Road Trip Dad - Lake Placid Chronicles
Days 7 & 8 - Trying To Find Perspective

Dan Witmer | August 13, 2015
I already used the Dickens line about “the best of times and the worst of times” earlier in the week – about what, talent and age differences? Days seven and eight at the 26th annual Lake Placid Summit Lacrosse Tournament added a whole new dimension of perspective, and I’ve struggled, procrastinated, and hesitated about my wrap-up piece ever since I left the North Elba fields Sunday afternoon and arrived home Sunday night.

The tragic plane crash that took the lives of four Summit spectators Friday evening hit like a punch to the stomach. News was slow to reach the tournament itself – names of the four weren’t released until Monday morning. As I remember, I heard about the accident on Saturday, and by Saturday evening there was word about where the plane was from, where it was headed, and who the passengers had come to see play.

On Sunday morning, as teams prepared to play their final game of the week, tournament founder and director George Leveille, along with staff member Marty Ruglis, met with teams on the Horse Show Grounds prior to their 8:30 game and asked for a moment of silence. Teammates and friends knew what had happened, but the majority of the players, families, and others in town for the week or weekend probably did not.

There’s no Lake Placid newspaper, no daily newsletter on site, and there’s no PA system. Word spread slowly, and many people who were in Placid probably found out about the tragedy once they got home.

I did not know Harvey and Sharon Stoler, nor Raymond and Sharon Shortino, but any parent – lacrosse, soccer, hockey, or marching band – recognizes their love, the kind of love that drives all of us to sit in the cold, wind, and rain; to travel ridiculous distances only to see our kid sit on the bench; and to watch them do whatever it is that brings them joy. For those of us at this website, that means lacrosse games.

My heart goes out to the families and friends of both families. I know they will find strength in the support that surrounds them not only this week, but for weeks, months, and years to come.

I am always bad at trying to find the right things to say at times like these, but I’m going to try nonetheless. I’ve written very few poems in my time, but this is one I’ve shared with my students and family over the years, and it comes to mind today as I try to find a fitting tribute to the two families.

I wrote it in 2008, when my two sons were playing on the same team for the first time. Brian and Eric are two years apart, and Eric was fortunate enough to be brought up to the Oswego HS varsity team for his sophomore year, Brian’s senior year.

“Watching My Sons Play”

Proud is the first word that comes to mind
Watching my boys play
Together, on the same team, for the very first time ever
Teammates now, maybe never again –

I watch from a vantage point as close as I can get –
Never the bleachers filled with all the other parents.
Sometimes I’ll fill in as a ball boy,
And be closer to the field than anyone else,
Or sometimes I’ll help at the score table,
Whatever it takes to get close to the field.

I know they don’t like to hear me;
They won’t let me coach them now.
Those days of summer leagues, indoor leagues are now gone.
Now they play for someone else.

Lately they’ve both been starters –
Brian playing attack and Eric at long-stick middie.
Brian scores goals and gets his name in the paper;
Eric knocks the ball down and gets it upfield, often thanklessly.

The season is close to half over and I’ve already missed too many games;
I’ll be there for almost all the games remaining.
The expectation is to make the playoffs.

Next year Brian will try to play at college,
And Eric will be alone at home –
Without his older brother, without a live-in teammate.

Loyalties and allegiances will be tested,
And though I’ll try to be there for both of them,
Nothing will compare to this year,
Watching my boys play.

My guess is that this is how most all parents feel about their kids.

Parents, go to your sons’ and daughters’ games, as many as you can. Sons and daughters, appreciate everything your parents have given you, especially their love and their presence.

I didn’t say much about the final two days at Lake Placid; guess I’ll put a final wrap on LP 26 in next week’s RTD.

Drive carefully – and hug your loved ones... every day. Thanks.

- Dan Witmer