Lately I haven’t cared to much about sports. Maybe because the Red Sox were just so awful this year? Most likely it has something to do with just having different priorities at this time, so when I do get a chance to catch part of a game it’s usually with my niece asking me tons of questions. We’ve had some wonderful conversations not only about the rules of football but about everything else going on in her life.
When I was a teenager, I would go visit her father and we’d try to do things like normal people. I think he just liked that I could drive [he’s 6 years younger than me!] and we could go just about anywhere the car could travel. Tim’s not related to me, but we’re close. He gives me a lot of leeway with his daughter since he knows we can both learn something from one another.
Susie isn’t much for sports. She likes to watch theater on PBS or old movies where she can learn something for the next audition at school.
Lately we have been talking about how she isn’t dealing so well with my health issues. Susie used to be a little quiet about them, not sure if she should say anything. But once she saw that in the middle of this football coverage they were doing human interest stories about people overcoming various things, she felt like maybe this was the right time to talk. If the athlete can speak up, why couldn’t she?
So we sit on the couch and talk. We have our own little secrets that don’t get shared with her parents or possibly even any of her friends. It was hard for her to tell me that she was angry I wasn’t around much, or at all for years. That she didn’t know how to deal with her emotions.
Alternately cheering some play while saying that you are afraid is confusing for even me. I’m supposed to be the adult, but there are times she is the one teaching me. It’s possible that since we are preparing her in a different way to handle my death, she won’t feel the same set of emotions as having someone just call and tell them it’s over. Getting the acceptance part out of the way clears a path to something better.
She’s seen the videos of me playing baseball or basketball when I was younger. Her grandmother is the one who taped them. They have since been placed on DVDs and for that I’m grateful. The reaction she had to this pair of shorts I used to wear was the same as her aunt’s years ago. “Please, stop wearing those things. You look stupid!” Even after the shorts faded and wore out, a piece of the fabric sat in my pocket as a good luck charm. A reminder of love lost. A silly rabbit’s foot made of cloth.
We can go to a movie, or some play, or any number of other things; but talking is usually not acceptable behavior. While I still get that warm feeling from rubbing shoulders at fun parts, sports opens up something different.
The most important thing Susie keeps trying to drill into me has to do with showing some emotion. Not just on a piece of paper, but out in the world. She’s found that these are just the right times to have those talks. They come naturally, organically in a way that saying to someone “We need to talk” only causes tension.
I know that some of the things she asks I shouldn’t reply to, but that would change our relationship. Better to be honest than to have her learn differently later and be upset. Her friends have asked questions that I believe are about their own relationships with their families, those are harder to answer. Not truly my place, but sometimes they don’t know how to talk to other adults. And I’ll admit that there are times I don’t act anything like an adult should!
Sunday’s are different than I expected them to be. But I wouldn’t trade this time I’ve been given with Susie for anything.