A trophy. Not atrophy, like my unused abs or humanoid vestigial tails. No, a trophy, like what you give to someone for participating in rec league sports or eating 85 hot dogs in 10 minutes on the 4th of July. A trophy is what Payson got this week.
For the past two years, Wendy and Pace have had a deal. When he reads 20 books at school, Wendy gives him a full Yankee dollar to spend at the DI. And it’s immediate redemption. Like, the moment the cover closes on the 20th book, they are in the swagger wagon on the way to the land of knit tops and used toasters.
He buys weird stuff on these visits, believe it or not – a faux wood Mayan cup, home decor, a stained plush penguin – but the most common purchase has been athletic trophies. That other people won. For playing rec league sports or eating lots of hot dogs. And then they gave them to the DI.
Pace proudly displayed these in his room. Proudly. And then he signed up for soccer and played and was more than a little perturbed when he was awarded a medallion at the end of the season, rather than the standard gold plastic soccer player awkwardly kicking a soccer ball.
Anyway, this year Payson signed up for baseball. Not necessarily out of a love for baseball, or even a slight affinity for baseball. I’m not entirely sure he knew what a baseball was. But he somehow heard that baseball players get trophies, and he was all in.
He signed up, got drafted in the fourth round by the Royals, played three weeks in Double A and a couple months in Triple A before the call up to the big leagues. Or perhaps he got assigned to the Royals and was one of three kids on the team that spent more time at practice paying attention than chasing butterflies and peeing on fences.
He immediately developed a real love for baseball. He wanted to play all the time, and he wore his Royals hat and shirt at very inappropriate times and places, but he didnt care.
Anyway, baseball season started right about the time his random pains started getting worse. He missed a practice or two because of them. He was able to play two games with the team before his diagnosis. The Royals scored zero runs in these two games, but at least they were an hour long.
After he was diagnosed, there was no more baseball for him, and honestly it became one of the hardest things about which not to think “Poor Me.” Like, the park is five houses away. We could hear the parents cheering from our backyard. We kept receiving the emails. The weather was perfect. Every time I’d drive home in the afternoon, there were hundreds of healthy little kids running around playing baseball. It was a little bitter.
We really do our best to avoid all of the “why Payson?” thinking. Like what’s the point of that? It’s a waste of energy and it horks our groove. Plus, we aren’t special. If other people have to deal with complete BS like this, there’s nothing in the universe that should preclude us.
But baseball was hard.
Well, the season ended, thank Heaven, and it wasn’t a thing I worried about anymore. He will play again next year, props to the healthy kids, we are good. Then, the other night, one of his coaches showed up with this:
I’ve cried more in the last month than the rest of my life combined. Like, my life has been full of eyes as dry as the Gobi Desert, but the last month my eyes have been Mount Waialeale. It’s been a few weeks since a real gusher, but this trophy did the trick.
Stairs are a little tricky for Pace right now. Like, not impossible, but they require some time and effort and focus. But right away he came downstairs with the biggest proudest smile to show off his new trophy, and then immediately he went all the way to his room upstairs to give the trophy a home.
“I don’t need these other ones anymore. I earned this one.”
He loves it so much, I was afraid he was gonna sleep with it and wake up with a gold plastic baseball player etched in his bald head. But thankfully the trophy has stayed on the shelf, displayed like some priceless heirloom.
Here’s the secret – Payson’s team didn’t actually get trophies. Based on what I saw, they probably didn’t even score a run. But coach had some trophies left over from a previous year, and somehow he thought about the little kid that only played two games, and he brought it over to make sure Payson knew he was still part of the team.
People shame us with their kindness. We love you all with the white hot fire of a thousand suns.