Well, that was awesome. Or at least it should have been. For someone who has been writing a little “Here’s How to Live Your Life and Enjoy Every Moment” blog for the past three years, I am often pisspoor when it comes to heeding my own advice.
Take this past Sunday, for example.
I’ve written in the past about this cool group of gents known as the Mission Baseball Club. They congregate weekly, throw together an entertaining and legit intrasquad scrimmage, and allow participants to relive past glories (or infamies) and create new ones. And while I haven’t had the good fortune yet to join them, the Club also travels regularly to San Quentin State Prison for hard-fought games with the inmates. “Hard-fought” is probably a poor word choice here, but the prisoners take their baseball seriously. As do the umpires — themselves inmates, who wisely err on the side of their fellow inmates when any close calls arise.
For a variety of legitimate and illegitimate reasons, I have not played a game with the Mission boys for perhaps two years. Two long years. During those two years, my stepped on ring finger, spiked during an ill-advised attempt at stretching a single into a double, has more or less healed. This was, as I recall, the last game I played. But also during those two years, my eldest son got two years older. Two years stronger. Two years more skilled at his old man’s game. So when this Sunday rolled around, serendipity stepped in and delivered up a remarkable, Lemonade Chronicles-esque sitcheeashun:
Max and I playing a genuine baseball game on the same baseball diamond. Together. At several points, playing middle infield together. He batting immediately after I did, following me in the lineup. Me scrambling from one base to another when Max’s bat struck the pitched ball. Or me watching from the dugout due to my own inability to reach base (happened more often than not).
All the ingredients for a magical and unforgettable father-son experience, right? But I think I blew it, more or less.
I managed to sneak a few fleeting glances over at him at shortstop as I stood ready on the dirt between 1st and 2nd base. And when sitting on the dugout’s green splintered bench, I watched Max in the batter’s box — as I have done from a similar vantage point since he was 5 years old. And I doled out a handful of high-fives; but not nearly enough.
As I reflect back, I realize that I was so wound up in my own head, that I neglected to truly appreciate what a lightning strike moment Sunday’s game represented. I’m nearly 50, so the mental gymnastics and emotional swings triggered unexpectedly by some otherwise innocuous event, smell, or feel are fairly overwhelming. Bending a hard turn around 1st base after hitting a line drive will flash me back to a similar moment during a high school game. Swinging stupidly at a pitch thrown enticingly near my eyes will drum up moments of doing the same damned thing, years ago, with equally shit consequences. And then this can spiral into “no wonder you didn’t play at Duke, you never learned this lesson, if you had, maybe you would have played for a long time, you dipshit…” That sort of thing. It’s debilitating, and compounded by the fact that my body simply can’t do what it could 30 years ago. I am painfully aware of this when I play. So I stand in the field with an 18 year-old’s brain, and a 48 year-old’s body. Agonizing about that contradiction, more or less, for three hours until the game’s end.
None of this is conducive to “being in the moment.” When so self-absorbed with existential nonsense, there are simply no excess brain cycles to manifest gratitude over the imminent prospect of a father-son-turned double play. Or the sublime satisfaction of immediately preceding my own son in the lineup — I’m digging into the batter’s box, while hearing the “whoosh” of his swing in the on-deck circle. Or watching my firstborn evolve into a young man, almost literally right before my eyes, on the same neighborhood ballfields he played ten years ago. My failure to seize Sunday by the throat and bring myself to sentimental sniffles makes me want to spike my own finger.
The good news is, the Mission Baseball Club plays every week. Next time, I’ll try to get out of my own way and truly enjoy playing with my son on this remarkable field of dreams. Wish me luck with that….
Thanks for reading.