More really big news. Last night O.'s school had its sports banquet and awards evening which included dinner and dancing, and O. got THREE trophies which were: the Coaches' Award for junior boys basketball, which basically means hardest-working and most versatile (he's a wing, like Vince Carter and Kobe Bryant are wings), M.V.P. for junior boys volleyball, and, get this, Male Athlete of the Year for grade eight. It's amazing how focused he is when it comes to sports, and when he comes home from school he gives the barking neighbor dog the finger, slams the back door, drops his four-hundred-pound backpack in the middle of the kitchen floor, screams that he's starving, hurls his socks and shoes around the living room, plays a very loud CD, gets the dog all riled up, then splays himself all over the entire couch reading ESPN magazine, and then when that thrill wears off goes downstairs with a drink he spills on the keyboard to check out Hoopstv.com to have his anti-Canada thing reinforced by reading about Artesia High in California where all the hot high school basketball players have to go to be discovered and where he will never, ever go because he's stuck in Winnipeg, home of Winnie the Pooh, thanks a lot. Once, a few years ago, G. made a really nice birthday card for him with pictures of him playing different sports and inside it said to my brother the joke. Which was supposed to be jock. She had a problem with spelling certain words when she was little. She used to write things like I rule, you suke. So, anyway, you see? I can't even explain how wrong it is that you don't know this stuff, unless of course you're reading this letter, which you probably aren't, which makes me wonder why I bother with this exercise. That's right, tell the void how much your son rocks. Talk to the void.
C. told him how proud he was of him and that he didn't have to do sports if he didn't want to, if he wasn't having fun, and that if he quit all sports today we'd still love him, still be proud of him. And C. told him how great it was that he was controlling his temper in games when he lost, or after a bad call, or whatever, and O. said, I'm just storing it up. And C. said, oh what are you going to do, explode on the court some day, and O. said ooooh nooo, worse than that. And C. said, spit in the ump's face? And O. said ooooh nooo, way worse than that...okay, he was joking, but it reminded me of when you said you used to lose your temper all the time and then, around twelve or thirteen, after throwing a plate or a bottle of ketchup at your older sister who had taken your ski-doo suit or something, you just went okay, that's it. I'm not gonna get mad anymore, it doesn't help me, it makes it worse, I get in trouble, I look like an idiot, and it's stupid. And then, sure enough, I'm trying to think of one time you got mad, and I can't. You never got mad, even when I was such a jerk and stuff was happening, you just put on music and cooked meat and smoked cigarettes and what? Remember when I freaked out and drove myself to the hospital to have O. because I thought you were too relaxed about the whole thing, and you ran all the way, all those miles of city blocks to the hospital, and came in all sweating and red and purple and I was already dilated, and the nurse said you looked like John Lennon and you said, I'm here, I'm here, and I said some asshole thing and you said, C'mon, look what's happening here, this is big, don't be mad now. All right, that made a lot of sense. But Mike, it's still big, he's still here, still happening. So don't you be mad now.
See, I'm trying to learn more about O. by remembering what I can of you. It's a little uncanny sometimes how some things are really similar, like this anger thing. Just out of the blue, the kid stops losing his temper at the same age you decided to stop losing your temper. So where does it go, when you stop losing it? Was that what that benign tumour was all about, the one you had removed from your head? Should I be checking O.'s head for tumours because you had one? Were you ever Athlete of the Year? Remember when we just sat around in that empty dive apartment drinking, smoking, listening to music, being young and soooo cool and undernourished, and now we have a kid who's Athlete of the Year? Is that not the funniest thing? Me in 1983: Oh yeah, someday (cough, cough) I'll have a kid who's a real jock (pass me that roach). You in 1983: Yeah, yeah, me too (wheeze)...hahahahahah.
It would be so cool if you'd get back to me, really. I mean not me, him. Or me first, or whatever. Not for some romantic thing, don't get the wrong idea. C. and me are great, and you're probably married with other athletic kids. Sometimes I wonder if you just decided that it would be best if you slipped away forever, best for O. and me and that you really, really believed that. Remember when I stood on the sidewalk in front of my house with O. on my hip, he was about two years old, and I screamed my stupid head off at you while you walked away without saying a word? Maybe you were thinking, this is nuts, this poor kid, I've gotta go. That would have made sense at the time, right? But, you know, I've calmed down since then, even though I was a lot older than thirteen when I figured out that losing my temper wasn't getting me anywhere.
I'm feeling kind of sentimental for some reason, so one last thing before I go outside to toughen up: why don't you reconsider? Drop us a line, no questions asked. No swearing, no freaking out, I swear. He's the grade eight male Athlete of the Year fer fuck sakes.
X. in Winnipeg.