While revising my manuscript I have several rituals I engage in to break my concentration, relax, and come back fresh in 15 minutes. My favorite is walking to the street to see if the mail is here. The mail came early today, so I spent some time throwing a baseball to myself in the backyard. This got me thinking back to last week and some time I spent with my dad.
My father has been legally blind for most of his life. During the Vietnam War he was classified 4-F for the draft, meaning he was exempted from service because he just couldn't see. At any rate, coke-bottle glasses and all, he taught me how to love and play baseball, and during the summer when I was a kid he'd come home from work and we'd frequently play catch in the backyard. Looking back I now realized he managed although the ball was something of a shapeless white blur for him. He managed because he enjoyed the game and loved being in the yard with me.
Looking forward to being home this summer, I thought a lot about how great to would be to play catch with the old man. As far as I can remember the last time we were out there together was about a decade ago. He's in good health but, realistically, he's about to hit 70. We've got more days behind us than are ahead of us.
So last week we went outside. He tossed me the ball from about 35 feet away. I threw it back and hit him in the chest. He picked it up, moved closer, threw it back. Realizing something was wrong I tossed it really soft and he kind of swatted at it as it went by, saying "I can't see it too well." He retrieved the ball, sent it to me again, and we repeated the process. I guess he could get it to me because I stood out against the landscape into which the ball, leaving my hand, simply disappeared. I don't know why but after no more than 4 throws the compa came out and said something needed fixing with one of the lights in the house. We kid that she's "The A#1 Best Wife in the World" for doing stupid things like going to the autofest with me yesterday, but what makes her special is, for example, how she bailed my father and I out of a situation neither of us could handle. My father and I both knew it was over, there will be no more games of catch in the yard, but because of the compa we didn't have to admit that to each other, maybe not even to ourselves. We went inside to look at a bum light, not because my dad can no longer see.
Garfoose (Dirk Hayhurst) has a similar enough story in his book, which makes me think this story happens more often to us than we commonly acknowledge. At any rate, Garfoose's story helped me get through this. Maybe some day someone else will come face-to-face with their father's mortality in a game of catch, come across this post, and take a bit of comfort from the fact we all do this, knowingly or unknowingly. Life gives you the promise of an infinite number of games of catch with your father until there are no more and the number is frozen forever.
If you've got kids, go out tonight and play a game of catch. It's simple, it's stupid, but one day it'll mean the world to them.