I have been walking one or more of my children to that school since 2007. Today was the last day.
This wouldn’t matter so much if those seven-minute walks hadn’t been my favorite moments to be alive.
I have been walking one or more of my children to that school since 2007. Today was the last day.
This wouldn’t matter so much if those seven-minute walks hadn’t been my favorite moments to be alive.
This marks my 16th summer of being a dad and my 11th with three kids in the posse. Despite my love of the game, the complete lack of interest from any of my descendants in watching baseball has been a defining aspect of my parenthood, leading me to firmly give up on the prospect of it ever happening.
Feeling Opening Day excitement and the writing bug late on a Saturday …
• I’m reasonably excited about this year’s Dodger team, but part of that is a perverse excitement about just how bad on offense that left side of the infield might be, at least while Hanley Ramirez is out. That makes the decision to go with Justin Sellers fun for kicks, however dubious. Still, I have always liked the idea of emphasizing defense where offense isn’t an option.
• It only just now occurred to me that I was in the stands last year at the game in which Sellers was hurt and the one in which Dee Gordon was hurt.
• Do you realize this will no doubt be the fourth consecutive year that Kenley Jansen isn’t the Opening Day closer but eventually moves into that role?
• One thing I don’t miss about baseball season is the whining whenever a save gets blown, as if it should never happen. Heaven knows, though, it will happen.
• I think lingering effects of his labrum injury will keep Matt Kemp below 25 home runs this year, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be productive.
• At first, I thought that with no true right-handed outfielder in reserve, the Dodgers would need to keep Adrian Gonzalez and Andre Ethier spaced out in their lineup, or lefty relievers will just crush the team. But Gonzalez has had success against left-handers, so that helps. It’s still not necessarily a bad idea to insert a right-hander between them, though – as long as it’s a decent one.
• My initial plan for any free writing time that emerged this spring was that I would spend it offline on a long-term project. I did begin work on that project early this month, but with baseball season starting, I’m wavering. What might happen is a mix, where I post on Dodger Thoughts not infrequently, but not comprehensively. The risk is feeling like I’m doing both things halfway.
• Another intervening factor in my life is that Youngest Master Weisman, now 5, is six days away from his first T-ball season, and he is raring to go. (His team: the Tigers.) After playing with a pretend ball inside the house several times, we made it out to the park for the first time, and he was knocking balls through the infield and reaching the grass. Also in the past day, I’ve begun trying to teach him how to scoop balls on defense. It’s crazy.
• Older brother Young Master Weisman, now 8 1/2, took a few swings, but piano is his game. He’s composing his own material for his May recital performance. Young Miss Weisman, a whopping 10 1/2, is also wonderful on the keys.
My youngest child, who will be 5 in two months, is the first of my three children to show any kind of broad interest in sports. Playing sports, that is – I still live in a house completely unadorned with anyone who would voluntarily watch a sporting event on television except in the least dire of circumstances, or watch one in person without the promise of a constant stream of stadium food to distract and delight.
In fact, there are very few sports my 8- and 10-year old like to play. Other than goofing around in the swimming pool, the only one they really seem taken with is skiing – the most expensive one they could have picked. They’re rather remarkable at it, considering they only get to do it one week a year, thanks to the largesse of my parents. Young Master Weisman is a true burner, while Young Miss Weisman is technically skilled and in fact won the slalom race in her ski-school class because she was more prepared to make quick, smooth turns. Both tackled their first black-diamond runs two weeks ago with hardly a hitch.
But Youngest Master Weisman has a roll call of sports that he’s into. In addition to doing his first full green run on the slopes this month, he is interested in basketball, baseball, golf (well, putting), taekwondo, swimming and soccer. He’s been playing soccer on Sundays for roughly a year now, failing, like his dad, to be bored by it within the first five minutes. (A constant supply of Goldfish crackers doesn’t seem to hurt.)
In his current soccer class or whatever you would call it, he’s in a group of 4-year-olds that includes several of his ability – and one who’s young Pele. Now, my son is rather astonishingly coordinated given his genetics, but he is not on the same planet as this ball-magnet, shoot-from-any-angle dynamo. And so when they play games in the second half-hour, some other non-Pele parents and I get a little edgy, because none of our kids are as quick to the ball as Pele. Though I did introduce my son to the word “assist,” it’s not like age 4 is the moment where kids are prepared to learn the glory of passing.
During today’s activity, I toyed with the idea of asking the coaches whether they were going to consider moving Pele up to the next level of soccer players – promote him to Double-A ball, so to speak. After all, in addition to being sort of an innocent ballhog (the kid doesn’t seem anything but nice) who was depriving everyone else their fair share of touches, it seems clear that it can only be good for his development to play against better competition.
