“He has my ball!” I was there under duress to begin with, and this was not what I expected!
He didn’t budge from his seat on the bleachers, so I screamed louder between fits of giggles, “HE HAS MY BAAALL!!”
I’d promised Kenny 100 pitches before we returned home. When we got to the field on the other side of the tennis courts – the one that abuts the football field and another baseball diamond – we were alone. Utterly alone. The place is massive with three playgrounds to boot.
The dog had the whole place to run after his own ball. But running at 100 mph toward me with said ball in his mouth he stopped short in front of me, and dropped it at my feet, eyeing the one Kenny’d just batted to me. And, just like Pavlov’s dog would do when confronted with a dog at my feet with a ball in my hand, I threw it and yelled, “Get it!”. He did. And he wouldn’t give it back. I can’t blame him. His was small and plastic.
So technically it was my fault that he destroyed it. His owner finally came within 15 yards of us, not amused at all, and called his dog. I held it reluctantly between two fingers as slimy ooze dripped from it, and threw it to the dog as he was running to his car to go home.
I turned to break the news to Kenny, only to find him half way up the tennis court’s chain link fence, holding on and balancing his toes between the holes. I don’t know why, but he’s scared of dogs.
“I had to give it to him, Kenny. I’m sorry!”
That was it. There could have been no worse news. He crumpled in to the fence, still hanging on, and cried. Baseball – playing catch with me and hitting my sometimes magnificent pitches for as long as I can stand it – is the one thing he looks forward to every day. And we can’t play every day when I get too busy.
“We’ll buy another one. I promise.” But he kept on crying because we both knew that getting to the store before his withdrawal symptoms peaked was going to be hard.
“Hey!”I said. “I’ll go find one! Even a tennis ball would be better than nothing!” Maybe if I was cheerful enough he’d believe me?
“There’s nothing there,” he whined. “Can you help me get down? I’m stuck.” But I was already on my way to the path behind the tennis courts.
Lo and behold, at the bottom of the hill, about 20 feet in from the top of the path, sat a bright white softball. Not a squishy tennis ball, but a new just-dropped-out-of-the-sky-for-Kenny softball!! I smiled my biggest smile and went to retrieve it when I looked left and saw a neon green softball.
I was so excited that Kenny started arguing with me to get my attention as I ran to him showing him my treasure and he twisted his body to manage the cramping in his fingers and legs.
“Please help me get down!” he cried. His little fingers were aching and losing their grip, so I balanced him on my head and let him drop.
“Look, Kenny! TWO BALLS! It’s a miracle! Isn’t that so cool. Kenny?! You had one and now you have two! And look how big they are!”
He didn’t seem thrilled. Having an emotional mom can shut you down I think. But he sure was excited when he saw how far he could hit them, I was thrilled to have more ball to get over the plate that was hard to see even while squinting my hardest. I’d just been saying to him that we needed 10 balls so that I wouldn’t waste so much time running after one ball. And now my time in the field was cut in half!
I couldn’t stop laughing. And nobody was laughing with me.
Not the dog’s owner.
And I’ll tell you why.
Because to me all the puzzle pieces fit together perfectly. And I relearned something that infused me with joy:
- When you have a plan (pitching balls to Kenny)
- that gets interrupted by something that seems natural but unexpected (the dog),
- and you realize that what you have is what someone’s looking for , so you let it go (the only ball I had to play with Kenny)
- and you play along anyways (because it feels right, not because you’re thinking about the consequences),
- and things get messed up (the ball was pulverized),
- just go look down a new path for what you need (in this case, Kenny really needed that ball or he’d die),
- and even if no one else thinks you’ll find it (cause they never tried it),
- you’ll be surprised…(not really, because you’ll actually feel led and guided to find what you’re looking for)
Kenny connected with the next five pitches I threw, making the total pitches 20.
“Let’s go home,” he said, juggling the two balls all the way to the car.
‘Aren’t softballs for girls? ” he asked.
I didn’t answer him.
We just both climbed in the most adorable little yellow Beetle a girl could ever dream of owning, me in the driver’s seat, Kenny in the back.
I wrote this down for Kenny to read someday. To remind him that he has always had his needs met and that will continue for his whole life…
…even as he climbs up fences to get away from scary dogs. And…he’s going to have to get off the fence and go down the path on his own someday.