There are moments when it hits me, brief openings when I catch a glimpse of how big life is. And many years later, the memories inspire, as fresh as the day they happened…
One summer evening Justin, Evan, and I were playing catch out back in the field behind our home. Everyone donned a glove and a ball cap, and we tossed two balls back and forth: a soft, spongy one for three-year-old Evan and a baseball for seven-year-old Justin. We had been out for a while, yet each throw was new and exciting. There were high flies and ground balls, line drives and one-hoppers. There were many errant throws, many rolls in the grass; and occasionally, both boys threw balls at me at the very same time.
That moment came as the daylight faded. I realized how many times each son had called me Dad: “Here, Dad.” “Catch, Dad.” “Throw it over there, Dad. “Give me a high one, Dad.” It all came together, and the colors intensified with the smell of leather and grass, the pop of the ball hitting the mitt, the sweet smell of sweat in each little boy’s hair….
I’m playing catch with my sons, I thought. And I didn’t want it to end. I wanted the sun to hang on just a little longer that night. I didn’t want to say, “It’s time to head in.” I wanted to immerse myself in the joy of catch, the excitement of two boys, and the youth that burned in me at that moment.
Some of my fondest memories as a child were of playing catch with my dad. It’s amazing how brightly these early days still shine in my mind. It reminds me of a scene in the movie Field of Dreams, when the main character gets to play catch with his dad. It’s a complex situation—the father is younger than the son since he’s come back as a ghost—but it’s as simple as it gets. It’s a sweet healing moment between father and son, a mending woven with the gentle request, “Hey, Dad, do you want to play catch?” I’ve talked with enough people to know how true this is, how the ritual of “catch” can heal wounds or bring two people closer together.
On this night I soaked it all in. I reveled in the sprints of two boys chasing spheres across the sky, in their smiles and laughs, in their triumphs, and in their gazes of pure determination. As the light faded, we squeezed in as many catches as possible until we were nearly playing by sense of smell.
Time to head in.
Walking back to the house, I couldn’t resist touching their beautiful heads, the heat rising through their ball caps. I tapped and touched and rubbed them all the way and tripped over my tongue as I searched for something to say. As it turned out, I didn’t say anything about our game of catch until they were asleep and snuggled in bed. All I could think of as I said my last good night to their sleeping poses was, “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you….”