My only sister’s first child arrived, and I didn’t know what to do. He was small and angry and a boy. I perched on a chair in the hospital room and held him so tightly that he went “awk!” and then gave him a onesie that was far too big for his first Opening Day. He wore it a year later.
My nephew was a toddler, and I didn’t know what to do. He didn’t see me enough to remember who I was from visit to visit from Florida, so I put on the only jacket I owned and took him in his backyard and tossed him a ball while he waved a giant plastic bat. His follow-through was terrible but so were my splitters. Nobody cared.
My nephew was in grade school, and I didn’t know what to do. He stood in the outfield of his grade school ballfield, crouching down with his glove out whenever an opposing batter stood in the box. An opposing batter stood in the box a lot. It took the entire inning to get whoever was catching into the gear. It was near June and this was the first time I’d seen him play this season. I had a husband by now, and turned to him.
“Let’s move home,” I said.
My nephew was in middle school, and I didn’t know what to do. He had never seen a championship team in his lifetime, so I took him to Redsfest to see mine. He dashed back and forth between autograph lines, carefully sliding ticket stubs and baseball cards from the plastic sheets of a binder, eating pizza balanced on one foot. There’s one slot open for his own. “This is important, Aunt Beth,” he says, pointing to the schedule of appearances.
“Very,” I said.
My nephew was in junior high, and I didn’t know what to do. His two younger brothers were with us at Great American Ball Park. One was crying and other one was confused. I handed one to his uncle and took the hand of the other, realizing, not for the first time, that more children than adults is a party invitation to disaster. The eldest’s peanut allergy meant that I was constantly glancing around as though the row of seats were a mine field. I kept shooting glances at him in the seat next to me to make sure he was 1) entertained 2) still alive.
“It’s okay, Aunt Beth,” he said. “I’m just sitting here watching baseball.”
My nephew was in high school, and I didn’t know what to do. His baseball career ended a month ago. I sat on the concrete step of a football stadium, watching two clumps of teenage boys wave sticks with a net on the end. I had no idea what was happening. I registered nothing beyond my cold butt and the sight of my godson standing with his teammates on the sideline, a number on his back and the name of his high school in the end zone. I watched the baseball team filter back from practice past the field. He didn’t even turn around. He was laughing with his teammates.
The coach sent him in.
“He has the ball, he has the ball,” my sister said, rising from her seat, and I knew what to do.
“I AM PROUD OF YOU,” I yelled.
On the way home, we listened to the Reds game on the radio.