I found him in the hospital bed in Reykjavik white as the sterile sheets. It was 6.30 in the morning and the sun was trying to break through fast-moving clouds. He was tripped at a hockey tournament on Friday night and tried to save his shoulder. He broke a rib, punctured a lung, bruised his kidney, had surgery and can't fly home. I'm glad to be here.
He was discharged nine hours later after a lung scan. I had a car rental and we drove North, away from the city. His hockey gear spread out in the back seat to air.
We were newly weds when I found out he played hockey. He came home late one night. I was sleeping and woke, startled, as he leaned over me with a goofy grin and a huge black eye. "What the fuck happened you?"
"I''m on an A team," he said, and was so proud.
"What A team? What sport?"
We eyed each other. If ever there was a moment of, who-did-I-just-marry, this was it.
We didn't ask the questions that were in our heads, like, "You play field hockey?" ME, or "What the hell does she think I was playing?" HIM (I'm guessing at his thoughts, but it was that suspicious look of his, the squint)
He's been playing fifty years. I'd never ask him quit. I've enjoyed watching him. I get it. It isn't just a sport, it's a way of life, a chosen life style. He plays in leagues on the Vineyard and in whatever state he is working in. He travels to tournaments every few months and its what brought him to Iceland. It is physical, mental and social. It is a passion. We live it, we encourage our kids to live theirs. Living your passion is what makes life, life.
It was Grace (10) who asked the big question. She did a cost to benefit analysis (hysterically, this is what Chuck does in his work, so she is a chip off the old block) She tallied all the days spent away from family, injuries incurred and threw in the fact that he just missed her tenth birthday. Is it worth it?
In the last twenty years, Chuck's had rotary cuff surgery, broken his tooth, stitched his own face, damaged the bones in his hand, now his ribs and lungs are in tatters, all for the love of the game. He's a tough one.
We checked into a small fishing village in the north west tip called Hellissandur. Its silence is deep, sitting on the base of a glacier. The last of the snow is melting and the waterfalls are raging. It's a beautiful and perfect place to regain strength and heal while he waits for the scan results.
The native ponies are friendly and cheeky, nipping you in the arm when you turn. The people are chatty and helpful, they loved Chuck in the hospital, want him to come work as a guide on the hiking trails. There are hot springs to heal in, trails to explore, spring water to drink and there is silence.(That's for me, he's still chatting the hind leg off a donkey)
Time to hang up the skates? We'll see what he does, but I suppose the harder part of letting a life style go, one that you love...is aging. It's admitting you are getting older. BOOO HOOOOOO...
Of course we can always take up BINGO and Croquet!