I am better now. I have been in mourning for 4 months. It's not what you think: my family, friends and pets are all well and healthy, thank you. I am mourning something else. A sport. My son has retired from baseball at the ripe old age of 11. I realize I have been going through the 7 stages of the grieving process through these months, just like a recovery from a loss of a loved one. It takes time. It is still a fresh wound. I am getting better day by day.
Shock and Denial
Teams began forming for the Spring back in November. When a coach called, I was thrilled. My son was very nonchalant. I thought he was still sore and sad about the Texas Rangers' loss in the World Series. I gave it a couple of weeks and talked to him again. He did not sound interested. He was so into football, and basketball had just started. We would find a team in December or January, I thought. He just did not have time to focus on it. No worries. He would come around.
Pain and Guilt
December turned into the New Year quickly, and still no remorse on his decision. It dawned on me that I no longer had a Boy of Summer. The thought crippled me for a day or two. Where did I go wrong? I thought he liked his team. We always had fun after the game. There was Mexican food or ice cream. Maybe I had pushed too hard with the first few teams that called. Maybe I should have just backed away and let it unwind at school.
The next week, I was not my usual happy self in morning car pool. I started to think about all the batting lessons over the years. Once a week in the cold of winter or the heat of the summer. Yes, I was there, too. My son had a wicked right-hand change-up pitch. Learned in pitching lessons that, yes, I attended, too. How could he waste his time and talent. I thought of the years I kept an additional 5 pounds worth of quarters in my purse so I would be ready for the batting cages from February through July. Who picked up half of those balls, anyway? ME!
My final plea was pathetic. I was get in contact with Clayton Kershaw, like Detroit Lions quarterback Matt Stafford, another of the athletic phenoms from our Dallas neighborhood, to talk some sense into this kid. Clayton, the 2011 Cy Young winner for the Los Angeles Dodgers, would get through to him, I thought. It way too early to retire from the national pastime. I caught myself just short of picking up the phone. What if his mother answered the phone? I would be embarrassed!
My mind drifted back to memories of his first season in T-ball. The cute little 5-year-olds all looked alike. I forgot about the chaos and tears. I thought about last summer and all the fun we had after a doubleheader. I forgot it was 95 degrees at 10:00 p.m. when my kid was out there in catcher's gear. The Mother's Day tournament was fantastic. I got a rose on Sunday. My husband reminded me that it was two days of endless torture, freezing cold in the morning and the sun blazing by noon, how I had fallen asleep on a bench in the 1st inning of a game against a good team. We did not look good in the field, so I drifted. When I woke up, it was still the top of the first and we were down 17 runs! I still got a rose.
By the end of Super Bowl Weekend I finally figured out why my son decision not to play baseball was bugging me so much. I like baseball, but never played softball myself, nor did any member of my family play ball past high school. I like the whole concept of baseball. It is played in the spring, as school is winding down. Innings can be long or short. There is time to talk with friends. Little boys play baseball. My young man was exhibiting free will. It was much the same process of letting go I experienced when Lucy the Giraffe and I were no longer needed to walk into kindergarten, and when beloved Thomas the Train and his friends needed to stay in the attic to make room for an in-room basketball hoop.
I asked my son what he wanted to do with his free time this summer. Maybe he just wanted to hang out. Maybe he wanted to try something new where we could both learn and meet new people. No, he wanted to play football. So we found a football league that plays in the spring. We live in Texas, so, of course, we found a great league and they seem happy to have him on the team, even if it plays in a different city about 35 miles away! It seemed a small sacrifice to make for the grieving process.
Acceptance and Hope
As I drove 45 minutes west in traffic yesterday, I thought about baseball and wondered how my son's old team was faring this year. I still hold out hope that my son will play again, some day. Maybe not as a youth, but perhaps in an adult league sponsored by his future employer! I bet he will coach baseball some day. He seems to have patience with younger kids. I cannot wait to see what he does with that curve ball.
In the mean time, I will rely on an old Texas saying, "When God shuts a door, he opens the HOV Lane."
Gretchen Rose is a wife and mom of a teen and tween in Dallas, Texas. She and her husband are owners of KidzMat, the premier organizational equipment for all youth sports teams.