Admittedly, up to his senior year, son #2's high school baseball career was as painful as Michael Jordan's was in basketball. (Jordan was cut and fought his way back on the team...son #2 had a JV coach who begged to keep him because he saw potential where the varsity coach saw none). At a showcase his junior year, an assistant coach for a southern college saw him pitch and liked him, but alas, he was only there scouting position players and catchers.
The coach was ultimately recruited to be the head coach at a D1 school on the Canadian border. After assessing his team, the first recruit he called was my son. He received a sports scholarship when up to that point, had only pitched in one varsity high school game. Talk about seeing potential.
One rainy April Saturday during his freshman year, and the only weekend the team played in our state, Wingman made a call to the coach.With the team being only 45 minutes away, he offered to have us host a home-cooked meal for the team. A couple of hours later, the Purple Eagle bus pulled up in front of the house, and we fed 30 young men and their coaches. It was a night Wingman talked about proudly until he died, even though I did most of the cooking with my mom.
When #2 was a senior, his older brother got engaged and his Korean fiance came to live with us to learn English. One evening, there was a heated "discussion" going on between she and Wingman over God-knows-what. As I grabbed my referee shirt, the phone rang. It was #2 wanting to have a chat. Hearing the shrieks from downstairs, I said with some exasperation in my voice "Is there anything important you want to tell me? I have to go break up a fight." He replied "Mom, I hit a home run today."
This is a kid who had maybe three at-bats in high school. This was his first and only at-bat in college. Getting up to the plate is a big deal. Getting a hit is incredible. Hitting a homer puts you in the books. And as luck would have it, it was during a televised cancer charity game. Wingman got a copy of the tape and made it into a video. And on some of my sad days, I watch it, to remember not only this fun moment, but to remind me to enjoy life, because these moments pass far too soon.
Closing that chapter of his life was bittersweet for all of us. No more games, no more butterflies as he went to the mound to face the cleanup batter with two outs and bases loaded. Wingman had a harder time not having a game to go to than son #2 did. But life went on and he met and married a fabulous woman. They now have a beautiful daughter who Wingman never saw and who will never have that grandpop, which is sadder to me than the end of his baseball days.
You've all read how I spent the first half of last year rebuilding my home after Sandy. I put the brakes on anything not pertaining to the house. No social or charity events or donations because for me, charity had to begin at home. One day, I got a different type of envelope from the university than I was use to receiving, For those of you who have had kids in college, you know how many requests for donations you receive. But this envelope had a glassine front. Like one with a check in it.
Because it did. The current baseball team had a charity ice hockey game to raise money to help me rebuild. The coach, who followed the paths of many of his former players had heard what happened to me, and arranged it. So I payed it forward by hosting them for dinner again-on my own-when they came back to play a different college team just a few miles away.
On a rainy Saturday in March, much like one eight years before, a bus pulled up to the house. I shook hands with 30 young men whose names and faces were unfamiliar to me, but whose hearts I will never forget. They ate my homemade stuffed shells, meatballs, sausage, pulled pork, salad, grandmom's chocolate chip cookies and slews of purple and chocolate iced cupcakes before heading back to their hotel. They walked the new tile floor that their generosity helped rebuild.
After it was all over, my son and daughter-in-law and I sat talking about what a great day it was, and how his father would have had such a blast with these kids-except the one who now wears his uniform number. Then they showed me a picture on his phone-one with a stick with a plus sign on it.
It was the picture of the pregnancy test showing me that they're expecting their second child in November.
He hit one out of the park again. Wingman would be over the moon.