Then I second-guessed myself. A huge chunk of my parenting hours are spent repeating “You get what you get, and you don’t get upset” in one form or another. Why should I go out of my way to remove this layer of character-building adversity? I think I’m so prepared for my kids to fall out of love with a given sport that I’ve become afraid of anything that might discourage them. But now I’m dealing from strength, with a kid who really seems to have a taste for sports in general. (Plus, if there’s one sport I’m willing to have my son surrender, it’s soccer.)
And there is an upside to this. The presence of Pele could inspire or essentially force my son to play better, or teach him how to handle situations where everything doesn’t go his way. It’s not easy to watch, but at the same time, it’s everything I’m looking for.
When the session ended, my son came off the field and said in a happy voice, “I didn’t score any goals, but my team won!” I mean, what more could you ask for than that?
Five minutes later, he burst into tears because I wouldn’t buy him Cheetos as a follow-up to all the Goldfish.
The last thing I did this morning before walking out the door for work was hug and kiss goodbye my 4-year-old, who was singing and playing with our electric keyboard. I walked out to the car, my iPhone in hand, preparing to try out a new podcast for the 15-minute drive to work.
Got in the car, hooked in my iPhone, belted, turned on the car ignition and looked over my shoulder.
I looked. I did look.
But it was a quick look, a glance, a blurry glance. It was a look without any intention of seeing, and in fact, I had already shifted the car into reverse and begun to lift my foot off the brake pedal when the image registered in my consciousness of my 4-year-old running over to finish saying goodbye to me.
I looked. I did look.
And he wasn’t behind the car. He was to the side of the rear of the vehicle. I wouldn’t have hit him. But it was just way, way too close. And a different image rests in my brain.
Put the car in park, unbelted, got out, picked him up and hugged him tight in that way where you’re scolding him, yourself, and everyone and everything in the world for allowing tragedy to lurk around every corner, at any moment.
Now I’m at work.
As this year nears a close, I want to offer a particular salute and thank you to one person.
This was no less a rewarding a year of parenting for my wife and I than any other, but it did happen to be our most intimidating. Everything’s relative – we are thankful for the health and happiness in our home and only hope it continues. But you could say we dealt with some unexpected developments.
To those challenges, my wife responded like a field general. A field general who didn’t hide her fears, but a field general nonetheless. Despite how overwhelmed she felt at times, she did not slink from what needed to be done, doing all the research, finding all the right people to help, making it all happen, and all the while juggling the mundane duties that in the grand scheme of things would have been easy to let slide. At times we felt we were going off a cliff, but she not only kept us from falling, you could now say as we reach year’s end that we actually have seen signs of soaring.
My contribution on these matters was mainly to be the one who usually got up in the middle of the night whenever our 3-year-old needed a little love or lavatory. The real mountain-moving was left to my wife. When I think back on the year, I’m kind of amazed by what she accomplished.
So to whatever extent you have enjoyed Dodger Thoughts this year, join me in sending a bit o’ thanks to my better half, who shouldered so much of our household burdens and made my work life that much easier. You don’t see her influence, but she makes a huge difference.
It ended with a single, a grounder in the infield that the other kids couldn’t field efficiently enough to throw my son out at first. Some might have called it an error, except when the players are four feet tall or so, you don’t call anything an error.
It ended with a good feeling, which was something that seemed far from assured not long before.
There was no press conference, but if you check the transactions wire, you’ll see the news. My 6-year-old has retired from baseball.
This was my son’s third season of playing baseball — T-ball, to be more precise, in 2009 and 2010, and coach-pitch this year. I’ve occasionally written about it in the past. There’ve been moments, but it’s never been a sport that he has really enjoyed.
His attitude at practices has mostly been good, considering that he’s not really into the game. But he almost never wanted to play when he didn’t have to. He would have liked to have been better at it, but he didn’t care enough to make the effort to do so, no matter how fun I tried to make it. One of the ongoing mysteries of parenting: not just when to push, but how to push.
It’s entirely possible that my passion for baseball weirded him out from it, though it’s also entirely possible that he wanted to like the game but just couldn’t make himself do so. It was telling, I think, that his favorite part of practice this year was at the very end, when the coaches just had the kids in a glorified game of pickle, and all he had to do was run around like a crazy man.
In the games themselves, his favorite thing to do was to hit, but he really, really struggled at it, and for much of this season, he got worse as it went on. At first, he was making contact, but it would seem like a fluke because his stance was a mess, even by 6-year-old standards. So we’d try to work with him on his stance, but he was very resistant to instruction – prideful, perhaps, or just not wanting to feel pressured into doing something.
