. While I apologize if it is intrusive and no answer is expected, I do wonder how do you balance your loss with how you love Maggie? And even typing her name makes me cringe a bit. I do not mean to be invasive and apologize from the outset.

    You identify several key things that are indeed important. I just wonder how you do things differently, what does your fathering look like now?

    Jim Middleton, RN
    Glendale, AZ


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