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The bright colors of my orange and blue Virginia lacrosse stick were egging me on to success. Come on. Have confidence. You can do this. You’re amazing! I smile as I just start to believe in myself.
No you can’t. You’re a loser. You only think you can. Come on, face reality already. You’re terrible!
The thought simply crushed my confidence. Like the ant under your foot you accidentally just stepped on. An invisible line is drawing itself down the middle of my still, frozen body. It’s half and half-should I play or should I not play? As I stand in the sunny, vacant, parking lot, my confidence somehow finds a way to come back. Come on already. It’s the last game of the season, the CHAMPIONSHIP!!! You can’t back down now. You’ve come too far. You’ll become one of the best.
The only thing you will ever become is a bench warmer! The sly, sinister thought fires back.
This time a different but familiar voice says, “Come on Alex. The game is about to start.”
A rough, large, but gentle hand lay softly on my shoulder. At once I recognize the scar on the pointer finger, and I know right away who it is.
“Do you really think I can do this, Dad?” I ask in a childish way.
“Honey, I have the utmost confidence in you. The most important thing is do you have confidence in yourself? Also you need to remember to set picks, fake passes and shots, snap the ball when you throw, cut to the center, get open and look for a pass, and be aggressive,” he replied.
As I think about what he says, all the weight on my shoulders starts to multiply. I look up and when I see his smiling face, I know I have to at least give it all I’ve got. I quickly grab my lacrosse stick, goggles, and mouth guard as we start to walk towards the field, side by side.
* * * * *
“ There are five seconds on the clock. Virginia is tied with Johns Hopkins, eleven to eleven. Johns Hopkins has the ball. They shot, oh saved by the Virginia goalie. She gets ready for the clear, passes it to Kelly. There are three seconds on the clock. None of Kelly’s teammates are open, but wait, Alex is open on the other end of the field. Kelly is taking no chances. She tosses the ball. Look at that thing go! Alex catches it, she is moving towards the goal… GOAL!!!! Virginia won!! Virginia has beaten the undefeated Johns Hopkins!”
The wave of happiness and joy overwhelms me as I am lifted up into the arms of my teammates. The cheers are so loud; I think I might have lost some hearing. I survey the crowd looking for my dad. Then I see him. His face is brighter than I have ever seen it before. He is glowing! His great big hands reach out for me as he lifts me off the happy mob of fans and my teammates. He gives me what I consider the biggest hug ever. He also kisses me on my forehead. Then, he looks me as his eyes start to leak with tears.
“I have never been so proud of you!” he exclaims.
“Thanks Dad!” is all I can get out.
We embrace each other as tightly as we can. I never want this moment to end.
“I love you Dad,” I whisper.
“I love you too, honey,” he replies.
* * * * *
“BEEP BEEP BEEP…. Alex… time to get up or you’ll be late for school!” bellows my mom.
I stretch and sigh as I realize I was only dreaming. I lean over the side of my low bed and look at my bright, lavender bedside table. Its legs stretch down to the floor and circle at the end like it just stepped in cold water. On my bedside table something like a flash of light catches my eye. The photo of my dad fell over in the night. As I reach over, I look at his smiling face as all those happy memories of him flash through my mind like a fast-forwarding video. It’s been a month scene the car accident. It took my dad’s life and both my legs up to the hamstring. I set the picture back in its place and start to move to the other side of my bed towards my butt-braking wheelchair. Me winning a Lacrosse championship was my dad’s dream. As I lift myself into the wheelchair and my hands feel for the rough, rigged wheels, I think to myself, maybe, just maybe, this dream of mine will become a reality.
“What do you want for breakfast? We have donuts or Lucky Charms.”
I sat there with a puzzled look on my face. Donuts, Lucky Charms? My mom never gets those. She thinks they are too unhealthy. And besides she would never get those no matter how many times you beg or give her those puppy dog faces. Never ever in a million years would she give me donuts and Lucky Charms for breakfast.
“Did we win the lottery or something?” I ask as I weave my way over to the table where she was sitting eating white powdered donut holes.
“No, silly. Your doctor called this morning and told me some great news that you’ll never believe!”
