And That’s The Game

Ever have one of those days where you look at your kid, and find yourself completely overwhelmed at how much you are in love with him? That was my yesterday.

Major League Baseball is just opening up.  Stadiums are empty, even the play-by-play and color commentary guys are banned from traveling, but plate umps are calling “Play ball” across America.  For $50 you can purchase a giant likeness of your face to contribute to the illusion that fans are in the stands, and at Chicago’s Wrigley Field, you can even see stands filled with virtual, digital fans.  Crowd noise is piped in, cheering when the home team lines one to left. And I want to know who got that job?  It’s someone’s actual job now to select the appropriate “crowd noise” when a batter hits or misses and determine the organist’s rally cries via some iPod playlist made possible only by the dumpster fire we call 2020. Anyway.

The MLB’s truncated season got underway the very weekend my baby’s season had come to its end.  That there was a season at all for youth baseball was event enough, here in the the world of COVID-19.  Though the world had been shut down, youth baseball somehow found its way to daylight.  The season was short, cancellations abounded and disappointment ran rampant, but our younger son, to my great surprise, got in two months of ball, and that meant that so did I.

You may wholly disagree with our decision to let our boy play, and that’s your prerogative.  Science is real.  If you think we weren’t nervous to send our baby to his first team practice back in May, or sit along the first base line those early few games, think again.  But this team made a commitment to our son last August, as did we to them in return, and we felt bound to honor our commitment to have him play.  Rules and spaces were changed to accommodate social distancing.  Spectators were to be limited in number, and everyone I saw respected space.  There were no hugs, no high fives.

Youth baseball being open created its own set of losses and casualties.  My son has seen his best friend only once since ball opened.  Honestly, I wondered whether he would choose hanging with his best friend over baseball with an entirely new-to-him crop of kids.  I fully understand his BFF’s mother’s decision to disallow them to hang once our son’s baseball practices opened up our formerly 100% quarantined social circle.  The good guys in green and gold lost their home diamond to city and county park closures, so league schedules were cut and tournaments axed.  Thunderstorms were our constant summer companion (only on game days though!) to a point I actually wondered if the weather knew something we couldn’t.  Maybe those flood- and lightning-forced cancellations would have been fraught with exposure risks?  We’ll never know.  We got what we got: twenty-two forays around southeastern Wisconsin.  And we were grateful for them.

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He even got to pitch once.

No one on or related to his team became ill or has tested positive for coronavirus.  Maybe we were lucky, but you know what?  Luck has been in short supply at Chez Weir this last year (or five. . .), ya know?  My son got to play a game he loves.  We got to meet new families whose goals mirrored ours–to give their sons the opportunity to play the game they love.  Prior to the season, you may have heard me say that I wasn’t interested in getting to know a whole new group of parents, that this season was a one and done, and I didn’t need to become chatty with the other baseball parents.  But man, I’m glad I was and I did.  We were told that the vibe on my baby’s new team was chill, and the reputation was well-earned.  Really good people cheering on everyone’s kid, finding something good to say about every kid, every game.  There were cocktails.  There were laughs.  There were wins. Victory all around.

After yesterday’s final out (with my boy on deck!), I had that teary-eyed moment I expected, and that my kid openly and loudly asked me not to succumb to. “Don’t cry, Mom!”  But I always cry at endings.  Even good ones.  And this was a good one.  This ending also marked the end of an era for us.  After six years of travel ball, my little one is heading to high school now where he will be playing high school ball for the Huskies next season.  Whole new dynamic, whole new color scheme.  Whole new world of baseball-less summers-to-come for his dad and me.

My son’s season isn’t one for his record books, but he played hard.  He worked hard and improved his game.  He had fun!  In the “Do you feel like you have to play ball or do you get to play ball?” he got to play ball this year.  I’m proud of him for the player he is, and more proud for the teammate he is.  He’s compassionate (you should have seen my boy when a teammate went down after taking one to the face), and he’s as happy for a teammate when he lines one as when he blasts one himself.

