Sunday, June 14, 2015

For Father's Day

A Guest Post from my wife for Father's Day - on honoring legacies, perseverance, & having patience:

Aaron and his father Doug’s relationship can be traced through baseball.  When Aaron was young, Doug bought him his first ballpark frank, introduced him to the plastic ballpark cap filled with ice cream, was the one to stand beside him singing “take me out to the ballgame” all those 7th innings. They sat in the bright colored Astrodome seats together cheering for the Astros.  Doug taught Aaron to use a glove and hit the ball.  Doug went to Aaron’s little league games and told him he did well no matter how he did.

When Aaron seemed to be more gifted in baseball analysis than baseball playing – Doug was there listening to him quote baseball stats.  Doug understood this, he was an academic not an athlete too.   He was one of the structural engineers that designed the Astros’ new Minute Maid field.  He taught Aaron how to contribute to the game by using the gifts you do have.  Even during those high-school and college years, if and when disagreements happened, baseball was still there – uniting them again.  
Aaron grew up, moved away, and began his own family.  But, he always looked forward to a weekly chat with his dad about the Astros.  Then, cancer happened.  In what felt like a blink – Aaron’s dad was gone.

I can sometimes feel Aaron longing to talk about a play with his dad.  I know he longs to return to Minute Maid for a game to look at the legacy his father left to the world of baseball.   Of course, Doug was more than a baseball fan.  But, baseball united a father and son and is perhaps where Aaron feels closest to his dad now.  A dad, a son, and a game they both love.    Aaron longed to take a trip to Cooperstown with his dad when Bagwell and Biggio were inducted into the hall of fame.  
Unfortunately, Doug won’t be there in Cooperstown this year.  But, I know that Aaron will be there – honoring the legacy of Biggio and what he meant to the world of baseball and reflecting on the legacy of his father Doug, and what all he means to him. When it’s all over, sometimes there is nothing to do but to honor a legacy.

The bond of baseball with his father was so deep and profound for Aaron that he longed to share a game of catch with his son one day, to watch an Astros game together, and to take him to his first major league game.   But, nothing about our family has come easy or in any kind of predictable way.  We are a foster family.  Children come into our home with histories of abuse and neglect, we love them and try our best to help them heal, and when the state deems it time – they leave.   Our family is filled with moments of heartache, perseverance through difficult situations, unlikely triumphs, and glimpses of hope. You might say we are a family of underdogs.

For his first Christmas with us, Aaron bought our 5 year old foster son a ball and glove.  He carefully picked out a glove he knew our son would like and anxiously awaited his opening of the present. The initial child’s glee soon dissipated into tantrums and screams because catching a ball is hard, the glove feels weird, and he’d rather do something else.  For Aaron it was heartache.  Disappointment. Nothing resembling those glory days of playing catch with his dad.

The glove and ball went away for a while, lost in the dust of a messy basement.  Then spring came, and our son would sometimes be agreeable to playing catch when Aaron suggested it.  Usually, for about 5-10 minutes before he meltdown.  Because, you know – baseball is hard.  TV is easy.  Aaron kept with it, teaching him skills along the way.  Over time, our son began to enjoy playing.

I’ve been thinking about family and baseball while watching the Astros this season.  Let’s be honest, the Astros have had some rough years recently.   There has been little that has resembled the glory days of the killer B’s.  And yet, after years of perseverance we are seeing unlikely triumphs this season.  A complete game, a current lead in the American league.   Sure, other teams may have a longer track record of wins.  They may end up prevailing this season, who knows? I’ve heard baseball is a game of inches….

But, no matter what:  this season there have been glimpses of hope, reminders that the perseverance
during the hard times makes the victory that much sweeter.

Recently, we were waiting for someone and our foster son skipped down the stairs and announced to Aaron “While we are waiting, I’d like to work on my catching”.    They played catch happily together outside for close to an hour.

Triumph.  Our son had learned to keep trying when something is difficult; a lesson that will serve his well beyond the baseball field. He learned that hard work pays off and can even be fun.  He learned that spending time with a father figure playing catch is better than cartoons.   That was a lesson 2 years in the making.  And, it was so beautiful when learned.  When life makes you an underdog, it takes hard work, perseverance, and people who believe in you in order to find success.  In the end, perseverance and patience makes the success that much sweeter.   What will the final outcomes be?  Who knows –

I’m beginning to think that life is a game of inches as well.