(Writer's Note: This article was originally published on LaxAllStars.com and then on Linkedin back in 2019.)
I'd be totally lying if I said that there were was never ever a bad day doing this kind of work - The Art of Lax™. Just like any business there are peaks and valleys and sometimes you wonder why the work has to be done. A recent and personal email (a very lengthy one) from a customer with the words in the subject line "My recent purchase..." had me concerned at first. But after reading the email, it reminded me just why.
Dear Mr. Ricasio,
I recently purchased a copy of your drawing 'Doing the Work-2' and I would like to share with you why.
From 94-98 I was the goalie for Central Square, a small town in Central New York, not much more than a blip on US81 as you head north of Syracuse. My father was a West Genesee alum and his sons were going to play lacrosse whether they liked it or not. I however had an aversion to running. So much so that they idea of having a small rubber ball thrown in my general direction at insane speeds was more appealing.
On our very best days the CS lacrosse team of the mid/late 90s was borderline mediocre. We would struggle to secure less than a handful of wins each year. That being said, we loved to play. We were a jumbled group of individuals that had lacrosse in common and that was enough for us.
My senior year I received an invitation to join a DIII school, but it didn’t offer the IT degree I was looking for. I ended up at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Affectionately called the Brick City, RIT had no lack of places to get 20 minutes of wall ball in when you were having a bad day. A friend of mine played club ball and tried to get me to join, but they needed middies. As a former goalie, specifically one that had taken up the position so he wouldn’t have to run, I had to give a hard no.
It was in college that I did more reading than I ever had before. Not just for class, but more for my other interests as well. It was at this time where I learned more on the history of the game. Growing up we never knew it as The Medicine Game, but as I learned more, the more I realized it had been that way for us in high school. Most of the team had come from, we will say interesting situations and home lives, and we used lacrosse as a way to feel connected to something, to be part of a whole. It was that way when I was in college too as I’d always find myself tossing a ball against a wall or into one of the goals whenever I was stressed or had to think something through. It was a game that I had always used to heal myself when I needed it.
After school I got married, had kids, bought a house, all that stuff you’re told you should do. In 2005 my wife and I were blessed with twins, a boy and a girl. They came a little early which was frighting to the then 25 year old me, but they fattened up quickly and we had healthy hungry little babies. Everything felt so right as they started growing, and learning, and eventually walking and talking. Then in 2008 my daughter developed an illness. I could write pages and pages to explain the next 10 years of our lives, but I’ll give you the abbreviated version. She developed tremors in her face, these eventually moved to her arms, hands, legs, feet, and then on to her entire body. She would have seizures, she lost her ability to walk, to talk, to feed herself, and for the first 5 years the doctors could tell us nothing. Then after multiple doctors, hospitals, studies and tests, all which were negative or inconclusive we finally got a positive one for Lyme disease. This was a shock for us because we had never seen a tick on her, or seen any type of rash that most people associate with it.
Lyme strikes a child different then it does an adult, especially when it has had time to fester for years with no treatment. It will attack the nervous system along with the joints. Once we got that diagnosis after 5 years of wondering we were so happy to finally know what we were fighting, and we fought, fought like hell the best we could, the best we knew how. We’d see improvement at times and then hit a plateau. There were good days and bad, but in the end we had the worst. On May 24, 2018 my daughter lost her battle.
The loss of a child is an experience that I would not wish upon my worst enemy. In a daze we went through all the things that one does when someone dies. The services, the family and friends visit, the constant phone calls and texts to just check in with you, but then eventually those things stop and you need to attempt to pull the million pieces of your shattered life back together. That’s when I once again picked up my stick, went up to our community park where we have access to a roller hockey ring, and just started ripping balls at the net.
It is amazing after not picking up a stick for like 7 or 8 years you can put it in your hands and it feels like it never left. The same mechanics, the same feeling as you cradle the ball and cock it back for a shot. Nothing changes. It allows you to clear your mind and just depend on the memory in your muscles to do the work for you. It is some of the best therapy that I could ask for.
Fast forward to a couple weeks back. We had just finished dinner and as most families probably do now-a-days we retired to our living room to look at our phones and not talk to one another. I was flipping through Instagram, it was during or just after LaxCon in Philly so I was checking out posts from there, and as usually happens with Instagram I follow one hashtag to the next and eventually get lost. I ended up on a page that had reposted one of your drawings and my jaw dropped. It was beautiful, you are an amazingly talented artist. I clicked over to your page and started scrolling down.
That’s when I came across the image of a goalie, hand on the cage, eyes to the ground, and I burst into tears. With recent events, that isn’t an uncommon thing for anyone in my house, so no one said a thing. I can’t say for sure what you saw what you drew this image, but for me I very clearly see myself in pretty much every stage of my life so far.
I see that kid in high school coming back onto the field after half time, down by some crazy number of goals hoping his team can pull it together and lose by something at least respectable.
I see that college student in the middle of finals week trying to get his shit together long enough to finish two projects and study for three tests.
I see a father of newborn twins that hasn’t gotten a full night’s sleep in weeks and cradles one in his arms hoping that they will both have a good night and sleep at least 6 hours straight.
I see a father whose daughter is sick with something that some of the best doctors on the east coast have no idea what it is, and he is powerless to do anything other than sit with her and comfort her as best he can.
I see a father who finally has the direction and resolve to help his little girl fight a disease that has decimated her life, but he just needs that once good breath to keep moving forward.
I see a father who has lost one of his greatest treasures and needs something to help hold him up because he no longer feels he can stand without help.
And, I see a man getting ready to get himself together enough to turn around, get his stick up, and get back into it because this game isn’t over yet, and there are a lot of shots still left to stop.
Your image hangs on the wall in my bedroom next to my closet. It is the first thing I see in the morning when I roll out of bed, it is the last thing I see as I switch off the light, it is a constant reminder that the game is long from over and I just need to take a breath, turn around, and get ready for the next whistle.
Thank you more than I can ever express in this letter,