So things evolved to where his natural but ugly stance evolved into an unnatural and even uglier stance. It was like a visual representation of angst. Everything was off, and it couldn’t have been more uncomfortable. There was one practice where he swung and missed at more than 20 pitches in a row. Even if you don’t dream of growing up to be Hank Aaron, that’s disheartening.
He is so much fun and has so many other interests. He does well in first grade. My wife and I agreed that three seasons of this game were enough if it wasn’t something he wanted to do. And my feeling was, if he ever decided, two or four or 10 years from now, that he wanted to try again, he’d make so much faster progress once he cared than he would if we kept sending him out there with nothing but a little kid’s stiff upper lip.
So we put the choice to him last month: We were going to finish out this season, but if he wanted to play again next year, it would be his call.
“Hooray!” he exclaimed.
That left the remaining week of the 2011 schedule — and then, another week. See, we thought his final game would be before Memorial Day, but it turned out that there was a makeup game that would be played afterward. So just when everyone thought he had played his final game, another unfulfilling one, there was actually another.
Here’s what happened. In the final two at-bats of his season and maybe his career, his stance all of a sudden came together. It looked like a little boy’s stance should look. And instead of missing each pitch as he so often had, he hit the ball — hit it pretty well, all things considered.
And I was just so happy for him that he could walk away from the game — for the moment or forever — on his own terms, with that feeling that he could do it if he wanted to. An early Father’s Day present, now that I think of it.
When he crossed home plate for the final time, we packed up his gear, grabbed his team photos and dashed off to rehearsal for his piano recital the next day, with camp, swimming and all kinds of summer fun ahead of him.
The craziest thing of all: All this experience has taken place before his seventh birthday. When I turned 7, I hadn’t yet played in a baseball game in my life.
In the middle of Memorial Day, my wife and I punished my two oldest children. We love them more than life itself and have the highest hopes for them, but of course that doesn’t eliminate the paths to frustration with them.
In particular, they have developed some sort of simultaneous mental block to saying hello to people they know. They resist a friendly greeting like some sort of evil bacteria. I understand shyness – I was the shyest one in my family as a kid and it still crops up from time to time today. But these kids got to the point Monday where their grandparents, who have been very good to them, said hello and the kids didn’t so much as look up. It wasn’t shy – it was dismissive.
That ain’t right. It’s damn vexing, and it only seems to be getting worse. To be sure, my wife and I are wondering what we’ve done wrong to cause this and what we should or shouldn’t do to solve it. But in the meantime, taking away some of the kids’ Nintendo DS privileges seemed a logical stopover en route to the next parenting solution station.
Over the next couple of hours, the kids hardly snapped out of their funk.
At the end of the afternoon, we went to see my 101-year-old grandmother, who is deteriorating rapidly now in a manner that is difficult to take, especially for my father. It was not an easy place for any of us, including single-digit age children who, for the first time in their lives, are face to face with someone whose mind and body are failing.
But when we had all but given up hope on the kids salvaging the day, they came alive. They were not only friendly, but they went and put their piano lessons to tremendous use, playing an impromptu mini-concert for Grandma Sue and a few others at the assisted living home, something so wonderful that thinking about it now does something to my head that I can’t find the words to describe. They did something for this woman, who whom they essentially can no longer communicate with through words because of her hearing and speech decline, that I could never do.
I hope I’ll never forget that moment. I know I won’t forget, at least until my mind goes, the look on my grandmother’s face as we were leaving, a look of direct melancholy but also of one that had been engaged in the world at least one more time.
Anyway, I started writing this tonight after the Dodgers took a 5-1 lead against Colorado and reached this final paragraph with the scorer 8-2, on the way to what hopefully for them and their fans will be their third straight authoritative victory, with the plan of drawing a connection of how quickly simmering frustration can turn to elation. That seems a bit forced now that I’ve gotten to this point, so all I’ll say now is that I’ll never cease to be surprised by how often I can be surprised, much less blown away.
Not to make light of it, but this has been Grandma Sue’s roughest century.
She was all but self-sufficient until the age of 95, and still very much herself in her sharpness and personality through last year, when she hit the milestone of her 100th birthday. But it hasn’t been the same for most of the past 12 months, with her memory and ability to recognize people slipping.
The instructions are for no emergency life-saving procedures to be taken on Grandma’s behalf. Last summer, I got a call early on a Sunday that she had collapsed. I’m about seventh or eighth on the protocol – it was as if the Secretary of the Interior had been told he was in charge. I stood there on the phone, faced, as far as I could gather, with the decision of letting her go. I wasn’t prepared.
