Saturday, November 21, 2009

Playing Catch

Many boys grow up playing catch with their dad. I have a great dad, he even coached my little league team, but in his heart he's always been a football/track guy. I grew up playing catch with my mom.

Mom grew up in softball country. When my grandpa was a young man the church softball team was the ultimate social occasion. These were not slow pitch church leagues where a few middle age, out of shape guys get together for a relaxing game. This was highly competitive, fast pitch softball. Games would attract hundreds of spectators. I know what you're thinking, these were small rural communities, of course it drew crowds, there was nothing better to do than watch those silly softball games!

That may be true, but what is sillier, gathering with friends and family to watch a bunch of farmers play softball, or spending $200 for one day at a professional ball park?

Growing up on a farm, in that community, with three brothers, it's no surprise that my mom got pretty good at softball. As an adult she played catcher in a women's fast-pitch league. I don't know a lot about this league, but since my mom's death I've started to catch wind of a few crazy stories that may be connected to this team!

So, a young man couldn't have had a better partner for playing catch than my mom. It became one of the greatest forms of connection between us. My little brother ended up not getting into baseball as much as me, making catch even more of a unique thing that mom and I shared.

As I grew older I started pitching, and my mom was more than willing to be my catcher. I don't know if it looked silly for a thirteen year old to hurl everything he had at a middle age woman, but for me that was just the way it was. When I entered high school I started growing and throwing a little harder. I even decided to try to start throwing a curve ball.

By the way, my curve ball sucked.

One day I put one into the dirt and directly off my mother's ankle. As she hobbled back to the house my dad met us and insisted I stop pitching to her. I didn't, but we did keep it to regular old catch when he was looking.

Those games of catch have given me a lot to remember about my mom. I remember that she was a farmgirl and a tomboy, and it would take someone like that to put up with a crazy hillbilly State Police Captain as a husband. I remember that she didn't mind a few bumps and bruises, and that sort of thing is going to come with the territory when I'm a parent. Most importantly, I remember that her greatest joy came from doing things with the people she loved. I remember that her life was so much bigger than herself.

So often I get caught up in the tasks. My job is ruled by a to-do list - fix this computer, create that lesson, update those websites. Sometimes I start to view my entire life as a big to-do list. Playing catch with my mom reminded me that it is not so much about the to-dos as the people for whom they are being done.

Thanks Mom.


Sometimes it's hard to believe that people like this have ever existed. Someone so loving, so selfless, so beautiful, doesn't belong in the real world. Someone like this belongs in a storybook or Hollywood celluloid. But this woman did exist, she lived in the real world. She was my mother.