It was spring again. The bees buzzed, the birds sang their beautiful love songs and the flowers blossomed as if to a perfect plan of creation.
Oh the beauty of springtime! It’s a shame that we allow ourselves to forget and overlook the small joys that life has to offer as we grow up. We forget what it’s like to keep caterpillars in a jar and watch them evolve into beautiful butterflies. We overlook the morning dew that makes the dandelions in the yard look like little yellow flower shaped diamonds as the warm rising sun glistens off the tiny droplets. Such small, but magnificent beauties are only noticed by the very young, the incarcerated, and the very old.
The incarcerated “see” because they are deprived of all other worldly distractions that they once enjoyed, and are forced to open their eyes to search their desolate enviorment for hope. The very old “see” because they have realized the fast approaching inevitability of death and want to savor the last few moments of their waning lives. As both the incarcerated and very old “see” they don’t only take pleasure in the present but they also tap into a deep well of memories. And, as they reminisce in these memories, they are filled with an abundance of joy, happiness and love that extinguishes their despair. “Seeing” creates a sense of tranquility and understanding because it allows us to fully comprehend the beauties and truths of life. But unlike the incarcerated and the old who only open their eyes out of fear and desperation, the very young see because they are born with the gifts of innocence and ignorance that momentarily shield them from the distractions of this world.
Some say that children only see the small and overlooked because they haven’t seen them before, however, I disagree. If you observe a child you’ll notice that they are peculiar creatures. A child can sit in front of a television set watching the same movie or show for hours every day and enjoy it no less than the first time they saw it. Adults can’t understand how the same old thing can remain intriguing to a child when they already know what is going to happen next. But that’s because adults can’t “see”. People who can see realize that just because you’ve seen something before doesn’t make it any less beautiful or inspiring when you see it again. And that’s why children can watch the same thing over and over, they “see”, and as they see they are amazed by the sights of such beauty and wonders, no matter how small or insignificant.
At 8 years old I could still see as I ran onto the baseball field with my leather glove on my hand. The mixed scents of freshly mowed grass and cooking hot dogs from the concession stand clung to the cool, but humid, Alabama breeze. I was sweating profusely in my red and white little league Cardinals uniform, though I didn’t mind. I took up my position on the pitcher’s mound next to the umpire who was inspecting balls that he would soon drop into the humming pitching machine before him and looked into the outfield. I spotted my little brother, Victor, red faced, hat low, small fist pumping in and out of his rather large glove, and spitting out sunflower seed shells. I nodded at my right hand man and smiled. I’d never have guessed that at 18 this little innocent boy who was smiling back at me with a huge toothy grin would be charged with attempted murder and given 35 years in prison for beating a suspected child molester into a coma. But life has its way of working, doesn’t it?
The evening sun was still warm and reflected brightly off of the white bases and chalk lines of the infield. I turned my attention to the small white boy at home plate who was nervously awaiting the umpire to drop the ball into the pitching machine. Sensing the pitch was coming soon my entire team and I began to chant, “Hey batter, batter, batter, batter.” Repeatedly. I don’t remember the importance of this game, though I clearly recall seeing my family there, but the only person I really wanted to be there to watch me play was Grandpa.
He didn’t come to many of my games because his health was declining, but I understood and just appreciated that he could make it to this game. Smiling with proud satisfaction, he sat ramrod straight with a hand resting upon the handle of the portable oxygen bottle he always carried, and watched attentively. I noticed that his eyes looked so sad and they were shining as if he was about to cry. Back then I thought everyone was the same; I even tried to put Crisco in my hair to make it wavy like my black friends because I had no clue. I was so innocent. But now, as a man, I realize that out of all of the people that were watching the game with their eyes, he was the only person seeing with his heart. He was aware of the approaching inevitability of his death and was savoring the beauty and truth of life.
The umpire dropped a ball into the pitching machine three times, and each time the ball flew out like a hissing hornet and the little white kid flailed and missed the ball. “Strike three, you’re out” the umpire yelled and the boy walk off the field with his head down, stinging with embarrassment.
“Play deep! Play deep!” I called out to my team mates when I saw the heavy set boy who had just hit a homerun a few innings before approach the plate. He was a slugger and always hit the ball far, so my teammates scooted back and readied themselves. A tall lanky boy was smirking at us as he practiced his swing on deck. The heavy set boy wagged the bat confidently and when the ball came he swung, and smashed the ball high into the outfield. One of my teammates called out that he had it but the ball bounced off the rim of his glove and rolled on the ground. He scrambled after the ball and finally threw it to second base to keep the heavy set kid at first base.
When I turned around the tall lanky boy was hovering over home plate in a crouched stance, which was surprisingly low, with his bat cocked back. The first pitch came and he hit it foul over the protective fence. The spectators behind it yelled “Watch out!” or something to that effect as the ball fell to the ground. When the second ball came the lanky boy uncoiled like a spring and struck the ball. The ball leaped from the aluminum bat with a loud ping and it flew levelly about six feet off the field. I saw the ball coming; I jumped with my gloved hand in the air, and caught the ball. When I came down with the ball I held it out proudly showing everyone that I had caught it. But I didn’t hear applause. Everyone rooting for my team was standing, pointing and yelling. I was confused and looked around. I realized that the heavyset kid was trying to run back to first base to tag up. I knew that if I threw the ball to the first baseman before he got there, he’d be out, so I did. Then, the cheers erupted and echoed across the field. My teammates and I ran off the field happy and ready for snacks. I don’t remember who won because kids seldom keep score. Keeping score is what we are eventually taught by adults who like to know if they are better than another, and that’s exactly what keeping score is. So, oblivious to what I had just done, I jogged into the crowd of parents and sought out grandpa, who beamed excitedly. Everyone high fived or congratulated me on getting a double play. I didn’t know that since I had caught the ball for one out, and then threw it to first for a second out, which is called a double play, that it was so great. I was just having fun. So, I smiled politely and stood looking up at my grandfather as he ruffled my hair with a meaty hand.
Today, I feel extremely lucky that I got my first double play during the last game my grandfather would ever see me play. He’d never get to see how many times I struck out in baseball and life. And now that I realize that he was “seeing” me when I got that double play it makes me cry, because I know that when he passed shortly after, that memory was deep in his soul and helped him find peace and happiness. And all I ever wanted was to make him happy.