Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Hockey Life: Happy birthday, bud

Dear Colin:

As much as you wanted to open your birthday presents yesterday, even trying to play the Birthday Eve card on us, you're going to have to wait until today. Though, at 12, you may be too young to realize it, but one of life's lessons is that good things come to those who wait.

Don't believe me? You should. You're living proof.

Rather than rush into parenthood, your Mama and I decided to wait a few years after getting married to start a family. At first, we joked (well, actually, it was more me who joked) about having six children. You know, just enough to field a starting five and goalie.

Life, as it usually does, had different plans. Those few years quickly became eight. Those six kids? Really, all we wanted was you.

It was on a sunny Saturday afternoon -- a relatively warm for a spring day in New England, if memory serves -- when you entered our world. On that day, when we cradled you for the very first time, our lives changed. The transformation was just beginning.

In those early days, over the first two years of your life, it was a continual learning process. For me. For Mama. And for you. Every day, we were all growing together. In a way, we still are.

Now, as you enter your last year as a 'tween, it's time to start on the next segment of your life. Rather than living for the day, you'll have to start casting an eye toward the future. Nothing concrete, mind you, but trying to get a better idea of who you want to become.

It should go without saying that we'll do whatever we can to support your dreams. We'll applaud the highs. We'll accept any lows. That's what parents do. And, honestly, bud, that's the best part of the job. Some day, we hope, you'll get to experience this.

It's no secret, too, that hockey could be a big part of your future. I knew you'd grow up playing hockey, even before you were born. As a father, I was going to provide you with the opportunities I never had. And, as long as you work hard, those opportunities will continue.

That's a fair deal, isn't it?

Being realistic, however, is another part of being a parent. There is no shame in saying that your education, rather than hockey, will very likely take you further in life than this game. That's why I push you just as hard -- maybe even moreso than I do in hockey -- to get good grades.

Doors of opportunity, you'll learn soon enough, don't always open to a rink.

On this day, though, it's time to celebrate who you've become. Not with presents. Not with cupcakes. Not with pizza and games. Though they're all fun, that's not the most important thing.

What is? Let me tell you. I want you to know just how proud I am that you're my son.

Happy birthday, Colin McGonnell Saar. And many, many happy returns.