Another Day Before

This is hopefully the last excerpt from the NICU journal I have to share.

We’ve been here before and here we are again. You, Roland, are scheduled to come home tomorrow as you have been twice before. We are hoping that this time there will be no events. I will be tired tomorrow. On top of feeding Windsor at 11:00 PM there is a World Series game on tonight. You see my favorite baseball team is playing in it and this requires me to stay up and watch the games. The Washington Nationals have been playing baseball in our nation’s capital since 2005 and they have a special place in my life.

When the Washington Nationals first moved to DC I didn’t know how much I liked baseball. I made it to two games that first season and watched many more on TV. I fell in love with the team and players, but it was only the beginning. The next season I bought a 20-game plan and had many enjoyable days at the ballpark but none more important than Father’s Day. On that day the Nationals were playing the New York Yankees and that game was on my plan. My father, your grandfather, decided that he wanted to go but the section where I had tickets was sold out so he had to sit in a completely different section.

At this point, I was used to watching the games by myself so it was no big deal that he wasn’t with me, but this game would play out to provide us early adopters of the Washington Nationals with what was the most thrilling moment of our time with the team. With the Nationals down by one run entering the ninth inning and the Yankees starting pitcher cruising to a complete game Nationals rookie Ryan Zimmerman came to the plate with a runner on and one out. What happened next was the moment that really hooked me on baseball. Ryan Zimmerman swung at the first pitch of the at-bat and sent it over the left-field fence for a two-run walk-off home run. I immediately found my father and the celebration leaving the ballpark was like nothing I’ve ever experienced.  

After that being a Nationals fan was a lot of suffering. Including back to back 100 loss seasons. Then the regular season heartbreak turned to playoff heartbreak. I will never forget sitting in the stands across from the Nationals dugout in 2012 with the team poised to leap on the field and celebrate a trip to the NLCS as the batter was down to his last strike with two outs in the inning. Then the Cardinals stormed back and stunned the Nationals and Washington fans. I remember leaving the stadium feeling the crushing emotions of having joy so close having been ripped away and saw a young boy externalizing my feelings in the tears streaming down his face. His father hugged him close and said, “That’s baseball.”

Baseball, life, is a series of highs and lows. The ultimate joy of a walk-off home run and the depths of depression of a crushing playoff defeat, but after all these years here we are. The Washington Nationals are playing in the World Series, up by two games, and if they win tonight they will have a chance to win the World Series on the same day you come home. That is fitting. Very fitting. Baseball is a game for family. Fathers and sons, fathers and daughters, mothers and sons, mothers and daughters, spouses, friends, lovers, and all else in-between. Baseball brings us together.

When you guys were born at 27 weeks some of the first people that reached out to help were those we’d met at the ballpark. I got texts and social media messages daily from people asking how you were and how I was. Very few people bothered to ask how I was but our baseball friends did, and when one month turned into two, into three, and mid-summer classic gave way to pennant chase to fall classic they never expected our trauma to accommodate their lives. Our baseball family is the true embodiment of grace. Giving without asking or expecting anything in return but they will forever have our gratitude and thanks.

The 2019 Nationals are not the greatest team ever assembled, but they are our greatest hope for the future. The exemplify so many traits I want for you as you grow up. They play the game of baseball with a childlike joy so rarely seen in a sport overburdened with adherence to unwritten rules and ideas for decorum from a bygone era. The 2019 Washington Nationals dance after home runs, pantomime driving, hug after strong pitching performances and celebrate base hits by acting out motions from the children’s song Baby Shark. The 2019 Nationals are an example of what it should mean to be human. We should appreciate the world in the ways of a child with a sense of joyous wonder, we should celebrate small accomplishments and dance for large ones, and most of all we shouldn’t be burdened by the societal norms of traditional masculinity. We should hug our friends and not be afraid to share our emotions. As I’ve said before true strength is inner strength and that strength comes from sharing your successes and your failures with those around you. Never be afraid to show a friend you love them and never be afraid to seek comfort when in need. The world would be a better place if we were all more like the 2019 Washington Nationals.

Tonight, they play the first World Series game in DC since 1933. I didn’t get to have baseball in my youth and like so much of my life as a millennial, this was another part put on pause. I didn’t get to watch my first baseball game in my hometown until I was 24, I got married at 27, had children at 38, and still haven’t bought a house. Our debt-based economy has put life on pause for many, and I hope this is gone by the time you’re grown.

What is important now is that we’re here. I watched every NLCS game and the first two games of the World Series holding Windsor and with any luck, I will watch the final game of the World Series holding both of you. Your final homecoming and our happily ever after has been delayed twice now, and maybe it is all for this. Maybe the Washington Nationals win tonight, we bring you home tomorrow, and they win it all that same day. If that happens it would truly be the greatest day of my life and a fitting beginning to our life as a fully formed family together at last.    

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