I don’t often ask, but I needed a photo to mark this ending.  He played along.  Of course he did–he’s that kind of teammate.  I love this child, you just don’t even know.

It’s the bottom of the seventh, game over, so line ’em up, boys.  Tip your cap (because in the age of COVID, you don’t shake hands to acknowledge your opponent), and say goodbye.  I’m really gonna miss my boys of summer.

 

 

An MDA Kind of Week

I received an email from a member of our Milwaukee area Muscular Dystrophy Association chapter last week, checking in on our family after our tumultuous 2019.  To say that a black cloud has followed us the last year is not high drama.  Even my most optimistic, glass is always half-full friend recently allowed that maybe my family was due to catch a break, and that is saying something because Nicole is exactly the ray of sunshine everyone needs in their life.  Anyway, the MDA was kind enough to wish us well while also checking in to remind me that the annual Muscle Walk team registration had opened.

Our family has participated in the annual fund raising event annually since my son’s 2015 diagnosis.  You’ve helped me raise over $10,000 to support kids and families affected by muscle disease, including the incredibly near and dear to my heart summer camps.  I’m still a bit stunned that I asked, because I HATED asking, and even more stunned and humbled that you answered.  Our walk team was consistently among the top five fund-raising teams in the Milwaukee area, a statistic I’m proud to notch.

COVID-19’s global takeover has changed everything we know about how we navigate our 2020 world, but even if not for pandemic, we wouldn’t be participating in this year’s walk.  I responded to her inquiry by circling back to the accident.  Honestly, every damn thing in my life since May 7 just relates back to May 7 anyway.  I told her that when my husband was injured and in the months after, we were incredibly fortunate to have had people from all corners of our world take care of us.  People fed us, cooked meals, and/or bought gift cards or groceries for us.  People sent us money to help bridge the gap so we could pay our bills.  I just didn’t feel the time was right for me to ask those very same people to support our fundraising for the MDA this year.  Our friends, family, and neighbors had done so much for us, and I felt that to ask any more this close to the accident was beyond my comfort zone.  It took a good three or four rereads of my email draft before I could summon the strength of my one little index finger to hit “send.”

And then I wanted to throw up because I felt I was letting them down.

Later that very day, I received another email from the national MDA organization containing the news that this year’s MDA camps had been canceled. Given the state of the world, news of its cancellation was not exactly “news.”  Many kids suffering muscle disease endure accompanying systemic health problems, compromised respiratory and immune systems surely among them.  Nobody’s going anywhere these days, least of all kids with multiple health needs and the crew of volunteer medical and counselor staff needed to support a camp such as what the MDA produces.

My son had elected not to attend camp this summer.  He is close to aging out of camp, and he barely acknowledges he’s got the disease (a topic for another day), but more directly had hopes of a summer job on top of his volunteer gig.  Actually it’s probably more closely aligned with his “Who, me?” stance on this progressive, ugly disease.  I’m not sad that he chose not to attend camp, but I understand well the disappointment and sadness many kids and families are expressing with camp having been shut down.  Camp touts itself as the kids’ “best week of the year,” and I know that to be true with my whole heart.


I’ve enrolled in a course–gotta do something productive these days!, and one of the required activities was to complete an assessment about your perception of your character.  More on this to come, but my number one character strength based on my responses was kindness–doing favors and good deeds for others; helping them; taking care of them.  I can’t say it’s wholly accurate, but I do know for sure what kindness looks like.  It’s not what I see when I look in the mirror, but in the reflection of the people I see around me.

Be safe.  Be patient.  Be kind.

And in a totally random non-sequitur, check out the colors in these downtown murals.  Since part of our “home schooling” has been a classroom behind the wheel of a car, I’ve been able to view the city from the passenger’s seat.  It’s terrifying and reassuring at once that my kid insists on driving through downtown and other densely peopled areas of the city as he logs practice hours.  He seeks the experience, and I see the city from a new, beautiful perspective.