I’m standing at the back of the batter’s box. The pitch is coming at me a little low and outside- just how I like it. I walk into the pitch, plant my back foot, and watch my bat through the ball. The unmistakable “thwump” of a 16 inch softball when I connect fills my ears and reverberates through my body. My dugout erupts with yells of, “Got him!”, “Gapper!”, and “Go, go, go!!” As I sprint out of the batter’s box towards first I watch the right and center fielders turn around and start running after the ball that just split the right/center gap . “Dig. Dig. Dig,” I’m thinking to myself as I hit the inside corner of the first base bag with my right foot. As I round second I hear an infielder yell to get the ball in. Rounding third I hear someone yell, “He’s going home!” I check back in the field to see the ball being relayed home. I give one last burst of speed, see my teammate motion for me to get down, and slide into home. SAFE! I pop up and head back to a dugout full of high-fives and fist bumps. I walk towards the end of the dugout and take a deep breath to help keep the tears that are welling up in my eyes from streaming down my cheeks. I want to crawl under the bench to hide from my teammates so they won’t see my watery eyes. I’m entirely focused on Charlie’s absence even as I’m physically exerting myself to my limits. All I can think about is how I did not see Char jumping up and down in the dugout as I rounded second base. All I can think about is how he is not in that line of guys giving me a high five like he did so many times last year. Now I’m reduced to fighting back tears as I look up to heaven to give Char a wink as I tell him that one was for him. I just miss him so much.
I’m positioning myself at the starting line for the first race of my life. My adrenaline is kicking in as we get closer to the horn going off. I look to the left and I see my Dad give me the “kick some ass” head nod. My lip starts quivering and tears fill my eyes. I can see the pride in his eyes watching his son lineup for a race. All I can think about is me not being able to watch Charlie compete when he grows up. All I can think about is Charlie not being there with him to cheer me on. The horn blows and I take off. I spend the next forty minutes making my way over muddy terrain, rolling hills, and multiple obstacles as fast as I can run and bike. As I’m running the last couple hundred yards I see the last two obstacles and the finish line. I’m physically pushing myself harder than I ever have in my life. I’ve talked myself out of walking with the other racers that decided they couldn’t run anymore at least ten times. My legs are weak, my feet hurt, and I’m gasping for air but I will not stop running. I think of Charlie having multiple seizures and the pain he was in that morning. I’m thinking to myself, “Come on, pussy! This isn’t pain. This ain’t shit compared to what Charlie endured. FUCKING RUN!” I find that last ounce of energy I have left and propel myself over the high wall and run across the finish line. Then I puke. And cry. All I can think about is Charlie not being there at the finish line waiting for me. I just miss him so much.
I’m sitting in front of my computer screen staring at a blank page. I’m struggling to put into words how I feel in a post on a blog I’ve recently started. (You may have heard of it.) I keep writing sentences and then deleting them because, in my mind, nothing I can write will ever capture how I truly feel. I manage to get a couple of paragraphs out and then I ship it to the trash folder because it doesn’t come close to meeting my standards for explaining my son Charlie and the darkness that surrounds me. I watch videos and look at pictures to remember the good times but am always reduced to a crying heap of a man. All I can think about are how our home videos and pictures will forever be devoid of my oldest son. All I can think about is this bottomless hole in my heart and soul. I just miss him so much.