After a minute of being just frozen, I told her nurse to call 911. I just couldn’t be the one.
I drove to her apartment in the assisted living facility near UCLA, arriving after the paramedics. She lay there on the floor, unconscious. But breathing. A couple of hours later, in a hospital bed, she began to come out of it.
I didn’t really know what to think. We were taking it day to day after that, but that was about 10 months ago or so. She’s still going. For a couple of those months, she was doing pretty well, but then a slide began. At my uncle’s 80th birthday party in February, she couldn’t really place my kids. This week, I got a message to call her, and when I reached her, she kept calling me Jack and seemed to have me confused with someone else. It was like talking to a distant spirit.
Overall, I have seen her and talked to her very little in recent months. I haven’t been a good grandson, in the slightest. There’s no making up for it. But we’ll see her tonight, and in a quiet way, celebrate her incredible life.
Three years ago today came our little big man. In the time since, he has shown himself to be absolutely the most joyous person I have ever known, utterly friendly and curious, and yes, more than a little devilish and, well, dashing.
Happy birthday, my boy.
Previously on Dodger Thoughts:
Here’s a story …
Making our way through the rain, my 6-year-old and I arrived tonight at his 6:15 p.m. basketball practice a couple of minutes early. The gym was almost empty, so he had a chance to take some shots. They were all really short, barely getting airborne. That wouldn’t have been unusual a year ago, but he has shown this year he can make a basket on occasion.
I wanted to get him to bring his arm back and cock his wrist a little bit more. He really seemed to be short-arming the ball. Now, the boy has made it pretty clear that he doesn’t like to get athletic advice from me hardly at all, so I’ve hardly said a word to him this season, leaving it to his capable and easygoing coach. But all I wanted to do was give him this small guidance.
He was having nothing of it. I reminded him a) how little I try to force my hoops instruction on him and b) he is supposed to listen to me per the father-son paperwork we filed with … well, no, there isn’t any such paperwork, but there should be.
Nothing. He was doing everything he could to avoid hearing me. He tried to take another shot, and out of frustration, I swatted it. Mean old dad. But a dad who, for crying out loud, would just like to get to be a dad at one of these moments.
The couple of minutes passed, and his coach called the boys in to start practice. (A small group to this point – only three had made it on time through the rain.)
I sat down on one of the folding chairs on the sideline. I did not hide my displeasure. I wanted him to see my frown. I almost never do this at his sports practices, but I wanted to make my point.
Without even half a team, the coach started the boys off on a layup drill, or something close to that. My boy dribbled up, shot the ball … up, up, and into the basket.
He looked at me with an almost-but-not-completely sheepish smile. I didn’t alter my frown an inch.
The other two boys shot, and then it was back to mine. He dribbled up, shot the ball – in.
He looked over, smiling unabashedly. I let my lips turn ever so slightly up.
Next turn … he shoots, it’s in. He smiles big. I lean back, sigh, and smile unsurely, not completely positive I should let him off the hook but finding it very hard not to.
Fourth shot. Four in a row? Oh freaking yes. He looks over at me and is smiling so big, his eyes are aglow.
I’m smiling just as big. He’s melted me completely. In the car ride home, he tells me he’s the best basketball player in the world.
When Egypt and Israel signed their peace treaty in 1979, my Dad explained the significance of it to me by saying that it was “like Babe Ruth dying.”
I was 11 years old. I guess that’s how you communicated with me back then.
I’ll need a different touchstone for my kids to explain the importance of what happened this week. I’m thinking maybe, Harry Potter … (but doing something a bit less grave. Dad could be a serious fellow sometimes.)
One of the victims of the tragic shooting in Arizona on Saturday was the daughter of Dodger scout John Green and granddaughter of former Phillies manager Dallas Green.
Nine-year-old Christina Taylor Green was among six people killed, including U.S. District Judge John Roll, and 12 others wounded, including Arizona congressperson Gabrielle Giffords, on Saturday in a mass shooting in a Tucson mall.
“We lost a member of the Dodgers family today,” Dodger owner Frank McCourt said late last night in a statement. “The entire Dodgers organization is mourning the death of John’s daughter Christina, and will do everything we can to support John, his wife Roxana and their son Dallas in the aftermath of this senseless tragedy. I spoke with John earlier today and expressed condolences on behalf of the entire Dodgers organization.”
Christina Taylor Green was born the day of the September 11 tragedy in 2001 and was featured in a book, “Faces of Hope,” on children who shared that birthday. According to reports, she had just been elected to the student council in her elementary school and had been invited to meet Giffords’ at her community gathering as a result. Her father told the Arizona Daily Star that she had become interested in politics from a young age. She also played second base on her Little League baseball team, the paper said.
