We were at T.Puzzle’s thirteen year wellness check. He was sailing through, crushing milestones and checking all the boxes landing him in healthy ranges for almost everything (screen time average was the only number in question).
The nurse turned to me and said, “Any concerns?”
“No. Unless you have a magic formula for getting a thirteen year old boy to articulate his thoughts,” I said.
The nurse could empathize. She experienced a similar phenomenon with her now seventeen year old son. Every question she asked him was met with an, “I don’t know.”
“I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know.”
How is it possible that once boys reach the age of thirteen they don’t know anything? Where does all their knowledge go? How do they make it through the day not knowing anything?
As we waited in the exam room for the doctor to appear, I decided to investigate this communication/knowledge block.
“So, T.Puzzle. Do you talk to your friends at school?” I said.
“What do you talk about?” I said.
Wow. I could sense I was really getting somewhere. I continued my sure-be-successful line of questioning:
“What else do you talk about?”
“Sometimes, we talk about things.”
Oh, the stuff and sometimes the things. It all makes sense to me now.
“Why are you able to talk to them but not me?”
“Because they don’t ask me questions,” he said.
I didn’t know how to respond to that. Oh no! It’s happening.
I had the honor of chaperoning Full Speed and some classmates for their sixth grade trip to Sea World. Thankfully, Mad Dog was able to attend. Trust me, if he can manage a myriad of employees at work, seven twelve-year-old boys were a piece of cake. It helped that they were all well-behaved, too.
As the day drew to a close, Mad Dog escorted our gang back to the bus home and Full Speed stayed with me. We decided to hit one more ride before meeting up with Mad Dog at the exit and driving home separately from the class (all sanctioned by Full Speed’s teacher of course). Of all the things he could pick, Full Speed chose the flamingo-shaped paddle boats. I wasn’t entirely sure this is what he truly wanted, but he’s a smart kid who takes after his Dad. Sometimes you pick the stuff that you only kind of like because you know the important lady in your life would LOVE it. And I did. I really, really did.
After I had paid the fee for our twenty minutes, we fitted ourselves with life jackets and headed to the dock. The attendant quickly went over instructions. He said something to the effect of ‘go left to go left, go right to go right’. He was referencing the way to manipulate the steering apparatus that was centered between our seats. I followed his directions and we were off to the races….but, not really. The harder we pedaled and the more I tried to maneuver us away from the dock, the more we stayed put. Eventually, I was able to get us crookedly angled away as long as we pedaled BACKWARDS. Let’s just say, I shouldn’t quit my day job.
As we slowly and awkwardly floated out to sea, I casually said, “Full Speed, why don’t you try steering?”
He grabbed the control and in less than 30 seconds had us on a straight path. He steered the paddle boat as if he had been doing it his whole life. Turns out, you didn’t ‘go left to go left’. Instead, you actually had to do the opposite. Since I wasn’t particularly prideful about my gaping inefficiencies as a paddle boat captain, I sat back and enjoyed the ride. Apparently, knowing how to actually steer properly makes everything a whole lot more smooth.
As we floated about, I had this out-of-body moment. It was almost as if I was looking at Full Speed as how he could possibly be as a grown man. Not surprisingly, he appeared a lot like Mad Dog.
I thought back to when I was twelve. At that point in my life some fundamental aspects of my personality were formed. My sensitivity, my empathy, and my creativity are all still a part of the grown-up version of me. As I looked at Full Speed calmly navigating the waters before us, I thought if he has even half this amount of ease and confidence as a grown-up, he is going to do just fine.
Mad Dog and I looked at each other. The stakes were high. Do we roll the dice? Do we go all in? Do we leave it all on the field?
Yes, yes and yes.
So what if we watched The Professor lose by a painfully tiny margin at game 3? So what if we might see Cleveland take the Series at Wrigley? So what if the price tag for tickets made me silently weep?
THE CUBS WERE IN THE WORLD SERIES!
There had already been so many tears. Tears when we made it to the World Series realizing I couldn’t share that moment with my mom. Tears when we lost game 3. Tears, tears and more tears. You may wonder why I allow myself to be a part of something that makes me cry so much. It’s in my genes. I can’t not bleed Cubbie blue any less than I can’t not breathe. After 42 years of being a Cubs fan, I figured tears were always going to be a part of it. I knew that ultimately if I was heartbroken again, I would rise up and keep on cheering…and crying for my team.
Mad Dog and I went for it and got the tickets. We figured we would rather face our fears than live with regret.
