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Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Grief and pointlessness

Riley's jerseys
Gray clouds were smeared across the San Carlos sky like a thick layer of jam on that Saturday morning a few weeks back. It was early, but not too early as I set up my stadium chair at the top of the bleachers. With my cup of decaf, I cornered myself, away from other parents as much as possible because I was solo that morning. C’s dad was out of town; C’s stepmom was out of town; my husband was working. It was just me and I hate mornings when it’s just me at the Little League game. I just don’t know how to fit in. So I put myself in the corner and pretend I’m invisible. Then I scan the opposing team for blond boys with blue eyes and glasses that I can pretend my dead 11-year-old son is there. So that I can cheer for him silently. So that I can pretend that Riley is still playing baseball.

As the innings progressed, the clouds thickened and then colluded to make everyone and everything wet. It started as a few drops, but quickly progressed into a downpour. After a few minutes of rain, the umpires called a rain delay. Most people -- including the kids from both teams -- moved under the awning of the snack shack. I pulled my hood over my head, but stayed put. If I didn’t move, then no one would see me. I felt like a deer, frozen in place in my winter coat with the hood pulled over my head in an attempt to stay dry and invisible. One minute. Five minutes.

The other parents eventually joined the kids under the awning. Why hasn’t the game been called, I wondered. But I couldn’t ask anyone. I don’t know how to talk to the other parents. Do they know I have a son named Riley? I don’t know how to talk about the score or the at-bat or the home run. It’s easier to stay invisible. Ten minutes later and the rain continued.

For the sake of my son’s health, I mustered the courage to approach the team under the awning. I pulled him aside. “Do you want to go home?” I asked. “The game isn’t over yet,” he said. “But you are soaked and it’s cold. I’m worried you’re going to get sick. And it’s just baseball,” I said. “It’s okay. I want to stay.” I said okay and went back to my wet chair in the bleachers. A few minutes later, the drops became less frequent and the umpires said the game could resume as patches of blue punched through the jam layer.

The children went back to their sides of the field, their dugouts. The parents reclaimed their spots on the bleachers.I could hear their voices nearby. They talked about the rain delay. They talked about the score. They scolded their children for not catching the ball when they thought they should have caught the ball. They scolded the teen umpires for calling their child out when they believed that their child was safe. They cheered when a bat made big enough contact with a ball that allowed their child to run to second base without the need for scolding.

It’s all so pointless, I kept thinking. All the cheering and scolding and celebrating and complaining. But then again, what’s the point of anything? It’s all just a way to pass the time, to get through the weekend. An excuse to take pictures to hang on the wall. Something to do as a family. I don’t think it felt pointless when Riley played for all of those seven years. It was a place that he felt normal. A place where a uniform made him look like all of the other kids who had two ventricles and a spleen and their heart on the correct side of their chest pumping blood to its neighboring lungs and then to the far reaches of the body with ease. A place where I let myself believe that he was just like the other kids. And that him growing up was just a given instead of a fear sewn into my DNA that expanded and contracted with every breath.

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