I thought that maybe if he could hear the urgency in my voice, it would somehow snap him into submission. I hoped that he might carry out at least a tiny detail of his morning routine. I should know better by now. But there is always hope; there must be.
The eventuality of the last game of the regular baseball season stirs me at a primal level, to some sort of overwhelming sadness, knowing that I need to withstand another blustery Chicago winter and defend my family through another flu season before my heroes take the field again.
Two times in the last three days, glass has been shattered, with intent, in a raging fit of misdirected anger. Shattered, too, was my hope that maybe, just maybe the nineteenth and twentieth medications prescribed to a boy who is not quite nine, might be having a positive effect.
“I know, you idiot. I know I broke the glass. Now, shut up. Stop talking about it, you jerk.” If only we could make it go away. The glass is not all that is broken.
He refrained from swinging at me again. In this moment, his fight was gone.
Last fall, I worked on cleaning out the old corn crib on our property. It appears to have been used as an intend-to-burn pile and random garbage depository over the years. To me, this task held nearly the same mystery as an archaeological dig. As I pulled wild rhubarb and invasive grasses that were growing through four-inch cracks in the cement floor, I marveled at the accumulated “treasures” which revealed themselves to me. There were remnants of a rug, glass vials, an old mop head, a crystal drawer handle, bullet shells, broken shards of beer bottles and mirrors, a box spring, and many other rusted, smashed, and otherwise indeterminate remnants that were most certainly an important part of something at one point in time. It would be a stretch to repurpose any of these things, and most had been charred by the fires which mustn’t have been able to keep up with the demand. Still, it was gratifying to envision what someday might be, what the future might hold for this old corn crib, as I filled dustpan after wheelbarrow. I thought, too, as I picked up the bits of broken bottles, about the glass that had been shattered, without warning, at the hands of my small son.
Near the very top of the structure was, curiously, a golf club. Lodged in the iron rails and clearly uncomfortably displaced from its best game, I imagine it must have landed there at the antics of the children who visited this farm long ago or perhaps the frustrated golfer who had lost his last golf ball somewhere in the overgrown acreage. It was to remain through our first winter here, if only because I had no idea how to get it down. I had all but forgotten about that golf club.
Winter drifted in, and then the spring, and soon came the chickens and other homestead projects and feats of unruly children which seemed to beckon themselves with greater urgency than the weeds in the corn crib.
What if we had been warned in advance that twenty medications would be ineffective? What if I had known that the tiny, helpless two-day-old boy that I held tightly at the DCFS office would nearly physically overpower me at a young age, and that my arms and legs would be decorated with bites and bruises, the battle wounds of trying to keep my child from harming others. Would a warning of what was to come have made the outcome any different?
If I knew what was going to happen, would it still happen?
If I had known that the wild rhubarb and grasses would invade the corn crib once again, would I have worked at it the first time?
Aaron came from inside the house, slamming the back door and bantering about how something wasn’t fair. I callled for him to join me in the corn crib, for I could use some help digging out these weeds which, as fall is once more upon us, have again interrupted my peaceful vision. He was nearly halfway up the inside of the structure by the time I realized what he was doing. Turning his head in my direction and flashing his baby-toothed grin, he knew I wasn’t about to stop him. He was going to get that golf club.
I had to look away. The thought of this tiny boy colliding with the jagged cement foundation was too much to bear. Had I known, I would have at least had time to pad the surface with something soft.
I wonder why the tears still came on the last day of the baseball season. The Cubs had won the division, and there was to be more, at least a few games if not a trip to the World Series, of the game that I so loved. Maybe I don’t know any better. I wonder if the Cubs will win the World Series. I wonder if I knew that answer now, whether the journey would still hold the same magic. What I do not wonder, though, is whether I will love the team, and the game, next year and all those following, no matter what happens this October.
Aaron was not angry anymore. He left the corn crib with a new skip in his step, absolutely beaming, and holding his prized possession: a Betty Jameson driver that represents determination, strength, and triumph to a little boy who is often overshadowed by things bigger than he is.
I’m glad he was brave enough to believe in himself. I believe in him, and in all of my kids. One day, I will take Ethan to a baseball game, and he won’t have to worry about the crowds, the bees, the smell of the food, or getting hit by a foul ball. Hopefully, the Cubs will be on their way to yet another championship. One day, he will know what it is like not to have to worry, to not have swirling thoughts that constantly entangle him and will not go away. He can leave that to me. Things will be different for him, one day. I just don’t think I want to know what will happen between now and then: how many times I will need to pry the wild rhubarb from the cracks in the corn crib floor; how many times our days will, like the glass, be shattered. I don’t want to know, because the magic and triumph of that day will bring glory that can come only through the experience, through the bruises, the fears, and the disbelief. And I cannot look away from that.
His Nike high top met my cheek with such a force that my glasses flew from my face. There we were in the new doctor’s office, and my boy did not want to get on the scale. This time, there was no shattered glass. I hadn’t seen it coming, and it would have been nice to have a warning. He could have at least called, “fore!” What if I had known? What if I had turned away? How could I?
Through what is broken, through what stirs your soul, through what brings your greatest joys, even through twenty more medication trials, there will always be another day, holding mystery all it’s own.