John Green is the Dodgers’ East Coast supervisor of amateur scouting. Dallas Green pitched for eight seasons in the majors in the 1960s, then managed the Phillies to their first World Series title in 1980. He later managed the Phillies and Mets.
Dodger general manager Ned Colletti’s first job in baseball, as assistant to chief publicist Bob Ibach of the Chicago Cubs, came at the same time as Dallas Green was hired as general manager of the Cubs.
In recent days, more than eight years after our first child was born and more than two years after our third, we’ve retired the stroller and the Pack ‘n Play. Tonight, it appears, we’re done with the crib. The final moments in the high chair are nigh, leaving us only with diapers as the last vestige of little children of a certain age.
Clinging to the memories of their youngest days, clinging to our babies in a capricious world.
Warning: Non-baseball content ahead
Frustrated with my kids for chronic insubordination, I turned to desperate measures. I started reading “To Kill a Mockingbird” to them.
That’s no statement against the book – anything but. Harper Lee’s novel is iconic to me. I mean, it’s the Atticus Finch of novels, the Gregory Peck of publications. What more do you need to say about it? It is righteous in the best possible way, and I was resorting to it in the hopes that just by wielding it, its energy would turn things around.
But the book is arguably too mature for my 8-year-old daughter and definitely so for my 6-year-old son. (My 2-year-old boy listened with cheerful indifference for a few minutes.) Even the title was off-putting, my daughter going out of her way to make it clear that she didn’t want to read about any dead birds. I would have turned straight to the movie, but my kids have a much greater willingness to listen to words they don’t entirely understand than a willingness to watch anything in black-and-white, a bias that I have been unable to conquer with anything except Lucy Ricardo selling Vitameatavegamin.
The first paragraph of “Mockingbird” is promising: In those opening lines alone, we get football and a broken, misshapen arm. But immediately, the book then takes a dangerous turn into ancestral backgrounds that are more in keeping with “War and Peace.” My kids’ had limited sympathy for Scout having no ancestors who fought in the Battle of Hastings. As soon as the second page, I found myself having to skip ahead, past the history of Simon Finch’s persecution at the hands of the Methodists, onto the relative excitement of Atticus passing the bar.
The vocabulary challenges also escalated: If I wasn’t having to explain what an apothecary was, I suddenly was finding myself having exposed my kids to “jackass” and “son-of-a-bitch” on page 3, all in the context of an early Atticus case defending two, well, murderers. Live by the sword, die by the sword. That’s your grade-school bedtime reading for the night.
On the fourth page, before you even find out that your narrator Scout is a girl, you find out about Scout’s mother dying young. I was in a death spiral of my own.
Hope came in the next few pages, with the funny introduction of Dill, whose braggadocio about his reading ability got a laugh from my son. Shortly, on the seventh page, the specter of Boo Radley received its full, curdling introduction: Inside the house lived a malevolent phantom.
The clock having passed 9 p.m., half an hour past the kids’ bedtime, I stopped reading there at the end of that page. I had, to say the least, equipped them with supreme nightmare material, but at least I had worn them down.
I don’t know what happens next. I don’t know if I keep reading to them (seven pages down, 270 to go). Don’t know all three of us have the energy to keep going. Maybe I quit while I’m behind. Maybe I’ve done just enough to get them to give the movie a try.
And yes, I’m aware that the material only grows more fraught with peril. I should stop, even if they start listening.
I want to keep going, though. I feel like there’s a moment here. And even though part of me knows that I’m rushing into it, part of me doesn’t want to wait.
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Thank You For Not ...
1) using profanity or any euphemisms for profanity
2) personally attacking other commenters
3) baiting other commenters
4) arguing for the sake of arguing
5) discussing politics
6) using hyperbole when something less will suffice
7) using sarcasm in a way that can be misinterpreted negatively
8) making the same point over and over again
9) typing "no-hitter" or "perfect game" to describe either in progress
10) being annoyed by the existence of this list
11) commenting under the obvious influence
12) claiming your opinion isn't allowed when it's just being disagreed with
Dodgers at home: 1,028-812 (.558695)
When Jon attended: 338-267 (.558677)*
When Jon didn’t: 695-554 (.556)
* includes road games attended
Dodgers at home: 51-35 (.593)
When Jon attended: 5-2 (.714)
When Jon didn’t: 46-33 (.582)
Note: I got so busy working for the Dodgers that in 2014, I stopped keeping track, much to my regret.