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Monday, October 19, 2015

last words

Last Words

The crowd holds its collective breath as the tiny red and black
soccer ball soars through the air. The five-year old goalie, in
orange vest and black gloves, is my son, Joseph. He jumps two
inches off the muddy ground, while the ball flies over the goal
post.

On the purple side we cheer for Joseph's great save. On the red
side, they cheer for the other boy's shot. Score isn't tallied in
the Micro Soccer League.

Joseph kicks the ball out of the goal box, and I see another
ball, on a dirt field, rolling toward my 17-year old brother, in
white and yellow gloves. He pounces on the old white and black
ball, landing on the hard earth with a thud. Tony says I need to
kick harder. Practicing with me is too easy. I'm 12-years old and
not athletic. Scott, at 16, is the high school varsity offense
star. He's always off doing something, and the task falls to me.

We leave the barren elementary school soccer field and return
home, where the grass is lush. I wince as Tony suddenly dives,
landing on his shoulder and rolling sideways. He changes
direction and purposely lands on his head. As the goalie, he says
he has to be ready for hard hits. I can't bear to watch and shut
my eyes. The music plays.

Mammas don't let...

The crowd is on its feet. Joseph got blasted in the stomach by a
hard shot. He cries as he's led off the field. Micro kids are
allowed to cry. The coach asks do you want to sit with mommy? No,
joseph says, as he hobbles on to the brown team blanket.

Scott was a soccer champion at Hiram College and still plays at
age 45. Tony was forced to quit because of his vision loss.
Joseph snuggles up to his uncle and says yeah, I'm okay. Tony is
the cheerleader and babysitter for our team. He wears a purple
coach t-shirt. As I watch him interact with the boys, I know he's
as happy as the days when he played.

Mammas don't let your babies...

I sat on many blankets over the years while my brothers played
soccer. We didn't have fancy lawn chairs back then. I remember a
tan blanket, a yellow blanket and the ugly red and white
patterned blanket. I always had my battered soccer ball with me.
I kick the ball against a wall around the corner. I can't see the
game but hear the crowd gasp and someone scream. I rush back and
see Tony on the ground. He's hurt but doesn't cry. They call for
the athletic trainer. Scott is pushing around a boy from the
other team. Tim and Larry yell red card red card at the ref.

The ref holds up a red card as my parents reach the field. Tony
is conscious but in pain. An ambulance takes him away. I go home
to a friend's house. Her mother tells me Tony dislocated his
shoulder. she says dis-lo-cate-ed. I don't know what that means,
but it sounds scary.

Tony had a narrow field of vision. What made him play goalie was
pure stubbornness. They told him he couldn't. He proved he could.

Mammas don't let your babies grow up...

I want it to stop, but the ball keeps rolling.

Joseph is on the yellow team now. They play at the same small
field. Tony moved to Chicago to live with his fiancee. I write
him emails after every game. Today Joseph told me his favorite
position is goalie. I know you must be the proudest uncle on
Earth.

I get his reply on Thursday. One line of text, his own version of
an old cowboy song. I laugh as I read it. I don't know these are
the last words he will ever say to me. The ball is still. The
music bounces through my head.

Mammas don't let your babies grow up to be goalies...

Angie C. Orlando
October 2015

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