Touchstones come in all shapes and sizes and from a young age, one of my daughter’s most meaningful icons came in the form of one Mark Messier, number eleven, Edmonton Oilers. This did not always keep an easy peace in our Canucks household, especially with her older brother, but we learned to live with it. Every newspaper article was cut and pasted with every goal statistic and trade rumor attached and her Messier scrapbook (that sits in my lap as I write this) grew fat with the minutiae of his hockey career. And then the impossible happened.
I was driving to the tune of sports talk radio and I heard it with my own ears. Seriously? Messier in Vancouver? I pulled over at a pre-cell-phone-days telephone booth and called my husband at the office. I know, I know, he yelled. I can’t wait to tell her.
Dinner was on the table; the four of us seated, the usual banter of the day done. So, did you hear the news? I don’t remember which one of us said it. Messier. Vancouver. Next season. To say that bedlam prevailed would be an understatement. And then my husband went to work. He called every business associate that he knew had season’s tickets. They knew about her medical challenges. They were game. They handed over every pair of tickets they could spare.
It was a remarkable time for her and it culminated in one night. Her hair was finally growing back and her Dad had scored some good seats. They got to the rink early to take in the pre-game skate and as she pressed her face against the glass, Mess skated by. In an instant he took in the new hair growth, the swollen face, the earrings she wore in an attempt to feminize herself and he skated another loop in front of her, slowed up just a bit and gave her the nod.
Years passed, and her faith in Messier never abated. She was working as a disability rehab therapist for brain injured people after university graduation. She encountered one young client, a talented junior hockey player who wrapped himself around a tree while driving drunk one night. He was struggling with anger issues and was particularly impatient when it came to relearning previously simple tasks. How would she reach him? What could she do to get through to this troubled man/boy? She knew. She dug through all her old Messier memorabilia and found a film about his life in hockey and, more importantly, about how life wasn’t all about hockey. She sat the young man down and watched it with him. And then again. And again.
He got it.
Messier touched my daughter at an inexplicable level at a time when she needed it most. She touched another in the same way. Now, those of us who loved her are left to find ways to tell her stories and, thus, touch still more. We never really know when we’ve had a significant impact on other people. All I know is that I’ll always be grateful to one man for the impact he had on her.
She’s gone from this world now and it will never be the same without her. She never met Messier. Her husband was never able to secure the life-sized cardboard cutout of him flogging Lay’s potato chips that the Sobey’s store manager promised him once the promotion was over. It no longer matters, of course. What matters is that we mean something significant to someone. What matters is that we do something significant with it. What matters is that we remember those that have.
© Kim Reynolds 2012