I guess I never thought of Howard as a man who would cheat. I always smugly assumed that if any cheating were to be done, it would be me. He’s loyal to the core.
I remember back 100 years, when we were in our early to mid-twenties. It was dawning on me that basically my first boyfriend might be my only boyfriend, so I started probing the boundaries of our bonds, until finally in Switzerland, of all places, on New Year’s Eve, of all nights, I gathered the courage to talk about a possible break. I mean, he had pretty much the same lack of experience that I did. Maybe we could mutually agree on a short hiatus? The idea that he might want a little freedom as well, excited and terrified me. Here’s how our conversation went…
Me (Stunning, snow-capped Alps in the background) – So I was thinking… we’ve been together so long. Do you ever wonder about if we’re really right for each other?
Howard – No.
Me – I mean, we really never dated other people. You’re not curious at all?
Howard – No.
Me – Don’t you think it might be good for our relationship to, I don’t know, see what’s out there, just to make sure…?
Howard – No.
Me – “I worry that we started so young and don’t really –
Howard (Firm, confident and kind of cute.) – No. We’re good. There is nothing we are missing. Do you want to share the calamari?
He flatly refused even the discussion, and me, not really wanting to go, never did. That’s why I wasn’t prepared for his obsessive love affair that has only gotten stronger in recent years. I should have seen it coming. It’s been there all along. Oh, yeah, I’m talking about baseball.
I guess I should be happy that my initial assessment of my husband has held true. He’s not interested in other women. He is, however, interested in little boys and grown men in uniform. Okay, that didn’t come out exactly right, but you know what I mean. Anyone holding a bat, on a field has his attention. He’s a coach. He’s a player. He’s a fan. He is Mr. Baseball.
When not coaching our sons on the field, at one of their many games or practices, he’s painfully begging them to play with him on the lawn. “Come on Tyler, let’s get in a few throws.” Tyler, after initially rebuking most of his overtures, has now gotten with the program. Throw daddy a bone, or more accurately, a ball. So, when the request comes, Tyler will look up from the television or game that he’s contentedly involved in, and generally look to me with a patient, knowing little smile, that says, “Okay, I’m going to play with daddy. Daddy needs to play.”
Overall, Michael is more eager for the practice time, but he too, can be fickle and deny Howard his play, leaving him at the door like a dog with a leash in his mouth. At least, little Julius is always at the ready, and Howard is happily prepping our youngest on the lawn to soon take over on the fields. He has high hopes for that one.
Every time they have one of their “sessions.” I am inevitably called out to bear witness to his amazing 4 year-old potential. “Did you see him self-hit??” Howard will ask with amazement. “Eight year-olds can’t do that.” I watch. It’s cute. I’m duly impressed, but Howard has a momentous, lit expression. He’s nodding like a bobble-head. “Did you see that? Amazing, right?” Of course, I agree. Julius is amazing (they’re all amazing – sorry, equal billing), but to me baseball is a game. To Howard, it’s life, and as such, it’s my life, which makes it a little annoying.
Baseball in the morning. Baseball in the afternoon. Baseball on the television all night long. Howard is making the roster. Howard is coaching the team. Howard is at the field. Howard is playing his own middle-aged softball version of the game he used to love. Howard has board meetings. Howard has coaches meetings. Howard, who can’t pack a lunch, lovingly packs the baseball bags. Annoying. Oh, I said that already.
I am far from the only wife to take the aggrieved cheerleader role in her husband and children’s sport experience.
I am on this bandwagon with many friends. It’s a support group.
“I’m doing laundry every day!”
“I had to drive to Syosset yesterday at 7am.”
“My husband had them out playing on the lawn till 11’oclock at night.”
“My husband had them doing drills.”
“My husband had them doing drills, at 11’oclock at night, with a broken arm and saddle bags tied to their legs.”
We dutifully pull our chairs and our other children to the fields to shout and applaud. Root, root, root for the home team. Watch my boy on the mound. Hold my breath. Jump and cheer. God, he’s gorgeous. Okay, fine, so I love watching them play. I never said I didn’t. I just was annoyed I couldn’t go to the gym this morning because it rained last night, and Howard had to leave extra early to check the field before the game. There you have it. The selfish truth.
Howard may be a bit over-enthusiastic, but there are dads on the fields far crazier. I see them. You know who they are. So while baseball may be overwhelming to me in my house, I recognize that I am a mom of boys and I married a ball player. I am proud that my house regularly has my husband on the lawn playing with the boys. He’s a really good dad. It’s a feather in my baseball cap.
Often, when Howard’s leaving for work he’ll say, “Why don’t you have a catch or practice hitting with them.” I roll my eyes. “Your job.” I say, and shove him out the door. But when he’s gone, and we’re all out on the lawn, a funny thing always happens.
“Pitch to me mommy.” They chant.
And happily, I do.