Oh brother. Usually when the doctor tells my mom “great news” it usually means they can get me in earlier for my weekly check up. But still it isn’t good enough news to get my mom so happy that she will buy donuts and Lucky Charms.
“Well, what’s the great news?” I say in a slightly upset way. I hate going to the doctor.
“You’re getting… PROSTHETICS!!!!!” she said with a huge smile.
Judging by my expression she spoke in English.
“Machine legs! You’ll be able to walk again!!!” She repeats.
I can’t believe my ears. I reached arm over to my mom so she could pinch to make sure I didn’t fall back asleep after I woke up. She pinched me and could feel it. I was awake. I wasn’t dreaming. This is real!!
“AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!” As I start to scream my mom joins in. She gets up from where she was sitting and gives me a huge hug.
“After you finish your breakfast we will go,” my mom said.
She answered my question before I could even get it out. Man she’s good! My mom let go of me and walked back over to finish her coffee and donuts. I wheeled myself closer to the table, grabbed a plate and started filling it with donuts. When I picked up a white donut, some of the powder fell softly to my plate’s surface, like the first snowfall. When the donut hit my taste buds, it was like I was eating food from heaven. I was one of the best things I have ever eaten in my life!
* * * * *
“Alex,” the nurse said.
My mom got up and pushed me forward. We went into a room with fish stickers all over it. There were big fish, little fish, fish with spikes and even dolphins.
“The doctor will be with you in just a moment,” the nurse said with a smile. Then she turned on her heels and was gone just like that. The door closed softly after her. This is it the moment I’ve been waiting for. The only thing that would make it complete would be my dad right at my side. Something squeezed my hand. I looked up at my mom. She was smiling.
“Are you nervous?” She asked.
“A little,” I replied. The truth was I was scared out of my wits! I waited anxiously for the doctor to come in. Will it hurt when they put on the legs? Before I could ask, the doctor walked in with believe it or not, the legs!
“Good morning. How are you today?” he asked with a smile.
“Fine thanks, you?” my mom and I answered in unison.
“Very well, thanks. Now let’s get down to business,” he replied.
I waited as he unhooked all the clippings on the legs. There’s a circle basket with metal wiring around it where my leg will attach. Then there are straps that are supposed to go around my leg, so it won’t fall off my hamstring.
“Now what you do is stick your leg in here, buckle all of theses hooks and straps, then wrap this pad around the rest of your leg and make sure it’s on tight. Do you understand?” the doctor asked. The look on my face said it all. The doctor smiled and turned to my mom.
“Do you understand?”
“Great. Make sure you help her until she can do it herself. Now shall we start with the training?”
One Year later
“There is five seconds on the clock. Virginia has tied with Johns Hopkins eleven to eleven. Virginia has called a time out.”
When we all got in the huddle, my coach starts to say in a panicky tone, “Ok, girls we can do this. Goalie, if you save a goal make sure you make a good pass. Alex, I want you to stay back and let Kelly go up. Ready, BREAK!!”
When we all got onto the field, the announcer starts talking again. “The girls get ready for the draw. Johns Hopkins won it. They’re moving the ball down to Virginia’s goal. She gets ready to take the shoot… and saved by Virginia’s goalie. The clear goes to Kelly Kingston. None of her teammates are open, but wait, Alex is open on the other side of the field. Kelly is taking no chances, she throws the ball…”
It’s like my future was just thrown at me. The voice inside my head echoed all over ‘till it took control of my body. Catch the ball!!! I reached my stick as high as I could. Once I heard the sweet sound of the ball hitting the strings of my stick and the pressure of the ball, I turned, and started running.
“This one’s for you dad,” I whispered.
“Alex is ready to take the shoot… GOAL!!! They’ve done it! Virginia has beaten the undefeated Johns Hopkins!!” the announcer bellows into the microphone.
As I am lifted into the arms of my teammates and fans are drowning the field I can see my mom. She is crying with happiness. As I smile, I look up into the sky. As I do, I feel warmer. Then, I notice something. It’s like the sky is brighter than before the game. And at that moment, I know, that somewhere… my dad is watching. Somewhere, he is proud.