Henry was born three months early. He was so small he could have easily fit in my glove.
Because he was born premature, all kinds of tests were run on him. Through one of the tests, Henry was diagnosed with schizencephaly. Literally, splits or clefts in his brain. Positioned on the right side, squarely on the part that controls his gross and fine motor skills. From day one, Henry has had a phenomenal team of therapists, teachers, and parents working with him, praying for him, and playing with him. Henry is an absolute delight.
Henry is also my nephew.
This weekend, Henry brought his parents to Springfield to celebrate my Dad’s (Henry’s Papa’s) birthday. Henry helped-watched-cheered as my sister decorated the house with streamers which caught me completely by surprise when I walked in the door. Supposedly, Dad was also surprised, although he was in the room while the decorating was taking place.
We ate lunch and sang “Happy Birthday” and devoured Grandma Bryan’s chocolate cake with marshmallow icing. Henry got icing up and down Jamie’s arm and in his hair. You know the cake is good when you end up with icing in your hair.
After cake, the whole family went out back, to the backyard where I spent years playing catch with Dad, practicing fastballs, change-ups, and curveballs.
One of the manifestations of Henry’s schizencephaly is a tightness in the muscles on the left side of his body. I helped him put on his orange glove, his favorite color, and stood back.
His mom and dad told him that I was the target. Henry took a step back and chucked the ball five feet over my head. I was impressed. We played catch for a while and then Henry grabbed his bat. With his dad’s help, he took some swings. Then back to catch. Then back to the bat. Then giggles and laughter and running around the backyard.
We eventually posed for pictures in our matching Salvador Perez t-shirts; Kaylea and Sophie joined us. The glove hat made a nice touch.
Henry and his parents went inside to pack up and get ready to head back to Arkansas. Kaylea asked me to stay outside with her and continue playing catch.
Kaylea has always had a good four-seam fastball. For fun, I started telling Kaylea the different “pitches” I was throwing — slider, forkball, knuckleball, curveball, change-up, knuckle-curve. They may all have different names, but when you throw them as slow as I do, they all look the same.
“How do you throw a curveball?”
The knuckle-curve came naturally to her. We threw until sweat dripped out from under my hat.
After catch, we went inside to cool off. I grabbed a Dr Pepper and sat on the front porch with Henry as his parents continued to load their vehicle. We shared the drink and laughed at each other’s burps.
It’s what uncles are supposed to do.
What a great game of generations.