With the start of little league (or at least our new coaching role this season), a weird phenomenon has occurred within me. I will elaborate on this more later.
Mike attended the little league ‘draft’ on Monday night. Having been asked at the very last moment to coach a team, he was at a huge disadvantage. He went in with no assistant coach (all the other guys had two each). He also hadn’t observed the two days of evaluations and assessments. He had taken Matthew and really only paid attention to him. The other guys had pages of notes and had busily been conferring with their “coaching staff” to map out their top draft picks. Many of the guys also pick their assistant coaches based on how good those coaches’ kids are (that way, you’re automatically gaining two quality players for your team that don’t even count towards your draft).
Anyway, Mike showed up and was quickly assigned two assistant coaches. In the end, this is a good thing, although it took us a bit to realize it as we weren’t given a choice at all. We know both guys. They’ve coached before. They’re super dedicated and both even played college ball. They know and love the sport. One of the men, Jim, is also pretty outspoken and was quick to side with Mike (uh, good!) in pointing out to the other coaches what a disadvantage we had going in to this draft. Mike and Jim said that it only seemed fair that the other coaches share their top picks seeing as they had the opportunity to observe the assessments while Mike and Jim didn’t and therefore only knew a handful of kids. Some of the guys refused to share. I repeat: some of these dads are so wrapped up in trying to stack their hand for a winning deck that they – very erroneously apparently thought they were actually drafting teams for MAJOR LEAGUE baseball – and REFUSED to share and help these new-to-the-scene coaches. ARE YOU FREAKIN’ KIDDING ME?! Ahh, to be a fly on the wall and listen to these boys – I mean, men – fight about – I mean, discuss – their teams – I mean, their KIDS’ LITTLE LEAGUE team.
I could go on and on about all this. How one guy had a hissy fit because there were two kids whose assessments he didn’t get to see and how unfair this was to him. TWO kids. Mike didn’t see ANY. One coach – with the benefit of his assistant captains – was able to gain FOUR of the only twelve returning/2nd year kid-pitch players. While, the rest of the teams gained at most ONE 2nd year player. Perhaps, the piece de resistance: when picking team names, Mike found out that this same team (with the four returning players) also wanted to be the Red Sox. Mike even explained, “Look, my father-in-law recently passed away and was from the Boston area. It would mean a lot to my wife…” The assistant coach was willing to let us have it, but the head coach refused. He wanted to be the Red Sox, so too bad.
Based on the jersey colors available, Mike’s choices were limited. He ended up going with the Cardinals. He explained that with the Red Sox not available, the Angels also out, that the Cardinals seemed the closest thing. His reasoning: they fly, like angels. And, Cardinals are Catholic! Oh my gosh, what a stretch, but I love him for it.
We weren’t able to get Matthew’s best buddy on our team; we ended up with a few players that we don’t know a thing about (but are supposedly good players and nice kids); we got a few kids from our team last year who are awesome (sweet boys who love the game and work hard), and we have two very dedicated and knowledgeable assistant coaches…Not to mention a cut throat team manager (me) who also runs the most organized and enthusiastic dug-out in town. All in all, we’re in for a great, busy, excitement-filled season.
Here’s what the start of little league season has done for me: hearing Mike talk about the ridiculous drama with the other coaches, how a lot of the guys do this more for their own ego than the benefit of the kids, just all of it – has awoken something within me that’s been asleep for the last three months. For the first time yesterday, I realized that I could actually 100% FEEL again. I could experience the frustration, the amusement, the emotion to the depths of my core. It seems such a silly thing, but to be able to really experience how passionate I am about something is amazing. I haven’t felt even luke warm about anything. Even Disneyland – it was great, we had a good time, but I still wasn’t 100% THERE. It’s like when you’re underwater and you hear people talking or noises outside but they’re muffled and fuzzy-sounding. I’ve been underwater.
It sounds completely trivial – this little league business – being the thing that makes me experience life again to the fullest. But in some ways it makes sense. Dad and I bonded over this baseball business together. He got all caught up in hearing about the drama. He tried to work with Matthew (and shared in our frustration when Matthew would throw a total pity party when he didn’t play well). I didn’t play team sports as a kid; I was the chubby orchestra, drama nerd that couldn’t run a mile. So, it took nearly thirty years for dad and me to finally connect in this way. But it was so fun when we did. And I so wish he was here to share in it some more. It truly still baffles me that he’s not. No one wanted to talk about it as much as I did…besides dad.
Yesterday, I experienced the ultimate ride in emotion. I took perhaps the biggest breath of my life in the realization that I am totally passionate about this baseball stuff. I am able to LOVE something again. I’m living life and fulling experiencing the highs and lows (albeit in something as inane as coaching my son’s little league team). It felt amazing to recognize that. And yet, like so much of this grief process, the good is completely intertwined with the bad. How is it that I can feel totally happy and yet utterly destroyed at the same time? I could honestly say, “I’m so happy!...It hurts and sucks!” How weird is that?! It’s like a new way to live. To feel. To be. I guess this is what people mean when they say: it never goes away. You never stop missing them. You don’t ever really stop being sad. It’s just the new normal. And it’s so weird.
Ahh, the irony (or not). Just this morning, my ‘daily meditation’ for grief book started with this, “Faith is the bird that feels the light/And sings when the dawn is still dark – Rabindranath Tagore…May we, in our season of darkness and sorrow, hear – and sometimes as a surprise – a song heralding a brighter time.” And I kid you not, after waking several times during the night to the sound of pouring rain and strong wind, a little bit ago, I suddenly noticed the emergence of daylight outside. The rain’s let up, and I just heard the faint call of one little lone bird. OK, OK, I hear you.