“Have time for a therapy catch on Thursday?”
“I’m in town for my grandma’s funeral and would love to just throw a ball and catch it. Baseball is always there when something or someone else ceases to be.”
His words reminded me of the epic speech by James Earl Jones at the end of Field of Dreams.
“The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game…it’s a piece of our past. It reminds us of all that once was good. And that could be again.”
Both of my grandmothers have passed away in recent years. I know that feeling of missing family, of hearing their laughs and stories, especially around holidays and birthdays. Greatmon’s hot tamale pie at Christmas. Riding roller coasters with Grandma B. Immediately, I rearranged my calendar to create space to spend time with Aaron.
“Our first game of catch was right across the street,” he said. “You in the chair with your ankle propped up on a bucket.”
I had yet to make the connection between the two locations. A lot has happened in the last three years — the winners of the last three World Series can serve as examples.
Aaron wore a new Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp hat that he got for his birthday, representing the 904 of Vince Coleman, Daniel Murphy, and Tim Tebow. I wore my Royals hat that was new back on Day #170. Yesterday, after the funeral, Aaron and his uncles drove four hours through several counties of southwest Missouri in search of oysters to make his grandmother’s signature oyster dressing to go with dinner.
It took about an hour of catch and conversation and curveballs, of sliders and stories, of leather pops and short hops until we were both covered in sweat and smiling. Therapy games of catch are not meant to be rushed.
“This,” Aaron gestured to the glove and baseball and the gravel-covered infield, “this feels normal.”
We parted ways, and I sent him southbound with a care package of Dr Pepper, old baseball cards, and a prayer for safe travels into the winds and rains of Hurricane Florence. Even though the circumstances making today’s game of catch possible were far from ideal, getting the chance to spend time with Aaron is always, always an encouraging experience.