Wednesday, February 10, 2010

For the Love of the Game

Add ImageI’ve never really “gotten” baseball . . . which I’m pretty sure is a vile transgression, considering I come from baseball people. My father was named after a baseball player. My brothers spent their childhoods in little league uniforms. And to this day, when I think of St. Louis summers, I think of the sound of cicadas mingling with Jack Buck's voice on the radio.

But I never could find my way to embracing the sport. When my mom offered me her ticket to a Cardinals game during my visit to St. Louis last fall, the only thing that drove me to take it was the opportunity to spend some time with my dad. It had been a while since he and I had hung out, just the two of us.

So we went to the new Busch Stadium, with its Rockwellian design and good-timey baseball feel. My dad treated me to a hot dog and a grossly overpriced beer, and we sat, side-by-side, to watch the game. And then it happened . . . my dad taught me things.

They say that teenagers have a natural resistance to the wisdom of their parents. I was not that teenager, but to some degree, I am that adult. It’s not that I doubt I can learn things from them; it’s that I’m finally beginning to learn things from myself. And as that happens, as I begin to embrace and assert myself as an actual, bonafide grown-up, I find myself trying to make it clear to my parents that I am an adult now—that my opinions are just as thoroughly thought-out, and that they can feel free to learn from me, too. When I really think about it, I don’t think I do this for their sakes. I think they know I’m grown up. I do it for mine.

When I was a little girl, trying against the nature of my language-oriented brain to learn the numeric values of money, my dad would invite me into the dining room, where he would spread his pocket change out on the table. I would stare at the nickels and dimes and quarters, trying to make meaning from their sizes and colors. I watched, transfixed, as my father’s long, thick fingers slid the change around on the dining room table, his steady voice explaining each move with patient genius. He worked with such confident ease . . . no need to calculate or count. He just knew that dime, dime, nickel was the same as one quarter. He was that smart.

It became hard for me to hate the science of money, because I loved the way my dad taught. I liked the reassuring steadiness of his voice and how fascinated he seemed to be with the options of money, with the strategy involved. He grouped the coins to show me that a nickel and five pennies were the same as a dime, and when I began to catch on to the game--when I began to arrange and present my own strategies--he smiled broadly and said, "Yes! That's right!

That's what it was like to be at the baseball game with him, to be at his side, watching a sport that has always been beyond my interest or willing comprehension. I asked him what I was seeing, and he taught me the same way he taught me change: in a careful, patient way, his manner approachable, his voice welcoming. He taught me with an obvious fascination for the strategy of the game, and once again, learning from an enthusiast made it difficult not to be enthusiastic myself. Before I knew it, I was observing the game using the new terms he'd taught me, and, just as he had twenty years before, he smiled broadly and said, "Yes! That's right!"

And suddenly, I was a true adult, admitting to myself that I liked learning something from my dad, that I liked bringing him my curiosity. I am my father's adult daughter. I am independent, self-sufficient, intelligent, and solid. I can think for myself, fight my own battles, and solve my own problems.

And the more confident I am of these things, the more willing I become to learn from my parents again.


  1. You are everything that's right with the world.

    P.S. What do you mean you don't "get" baseball? I'm confused.

  2. Thank you, my dear.

    P.S. It hurts to confess this to you, but I've always found baseball . . . boring. Can you find your way to forgiving me?

  3. Also, that was the most promptly written comment I've ever seen in my life. I had to check my closet to make sure you weren't hiding in my room as I was writing the blog.

  4. Heh, I'm quite ridiculous, I know. I still love you, but....BASEBALL. It's orderly. I like it. I like it when the players get feisty.