Mythankfulboy just sent me a text from school about good grade that said, “I’m proud of me”. Blessed be.
Yesterday afternoon the planets aligned. I was home early enough to pick Mythankfulboy up from school, there was no baseball, and it was a nice day. We went to the gym, he mowed and weed-whacked his batting cage and beyond, and I repaired his L screen (the screen from behind which someone can pitch balls to you), weaving it back together with rope. We got creative with leftovers for dinner, did a few chores, and both did some work on our computers. It was chilly enough that I built a fire and sat in front of the woodstove to do my work. Partway through the evening, B got news that his dad agreed to contribute to a new infielder’s glove, so he brought his laptop out to sit with me in front of the fire for help making the important decision about the glove’s color scheme (he always asks for my advice, but he always knows what he is going to choose before he asks, which makes me laugh). Then for once, he got ready to head off to bed before me.
He stood over me and said, “So, I am thankful tonight that I’m getting a new glove, and I am thankful that you put my L-screen back together for me.” He waited.
I said, “I’m thankful that you weed-whacked the whole yard, and that you’re living a life of gratitude”. He reached down and picked up my hand and held it between his for a moment, the way a pastor might do for someone grieving. We smiled at each other for that moment, and he said, “Me too.”
I have had the pleasure of traveling this week to see a young man with whom I worked when he was an elementary school student. I traveled to see him then, too, as a consultant to his academic and behavioral programming. This young man has several great loves beyond his family and friends – he loves drumming, The Beatles (especially Ringo), a carousel at a local mall, the “announcer voice” (he likes to do it, but he also likes to watch it on shows like 60 Minutes), and ceiling fans. His interest in fans over the years has derailed or threatened to derail many a visit to a local restaurant or store. His mother even laughingly commented about it at dinner. It had easily been 13 years since I’d seen her son and he didn’t remember me that I could tell, but I would have known him anywhere. The added blessing is how dear his parents are to me.
On the bittersweet side, traveling for work means being away from Mythankfulboy. He has had two baseball games this week in which he got to play a few innings and I missed both games for work. Lucky for me, does not hold me to the standard I hold myself, so he was happy to tell me last night on the phone how his game had gone (they lost 10-0, he got to play shortstop for 2 innings – he made one play and made an error on the other, he got up to bat twice and struck out both times). He asked how my day had been and I told him it was lovely. We talked a little about logistics of the time remaining before I get home, and then I asked him for what he was thankful.
Without hesitation, he said he was thankful for ceiling fans. I was flabbergasted. First of all, although B once met the young man I came to see, B was only two years old at the time and does not recall the visit nor the people. Secondly, we don’t have ceiling fans in our house because our ceilings are only 7-feet high, and we don’t want to risk removing the heads of our taller guests. I turned to my host (the young man’s mother) and said that B had named ceiling fans as the thing for which he was thankful, and her mouth dropped open. B waited on the line while she and I had a quick, shocked, exchange. I realize, now, that I never asked him why he had said it. I’ll do that when I get home.
B asked for what I was thankful, and I said I was thankful for how well-settled and happy the young man I visited was, for what a great home he has, and for time with him and with his family. It is a precious thing to know people you like so much for as long as we’ve known each other, and to have the privilege of being a small part of their paths. B said he was glad. I asked if he was at his friend’s house, and he said yes, and that his friend was sitting in the room with him playing his guitar. It’s also a blessing for your 15-year old to have friends he can stay with when you have to be gone, and in front of whom he is comfortable doing this small but important bit of spiritual practice.
I had to work and missed Mythankfulboy’s baseball game, which they won by double-digits, a feat for a mostly-JV team playing in a varsity world. They knew they had a chance against that particular team, but it was a happy event, nonetheless. B only got to bat once, but I’m still sorry I missed it.
B and I arrived home at about the same time, and I made the mistake of sitting down on the couch to chat with him while he ate some dinner. I never really made it off the couch, but I did open one eye long enough to tell him I was thankful they won their game. He sat down beside me and leaned in for a hug. He said he was thankful he didn’t have much homework. He covered me up with a blanket and said goodnight, heading for his desk. I’m learning not to feel guilty when he’s up later than I am, even when I forget to wash his baseball pants…
We had a wonderful weekend, until about 11 o’clock last night.
We slept late. We went to the gym. We went to a Phillies game and celebrated a friend’s birthday. Mythankfulboy had baseball practice and I got some things done around the house. He spent hours on homework on Sunday, and then B went to a local skate park with a friend. He said he had a little more homework to do when we got home, but he really misjudged how much work it was.
I checked in on my way to bed to do the chalice lighting and I could see by his face and his posture that there was much more homework to do. I asked him what was left and how I could help. He was working on a storyboard for The Moon Is Down, and was assigned to do it with a particular computer program with which he was struggling (very slow and glitchy, not letting him make changes without starting over). So, I sat down at the computer and did the annoying parts while he fed me the information that needed to be included and simultaneously did Biology homework. The storyboard finally done, nearing 1 AM, I went to bed and he stayed up to finish other language arts homework.
B had an easy first semester in high school. I knew this one would be harder, particularly with baseball season. It is hard to watch him struggle to learn how much time and how much effort is required for different assignments. I made only briefly, pointed comments about finishing homework before doing anything fun on a Sunday afternoon, because his stress was punishment enough. We did not do a chalice lighting, but I know he would have been thankful for my help and my only minimal rubbing of salt in the wound.
We have had an interesting week in baseball. Mythankfulboy is a 9th grade JV player. The JV team had watched the varsity team struggle with disciplinary issues in the pre-season, and had been included in the loud re-iterations of what the coaching staff’s expectations for good conduct looked like. Then the Varsity team went on a spring training trip and got into so much trouble while gone that all but four members were kicked off the team. One of those players had a scholarship that is now in jeopardy.
As a result, they have pulled the JV team up to play the varsity games and have canceled the JV season. They held a parent meeting at which they explained the circumstances and the decision. The head coach said, with tears in his eyes, that he considered it his first responsibility to raise good men, and his second responsibility to win baseball games. He said his goal for this new team was to win one game this season. There are a lot of issues and concerns, of course. B’s first reaction was, “Mom – those guys have beards!”
There’s no question that there’s a big difference between a 15 and an 18-year-old, both in size and strength, and in amount of baseball experience. They played their first game last night, losing 9-0. The coach told the boys he considered it a win since they kept the score in the single digits. B did not. On this new, bigger team with four players remaining from varsity, he didn’t, and probably won’t, get much playing time, and he made an error the only time he made contact with the ball last night. He got home to a lot of homework, and probably went to school today unprepared for a test. I made it clear that, if he couldn’t figure out how to keep his grades up while playing baseball, it would be baseball that went. It was not a good night.
So, the chalice lighting consisted of my standing in his doorway, one foot in the room and one in the hallway, while he sat at his desk at his computer. No actual chalice was lit. He said he was thankful I helped with his trash and recycling chores. I said I was thankful I got to see his game. He said, “Why? You were freezing and I didn’t really even get to play.” I told him it didn’t matter to me how much he played, or that it was cold. I said I liked being there to see what it was like for him, and that it was a pleasure to see him play no matter how much or how well he did. He nodded, looking at the floor. Then he said, “Well, I’m thankful for that.”