Every pitch we watched was like taking a bullet. I had to keep asking Mad Dog ‘Are you sure about the money? Will you be able to let it go no matter what?’ He reassured me he was fine but I could see the worry in his eyes. He was concerned that his extremely sensitive wife would not recover from witnessing a loss of this magnitude at her beloved Wrigley Field. He was probably right.
Game 5 felt different than game 3. Maybe it was when Anthony Rizzo changed his walk-up song to the Rocky theme that embers of hope began to ignite. Maybe it was Kris Bryant’s solo home run that shifted the tides of momentum in our favor. Maybe it was my lucky socks. Maybe it was finally damn time that the baseball gods realized the Cubs were due.
By the end of the game I felt faint. The standing, the cheering, the adrenaline all were taking their toll. Chapman’s heroic 8 out save to send us back to Cleveland was the most stressful stretch of a baseball game I have ever seen. Game five was epic. Only to be outdone by game 6 which gave way to the greatest single game 7 in the history of baseball.
When the final out of game seven was called, I think you know where this is going…
Tears, tears and more tears.
Finally tears of joy.
Thanks to the Chicago Cubs, I will now always believe in miracles.
We were on our way. We had travelled many miles and planned months in advance for this day. This was THE day.
Full Speed and T.Puzzle were going to their first Cubs game.
In the weeks leading up to this momentous event, I tried to convey to them how special this was to me. So much of my childhood and memories of my mom were wrapped up in Cubs’ fandom. I had met Mad Dog because of the Cubs. Our first date was in the left field bleachers. I fell in love with Mad Dog at Wrigley.
Wrigley Field is my mecca.
Obviously, I was feeling a bit emotional but mostly excited. We decided to walk part of the way from our rented, summer apartment and grab a cab closer to the field.
Then, I felt the first raindrop. Then, another. Soon, I wasn’t sure if I was feeling rain wet my face or anxious tears.
How could it threaten to rain on this of all days? The most holiest day of my young children’s lives?
Inwardly (ok, outwardly, too) I started to freak out. Full Speed could tell I was losing it and quickly grabbed my hand.
“It’s okay, Mom. It’s only raining a little. It’s going to be okay.”
And, then, almost instantly it was okay.
Here’s why: I stopped focusing on all the things that could go wrong (possible rain, thunder, game cancellation) and started to look at all that was wonderful.
First of all, I had this incredibly handsome and caring young man holding my hand. Wow, Full Speed is going to make one heck of a husband when he grows up. Which brought me to my own husband. He worked so hard and planned so carefully for our little family to have this awesome Cubs experience for two reasons. First, he is a Cubs fan, but secondly, because he does all he can to make me happy. Seeing him up ahead leading our little family and watching him stay positive that no rain would slow us down, made my heart full.
I decided in that moment that I wasn’t going to let the threat of bad weather ruin this awesome day. However it unfolded was going to be perfect. I was with my favorite guys and all I felt was gratitude.
Sure enough, soon after we arrived in the park it rained and rained and rained.
What did we do? We got some ponchos and soldiered on.
With much anticipation and thankfully no thunder, the game started on time. Within moments, the Diamondbacks had a runner on and their clean-up hitter launched a line drive home run to right-center. It was the kind of homer you instantly knew it was gone. The way it cracked off the bat was soul-crushing.
And, it still rained on us. A lot.
Somehow the Cubs made a comeback, honestly if you’ve been watching their season at all, this is hardly surprising. Offensively they are a juggernaut. They managed to get the lead back by the fourth inning and maintain it until the end. This only got sweeter when my favorite player, Anthony Rizzo, clocked a solo home run in the bottom of the eighth inning. I screamed so loud I nearly lost my voice. You can actually see us on the MLB recap as we were behind home plate as Rizzo completes his trek around the bases. We are easy to spot because I am jumping for joy. To this day, Full Speed does a dead-on impersonation of me jumping around like a crazy person for Anthony’s home run.
Mad Dog and I have returned from our annual kid-free cruise. We were blessed with good weather, great company and outstanding service and food. It felt good to get away, but I missed my boys. We were away from them for four nights. When we picked them up from school, it was clear that they were happy to see us. I even got a genuine hug from Full Speed. If any of you have a third grader like him that willingly gives you a public hug on school grounds, you know how special it is.
My sister-in-law and brother-in-law had volunteered to watch them for us while we were away. It worked out well because they live right down the street and my nephew goes to the boys’ school. When I picked up their bags and asked how it went, I was a little taken aback at what I heard. Apparently, they didn’t really seem to miss me, they didn’t hardly speak my name and they had a great time while we were gone. Can you imagine? How is this possible? You mean their life doesn’t stop if I’m not in it?
Well, I’m going to do the only rational thing I can do for next year’s cruise. I’m going to have to take them with me.