Tuesday, June 23, 2009


The first definition my dictionary uses to define the word champion is: “Anything that takes first place in a competition”. After last weekend, I might argue that one.
My 13 year-old son’s baseball team, the Grinders, headed off for an overnight tournament. This was the first full-fledged-travel-four-hours-and-stay-in-a-hotel kind of tournament. The boys were in the big time now and they knew it. Spirits were high. Unfortunately, right before the first game, my son admitted his shoulder had been hurting since baseball camp earlier in the week. The motion of throwing a ball caused him to grimace in pain. Now, I don’t know a lot about baseball, but I do know that the motion of throwing a ball is fairly important to the game. He didn’t want to let his team down, but he knew he could only bat, not field for the weekend. The tournament began as the games were played; my son’s team managed to win both games on the first day. Heads were held high –spirits remained higher.
On the next day of the tournament, the Grinders started looking a bit grinded up. One player’s back had a muscle strain; one, just off crutches, had a swollen hand; another, a broken toe, a possible broken finger and broken glasses; yet another, something wrong with his foot. But still, they played. They pulled together, they encouraged each other. The boys were obviously hurting but they continued to play baseball. By the last game, my son had to field with his sore arm since the boy with the possible broken finger, who finished the game before, could not even begin to grip the bat now–and the team would have to forfeit if they couldn’t field nine players. So my son went on the field. The young boy with the back problem, needed to bat, even though he was quite certain he couldn’t run if he hit the ball. So he went on the field. And on it continued. Battered boys with bats hanging in there, playing ball, encouraging each other to keep on going. It may not have been pretty. But it seemed pretty wonderful.
According to the first definition in my dictionary, the Grinders were not the champions of the tournament.
They did not take first place.
Or even second.
But looking further down the list of definitions, the dictionary offers that a champion is also “a fighter or warrior”.
And there is not one person at that tournament who could deny that definition to the unrelenting team that seemed to have something wrong with every body part --- except their heart.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Happy Father's Day

“You look nice. Have a good day.”
And thus began a typical day for me.
It was the ‘70’s, I was on my way to school, and my dad was driving.
Fathers of this time were of a different generation. Their sole concern was that there was enough money to clothe the family, feed the family and educate the family. It was the mother’s job to raise the family.
My dad was not into reading books to pontificate parenting practices. Dads of this time were just in their kids’ lives –they didn’t worry about all that “bonding stuff” we worry about today.
For this reason, I enjoyed my rides to school with my daddy. Having him and his full attention to myself was a treat. And everyday it was the same routine. As we pulled into the school, I would kiss him on the cheek, at which point he would say the lines I had grown to expect, “You look nice. Have a good day.” And, I would exit the car, ready to start my day, full of the knowledge that my daddy thought I looked nice.
This routine remained unchanged for years, with the small exception of when I started Jr. High School. This was the time I informed him I was going to kiss him goodbye while he was still driving, before we actually got to school. This, of course, was due to my adolescent anxiety, fueled by the fear my classmates might realize I actually had parents, and heaven forbid, even liked them.
And he humored me and continued to reply those edifying words.
It was such a simple thing, but I am certain from that original exchange, blossomed a belief I was worth something. Years later, before I found my prince, while shuffling through many frogs, I remember on more than one occasion being displeased with something one of my dates might have said. The first thought to pop into my head was always, “My dad wouldn’t treat me that way.”
How true it is, that the first man in a little girl’s life is her daddy.
So, this year for Father’s Day, I know just what I’ll do. I am going to go right up to my dad and proudly say, “You look nice. Have a good day.” And then I will kiss him on the cheek.
No matter who is watching.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Someone's child

In three month’s time, three friends have lost a parent.
Somehow, that expression has always seemed strange to me as it seems better used to describe a child losing a parent in a crowd, panicking and crying for a minute and then finding them again. When we refer to the death of a loved one as losing that loved one, it negates the permanency of the situation. The implication of losing something is that it might ultimately be found. But in death, the loved one is not returning. And as much we can find comfort in our faith and rejoice in the promises of heaven of one day being together again, the death of a parent is one of those life moments you deny will ever happen even as a part of you understands it eventually will.
Because no matter how old you are, you are the child and they are the parent. Our words for them may change over the years. Da-da and Ma-ma become Mommy and Daddy which ultimately might morph into mom and dad, or mother and father. But while labels change, the role they play in our lives never completely changes.
We are their child.
Someone’s son.
Someone’s daughter.
We are someone’s child.
True, the rest of the world might recognize us as full-grown, competent adults, perhaps even answering to the labels of mom or dad ourselves; but to somebody somewhere, we are the child, the one they care for and love with an unconditional love. They’re our parents.
No matter how imperfect we are –or how imperfect our parents are--- there is a love that’s a love that forever defines what love is for us. There is a connection that connects us beyond genetic make-up and hereditary traits.
Maybe that’s it: we’ve always known we’ve had our mom or dad’s eyes, nose, mouth –but as we get older we come to realize we also have something so much more meaningful –we have their heart. And that is something we never lose.
Even after they’re gone.