A View from the Backyard
(pictured Austin, Davis, Reed, Cole, Blake, 2002)
It is not often one sits down to eat a meal amongst heroes, but yesterday was my blessed day.
A young man was seated next to me, lamenting the music choice of the DJ at an event we were attending, while chewing relentlessly on Montgomery Inn ribs. When asked about family vacations, he chattered endlessly that he didn’t have time for vacations, he’s got “stuff” going on… lifting for football season, then he shows me the picture of a young woman he had invited to attend the event with him. She had declined due to volleyball practice. He bemoaned another young woman whom he had accompanied to homecoming, said she wanted to get to know him better and then broke up with him shortly thereafter. Our table had quite the laugh. “Women,” I exclaimed, and my husband chimed in agreement.
The young man rose from the table and wandered about, talking to various guests. I was also privileged to sit at the table with this young man’s older brother. He talked about his summer spent away from his family, playing baseball up and down the East Coast at colleges such as UVA and UNC. He told me in the next breath that he would also be visiting Ohio State and Miami soon. Both coaches had made contact with him regarding their baseball teams. We laughed, “Thank goodness its not football!” (Sorry OSU fans!). When asked if he was considering East Coast schools at all, he mentioned the usual equation: out of state costs – minus scholarships = decision point. Having sent two off to college already, we understood the math of finding a college closer to home. He casually mentioned wanting to make is easier on his mom and dad. While his point may have been financially-driven, it was emotionally-packed too.
The first young hero was my backyard neighbor Cole. Struck by a batted ball two years ago, he suffered a traumatic brain injury, and on the road to recovery was met with many new challenges, including dystonia. His parents have traveled the country to find treatments (deep brain stimulation) that will allow Cole to regain more control over his motor movements. I love this boy, and had written about him before, how he held my son’s hand so many years ago and led him through the darkened wooded path that separated our two homes so Davis could be surrounded by this wonderful family of boys.
And while Cole was a first friend of Davis’, his brother Reed, the other hero, became the older brother Davis never had. Through teasing, baseball, food and general conversation, he modeled for Davis the actions – and antics – of an older brother.
As I sat through dinner, a fundraiser for children with TBI, I reflected on Reed, how he had matured since the backyard baseball days. And how much he had to grow up, when his younger brother was severely injured. And to speak of lifting the load of his parents was cause for me to hide my joy and tears. Not many teenagers could swallow the notion of making sacrifices for a younger sibling. While I assume he still beats up on Cole, compassion and determination have become his constant companions along the path these past two years.
The reality is that this has not been Cole’s journey alone. It has been a family trek. No one in that family has not been impacted by the turn of events on a warm May afternoon.
Before the fundraiser, I had been visiting with a sick friend in the hospital. Knowing she had been confined to a room at UC for over six weeks, I ruminated on my own marathon hospital visits, and certainly those of Cole and his family.
I was reading aloud to her a book of haiku, poems written mainly by Japanese poets, but also by the beat poets Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerourac. Poetry for me had always been a sort of prayer, but also an opportunity to capture a moment, like a Polaroid camera once did.
“The taste of rain –
The author who had compiled these haiku also added her insights into the meaning and relevance of each. As she explained this particular one, she cited a Japanese phrase that translated to, “the poignancy of the transient moment.”
We cannot attach ourselves to the joy and pain of every living thing. But last night sitting at dinner, listening to talk about baseball and country music, I at once felt buoyed by my relationship with both these heroes.
It is a moment that I will remember, and remember the tenderness of it all.