It’s Labor Day Weekend 2032. I’ve just retired. Mom and I are sitting comfortably on a matching pair of folding lounge chairs on the sideline of a soccer field at Ipswich River Park in North Reading about to enjoy a U10 game at the 42nd annual North Reading Fall Classic. It’s the first weekend that everyone has been together since we returned from our trip to Europe. We spent 6 weeks in Greece, Italy, France, Germany, England Sweden and Norway. I found the villages where my grandparents were born and had a beer at a pub owned by a long lost 4th cousin.
Our extended family takes up a lot of space on the sideline. Kata and her 3 year old daughter are sitting on Mom’s left, your oldest daughter; a stunning 14 year old freshman is sitting next to auntie Kata. Kata’s husband is next to her. Kata is a Veterinarian and hopes to buy Danvers Animal Hospital in a few years, she lives on a farm in Topsfield and your daughter keeps her horse in Kata’s barn. Drew’s wife and 6 year old daughter are sitting to my right. Your wife and 11 year old son are just strolling back from the snack bar. He won his opening game 3-1 about 30 minutes ago; he has the same strut you did when you were feeling a little cocky. He is the spitting image of you as a young boy.
You and Drew are warming up the team, the U10 Danvers Impact. Drew’s son is playing keeper in the first half; your boy will start on defense. The two cousins are the same age, go to the same school and are best friends. They look and act more like twins than cousins. Everyone just calls them “the boys”. They are both terrorizing opponents on the soccer and lacrosse fields and have reputations even at U-10. The club coaches are salivating over them but you and Drew have already signed them with North Shore Aztec, where your older son plays.
You and Drew are close now. The six year age difference started to shrink when he started High School. You rooted him on at all his games, Soccer in the fall, Lax in the spring. You always enjoyed seeing old classmates who would stop by to catch the game. By the time Drew bought our house you and he were best friends as well as brothers. Drew works as a research scientist in Cambridge; he took the job after a promising, but brief, playing career with the Boston Cannon’s which was cut short by an injury.
While Drew was in High School you ended up enrolling full time at Endicott. You decided to live at home. You majored in design, but took a lot of architecture and business classes as well. After they finished our kitchen McCormick took you on as a helper during vacations. Eventually you worked in the showroom evenings helping people pick out colors and designs. You really enjoyed both parts of the job, design and build.
You worked full time for them for a few years after graduation doing both design and installation work while taking more business classes at night. Eventually you went out on your own. You wanted to build more than just kitchens and baths. There were ups and downs the first five years or so. When the economy was good you’d be going gangbusters but when it slowed down you’d pick up part time work at Home Depot or Moynihan’s. As time passed you became established. You did high quality work, never cut corners or over promised. Your customers were always happy to refer you to their friends and family. You charged a little more than some but you always did what you promised. Your employees where almost as loyal as your customers; a couple eventually went out on their own but you always kept up good relations, using them as subs or referring jobs to them that you didn’t have the time to handle,
You found a plot of land up on Folly Hill and built your own home. To call it a showcase would not do it justice. It was a tiny castle almost perfect in every way. You installed bidets in each bathroom as a tribute to Bubba. Jake installed a top of the line entertainment system for you at cost. In return you built the three season porch at his place in your spare time one summer.
You married in 2017. Your daughter was born in 2018. When she learned to talk she called mom Nana and me Poppy, the names stuck. Your son came along in 2022 and your youngest in 2024, you and Drew were hoping the kids would be the same gender and that the birthdays would work out so the kids would play sports and go to school together. The boys were both born in September.
You got involved in coaching with your oldest. Some of your old friends were already involved with DYS and they just assigned you the team without asking. You never complained. You did call me once, whining that the girls wouldn’t listen. I laughed for ten minutes listening to you before reminding you that U7s might not be ready to work on the overlap just yet. Just this year they got you to take a position on the board. I warned you but you wouldn’t listen. You always had to find out for yourself.
You’re the experienced one now, showing Drew the ropes. He’s the head coach on this team, you are the assistant. You are the head coach on your older son’s U-12 team. They ended up at MTOC last year, lost in the finals; every boy on the team is totally committed to going back and winning it all this year.
You and Drew are finally playing together in a men’s league, over 30. Your team, made up of former teammates of both yours and his, is undefeated. A lot of Drew’s Lax buddies give him grief about soccer but he never stopped loving the game. He coaches both sports.
The boys on both teams take their spots on the field. The Beverly team is kicking off. The whistle blows and the game starts….
Kev’s life would not have worked out like this. It’s really just a pleasant vision, a “might have been” with which I passed a few hours of imagining. None of us could govern his life, it was his. The most fundamental right we all possess it to make of our life what we make of it.
All this, and a thousand other things will never happen anywhere but in my imagination. If you ask me the hardest part of this hardest of things it’s letting go of the future. We all have assumptions. Our oldest will mark all the firsts, first to graduate, first to have a career, fist to get married and first to have children.
There could be negative firsts too, and we don’t like to think about those, but if they happen we’d be there to help; first to get in trouble, first to get divorced, first to be unemployed.
We all pour hopes and dreams into our children. We dream they will find happiness, we hope they won’t repeat our mistakes. We plant a seed of ourselves in the child, it takes root and grows, a new personality is created, not exactly us, but an individual influenced by parents, friends, teachers, aunts, uncles and grandparents, each person becomes the sum total of his influences, both good and ill. A parent’s influence is usually the greatest because of the amount of time and effort that’s put in with the child, but everyone has added something.
When a child dies the part of us we put into the child dies. “A part of me dies” is not metaphorical, it’s real. The hole is real, you can’t touch it, but it’s there. All of us who knew and loved Kev to a varying degree have the same Kevin shaped hole in our lives.
His relationship with each of us was different, so the hole’s are of different sizes and contours, but we all miss the same unique individual. We are a community of sorrow united by both our loss and our love. As time passes I hope we will all move forward and find ways to honor him, each in our own unique way so that we might be further united in hope.