Field of Dreams
Baseball has been a continuing metaphor the 44 years I've been on this Earth. The Kevin Costner movie of the late 80s truly made it more even more powerful and vivid for me at the time. Although I worked for my father and saw him nearly every day there was a huge chasm between us that seemed impossible to bridge.
For Fathers Day about two years later I gave my Dad a ball glove and we had our first catch in well over twenty years. It was no coincidence that our relationship and communication improved almost immediately. Interestingly my grandfather was a little jealous of that gift. He had been a semi-professional catcher for his Kentucky coal mine team back in the 1940s and 50s. My mother still tells stories of the whole family having to drive 8 hours "back home" almost every weekend so Papa could play baseball.
So on July 4th, 1990 I gave Papa his own new ball glove and we had our game of catch as well. About a month later he was dead from a sudden massive heart attack. His glove was laid to rest with him so that he and I could have another catch one day. A little over two years later my own father would pass away suddenly. This time I kept his glove with the intention of handing it to Carroll B. Waddell, III one day in the future.
Ben does indeed have that baseball mitt. He even has one other one that has the date "9-6-95" written in the palm. That was the day Joan and I said goodbye to a child we never actually met. We saw him or her on an ultrasound screen but were not given the chance to hold that baby. At least not just yet. I'd like to think that Papa Carroll and Papa Cameron needed another person to play catch with on occasion. So there is another glove never used waiting in Ben's room for a chance to snag a hard hit grounder or a deep fly ball at the warning track.
Me and Ben will have our catch one day. I will watch him pound the ball into the palm of his glove a couple of times before his right arm cocks back. It moves in slow motion. I notice sweat beads on his forehead just underneath the bill of his red cap. Ben's left leg takes a step toward me as his right one pushed his trunk forward. His right hand appears above his shoulder, the wrist snaps forward, and the ball begins it's flight. In a few nanoseconds I'll hear and feel the slap of leather in my palm. I look back across the field and there is my son. Grinning. Standing. Arms waving, calling for the return throw. It is a vision so vivid I can almost smell the leather...
I put the glove back on the shelf and lean over to kiss him goodnight. He has his dreams to attend to now. I put his baseball cap on Pooh just in case he wakes during the night and wants to join Daddy in the field.
Sunday, July 29, 2007
Field of Dreams