playing ball

When I was in my early teens I remember one sunny day when I followed my dad into the back yard to a clearing between the trees. His thin body towered above me, a well-worn short-sleeved sweatshirt hanging on his broad back. In his right hand he palmed a nut-brown football with a dirty seam, the sinews in his muscular forearm plucking like strings on a guitar.

My dad placed my small hand on top of the ball, lacing my fingers into its raised stitches. In his deep smooth voice he described the drawback, the lead with the elbow and then the spiral release like a catapult off of my fingertips. Then he showed me his toss with the grace and finesse of a true athlete, the ball arching in perfect gyration. For me, holding the ball in one hand was difficult, but my large palms and long fingers—compared to my pint-sized physique—made it possible.

For what seemed like hours we were out there together on the short sunburned grass. I’d toss, he’d catch then lob back to me, the ball often dropping dead between my outstretched arms and bouncing erratically like a jumping bean before rocking to a final rest. After about a gazillion throws I started to feel and see the result of my efforts, my dad’s precise critiques about each launch honing my skill.

At long last I hurled the orange-peeled ball into a beautiful high curve that came to a spinning halt in my dad’s palms. “Now you’re throwing like a man!” he hollered. I blushed. My heart burst with the happiness of the tomboy in hand-me-down cutoffs and faded sneakers that I was.

I ache to see Calvin and Michael out in our backyard doing the same as I sit back and sip tart lemonade languishing in the summer heat. For now—at least until we find a way besides the powerful sedatives to stop Calvin's seizures—I can only dream.

Originally published 5.24.11.

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Football in Grass by Jayel Aheram

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