I love the game of basketball. I played all the way through my first two years of college. I watch it on TV. I shoot around with the kids. I coach Brad’s basketball team and have for several years. This season has been a rough one. We have 13 players with varied skills on the team. If you don’t know much about basketball, you can only play 5 players at a time. So, even if I put 5 in, then another 5 in, I still have 3 players left to try to get in the game. It has been a long season. I have to remind myself often they are 10, 11 and 12 years old. I have to remind myself in the whole scheme of things, each game is a minor blip on the radar.
Today, we had a game. At halftime we were up by 5. For our team this year, that was very, very good. I then put in our bench. At the end of the third quarter, we were down by 1 and hadn’t scored another point. I still had some subs to play. At the half way point of the fourth quarter we were down by 5, then we were down by 3 and I put in my starters. We lost by 3. That was a hard game to lose. My players played hard, but made some mistakes and we just didn’t get a good shot off at the end of the game. On the drive home, I went over what I could have done differently. I wanted someone to talk to about it. Someone who didn’t have their own child’s best interest at heart. Someone who would give me honest, straightforward feedback. I went over the fact we took a 3 pointer instead of passing it down low and trying for a two point play with a foul which would give us a free throw and the clock stopping. Basic basketball 101. But sometimes players don’t do what they are told. Sometimes the game is happening so fast, you can’t see a different point of view and you just rush through what looks like a good option but it turns out what seems like the right thing isn’t.
Being a caregiver is a lot like coaching a young basketball team. Keeping perspective. Trying not to get caught up in the moment and taking things as they come while planning one step ahead. Looking at the various options and picking the one that works for your team, which probably won’t work for another, or will only work with certain players in the game. It can be overwhelming, lonely and full of regrets.
Driving home, I got teary eyed. Not because of the game. Because I pictured Jim. I saw him watching the game, I saw him giving me a hug after and telling me “good game coach”. No one had hugged me. No one had congratulated me. I heard him going over the game with me and pointing out the things I could have done differently. I heard him agreeing with me on the calls the refs didn’t make and how we could have won but that is the way it goes sometimes. I heard him tell me we will get them next time.
At that moment, I missed him. I missed his sports knowledge. I missed his honesty with me. I missed his encouragement. I missed it all. Him. His love. His guidance. His presence.
It was just me, thinking in my own head, listening to my own point of view and desperately wanting that other version.
So, I went to visit him. Hoping for….hoping for something that can’t happen. I sat with him and told him about the game. He nodded, seeming to understand. He smiled when I relayed the way Brad plays the game. I felt heartbreak when he simply walked away while I was in the middle of my story. The longing I felt for him was still there, but he was not.