Bobby Ryan: Dear Mom
I lost you just a few days ago, and I already miss you a lot.
Even though I had a chance to say goodbye, there are still a few things I’d like to tell you.
Plenty of people are familiar with our family’s story. They know about how dad assaulted you when I was a little kid and how our family ended up moving to California and changing our names so he could avoid going to jail. They know about how he was eventually caught and how you and I had to figure things out on our own. And they know about how I ended up making it to the NHL despite all that. Yes, plenty of people have asked us about that story, but I don’t think enough people know about your story.
I was 12 when dad got caught and had to go away. Before that, he was very much the head of the family. Everything kind of revolved around him. But after he was gone suddenly, you had to take on more than you probably ever thought you would — more than any parent should have to. You didn’t panic, though. You always seemed to be in control, even though you might not have felt like you were. And you did such an amazing job. Just, such an amazing job.
When I think about you, I don’t think about what Dad did to you. I don’t think about how scared we were when he was caught. I don’t think about any of that. Instead, the first thing that comes to mind, of all things, is California Pizza Kitchen.
I know you’re smiling right now at just the mention of that. California Pizza Kitchen was our place.
When we were on our own, we were really struggling financially and couldn’t afford much beyond the basics. But we constantly set money aside so that every two weeks we could go out to dinner together. We’d always go to California Pizza Kitchen, usually in the afternoon so we could split the happy hour special: One Caesar salad and one pizza.
We’d place the order, and then … we’d talk.
And then we’d make up for all the time we were apart because you were working two jobs. For that window of time, we weren’t poor. We weren’t angry or sad. We were a family.
Of course, we’d always talk about hockey while we ate. It really consumed both of our lives because even when times were tough, hockey was something positive that we could share. And I couldn’t have asked for a better hockey parent. You never yelled at me or tried to coach me, and you always knew when I needed a cheerleader. You just understood me in a way that nobody else did.
Read the rest of Bobby Ryan's letter to his mother at the PlayersTribune.com: