The backpack

Connor was a skateboarder. He received his first skateboard at seven or eight years old. Once he got that in his hands, or more specifically, under his feet, there was no stopping him.

He learned balance by practicing in our rather large driveway. He would start at one end and push off to get just a few feet before falling off. He picked up his board and ran back to the end of the driveway for another go at it. Each time, he rode a little further until finally he made it from one end of the driveway to the next. A large grin from ear to ear and eyes that sparkled with excitement told the story of his newfound love and passion.

The excitement of skateboarding was with him until the day he died. He spent countless hours with his friends practicing at the local skate park. He never called the park by its name but referred to it as the “3-stair”. It was called that for the number of stairs that he could jump. The goal was to start at the top of the stairs, have sufficient momentum to fly over them and land standing on his board. The number of stairs grew as he got better and better. One day he told me he cleared 12 stairs! That equals an entire FLIGHT of stairs, one floors worth. I was grateful he did not injure himself because he had shown me videos of not-so-good outcomes. He worked on ollies, heal flips and kick flips so much that he wore out the toes of his shoes.

Connor built a skateboard ramp for him and his friends. He stored it in the garage and pushed it out to the driveway. Imagine this as a bit bigger than a Mini Cooper car. He had his friends from all over come to ride the ramp. Frequently there would be 10-12 kids in the driveway. They called me Momma Green and knew they were always welcome.

Until Connor got his driver’s license at the age of 17, his skateboard was his method of transportation. He boarded to school, to friends’ houses and numerous skate parks.

Connor loved to ride at the local skate park with rails, ramps, and bowls. It is here that a tree has been planted in his memory. It is to offer shade and respite for those young and old who work hard to master their skills.

So, what does a backpack have to do with skateboarding? Everything. A backpack makes boarding hands free. Food, wallet, water, and extra clothes were neatly packed in it. At the park it was thrown to the side waiting for it to be grabbed for the water inside or tossed on Connor’s shoulder for his next adventure. More than once it was padding as Connor wiped out. It saved him from a few serious injuries.

Over time, Connor owned multiple backpacks. It would either wear out, break or be forgotten while rushing to the next destination.

As an adult, Connor continued to carry a backpack, even if not boarding. He carried his life in it. A fresh change of clothes for after work, his car keys, vape pen or cigarettes, some loose coins, toothbrush, deodorant, and his phone.

He left his backpack behind. I have it now. It no longer holds his things. I have my pickleball gear in it. Connor goes with me when I play. I feel his presence and it comforts me. It brings back good memories.

Recently I met a young man just a few years younger than Connor. I was led to meet him because he rolled into the local grocery store on his skateboard. Skateboarding is his only way to get to and from work. Oh, the memories came flashing back. They made me smile. They made me laugh. They made me cry.

Since that first meeting, we have talked numerous times. He shared that he wiped out on a recent ride home. His shoulder and back had road rash that was taking several weeks to heal. I also noticed true to a skateboarder, that he wore a backpack. After his wipeout, his was held together with a few strands of thread. It protected him and prevented major damage.

Connor spoke to me. He told me his backpack, the one I have, needs to go to my new friend. This young man is so much like Connor, kind, gentle and polite. The biggest commonality that both are skateboarders.

To be honest, I am struggling with this. The backpack is black and with green zipper trim, red and yellow accents. Connor left it behind. It tells a story. It is one of the few things I kept of his. His clothes went to the homeless. His bed stayed at the rental house for others along with the table, chairs, and wall unit. How can I give it away? I am truly torn.

Connor told me a long time ago that he is not done on this earth and that I must be generous with that which is not mine.

PS. I sent this to my daughter Brittany Green before sending it out. She immediately responded, “Please don’t give it away”. That simple sentence put an end to the torment I was experiencing. I wanted to help this young man but felt it was at my expense. Now it was not just about me, but about Connor’s sister. I replied, “I won’t”. I have other backpacks that I can give to him which will still have meaning and honor Connor at the same time. Brittany, thank you for speaking up. I love you, Mom.

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