I’ve been pushing through this almost as hard as when I gave birth to Tristen. The results didn’t make sense. Four years of focused effort. Four years of excruciating frustration. Four years of being applauded and affirmed and acclaimed. Gone like an ice cube on a hot griddle.
Eddie and I had perfected our synchronized twizzles, our progressives, our swing rolls – and that was before we even put on our skates and hit the ice.
Our visualization was intense, our choreography sound. We’d watched a thousand hours of the American superstars Meryl Davis and Charlie White and another thousand of the phenomenal Canadian duo of Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. Gold medals were all but assured.
And then it happened. Without warning. On a Tuesday morning. An hour before the earliest rooster dared to crow. Not that there were many roosters wanting to crow a week after Thanksgiving.
I got up like I always do. Karate chopping the alarm into submission and then emerging from bed like a steam roller falling off a cliff. The floor never got softer but it prepared me for the ice coming up.
Some days I literally crawled to the shower and kept it on super-cool until I screamed in submission. My brother, Ernst says he still doesn’t forgive me for stealing his sleep with my blood-curdling yells.
When I emerged in my sweats I was as gregarious as a daisy at noon. The energizer breakfast was waiting on the dashboard of the van as always while Dad warmed things up. I muttered my short version grace and steeled my gaze onto the sparkling roadway. The clouds hid the full moon I’d seen only last night. I urged our iron chariot on through the skids.
Eddie would be waiting. He was always waiting. Before I knew it we’d be doing our multi-rotational one-foot turns in a carefree twizzle like we’d been doing since we were six. I might miss if I got the mumps or the measles or the flu but Eddie always seemed to be the healthiest male specimen on the planet. And wow could he smile.
There was no more comfortable place than in his arms. I was probably twelve before I started feeling that his strength was something more than just the growing biceps from his workouts. He seemed careful how he handled me and he was always quick to apologize if he put me in danger. The moves became dizzier and more daring but we’d seen the Olympians set the example and we were next.
The stupid mistake I’d made at prom in the arms of another brought consequences which mom or dad graciously took care of each morning when I went back to the ice. They had such dreams and now got the short end of the stick.
So had Eddie.
Eddie had waited each day. Without a word. The steps were harder to remember but he was a patient teacher. Waltz, foxtrot, killian and several positions he had worked out in his own mind.
I often went to sleep visualizing the killian position with Eddie. He’d be holding my left hand with his left hand while standing slightly behind and to my left. He’d put his right hand on the right side of my waist. I’d place my right hand on his right hand and bend my arm in a perfect triangle. And we’d glide and glide and glide. Right into dreamland.
We’d been through a dozen coaches as we outgrew the skill of the previous ones. The last two had been ones who courted us. Our current coach was a former Olympian who’d noticed us not far off the podium at nationals.
It was this coach who met me at the door of the arena on the morning that changed everything. He blocked the entrance as I attempted to squeeze past him. I can still hear our conversation.
“Can’t keep Eddie waiting,” I said.
“He’s not going to be waiting.”
“What do you mean? He’s always waiting.”
“Eddie was riding here on his bike.
An hour ago a car skidded into him and crushed him against a concrete divider.”
“Oh my goodness. We’ve got to go to him. He’ll be expecting me. Hurry dad.”
Dad knew as he took me in his arms. “He’s not expecting you, sweetie. He’s not expecting anyone.”
Coach put a small box in my hand. “It was in his pocket. A ring. Gold. It has your name on it. I’m sorry.”
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