So the Better Half and I were digging around in what we call the “mouse house” on account of this year there seems to be a wee bit too much evidence that there have been numerous unwelcome tell-tale rodent visits to the shed.
It’s the lean-to shed at the far side of the house where we keep various and sundry important seasonal items such as bicycles, golf clubs and lawn chairs, items that apparently mice also love to play with. Which was one of the reasons we were cleaning out the shed.
Not only did we end up with a nice pile of mousey stuff for the dump and another nice pile of cleaned up, disinfected stuff for the giveaway store, we also found a nice box of toys that we hadn’t dug out since the Rotten Kids were, well, kids.
And that’s when the catch started.
Well, actually, truth be told, the Better Half threw something at me. It turned out to be a spongy little football that she had found in the toy box and just cleaned up, and it was one of those “think fast” moments. I dropped the ball, figuratively and literally — my hard-earned teenaged city league football reflexes long past the fourth quarter by now.
But I picked up the Nerf “pigskin” and fired (if I do say so myself) a fairly impressive spiral bullet right back at her. Which, unlike Yours Truly, she caught.
“Andy Fantuz!” she blurts — Fantuz being one of the star receivers in the Canadian Football League and the BH’s favourite player. I was impressed that she made the grab; anyone eavesdropping would have no doubt been doubly impressed that she knew any name of any CFL football player, let alone being able to correctly correlate the receiver position with her noteworthy catch.
Apparently, it’s more that she thinks he’s cute than the fact that she knows the name and position of Andy Fantuz, but I must admit she’s become quite a significant student of the game, now that she actually sits down and watches football since I happen to be viewing games at all hours of the day and night on our PVR.
So we played catch for a nice little while there in the backyard on a beautiful fall day, and I couldn’t help but feel good — the way only a nice game of catch can make you feel good. It had been a long time since I’ve had a catch with anyone, and it didn’t take long to remember how extraordinarily relaxing, satisfying and even meditative throwing a ball back and forth can be.
I clearly remember my best and my worst game of catch. They both happened at exactly the same time.
It was a typical baseball fall day and I was all alone, busy tossing a red, white and blue rubber ball up onto the sloped roof of our big old house in Parkvale, waiting for it to bounce back down at twice the speed, catching it in my beloved Cooper glove — a golden leather first baseman’s trapper — when my Dad came around the corner. He was just home from work at the creamery, still dressed in his white coveralls, and he had a baseball in his hand.
Now, Dad was the farthest thing from a sports guy or outdoorsman, and as far as I knew had never played baseball in his life, so when he said: “Do you want to play some catch?” I nearly fell over.
I also didn’t need to be asked twice.
“Sure!” I said, grinning like a mule chewing on barbed wire. “Don’t you need a glove?”
“Nope,” he said and tossed the big softball to me. A nice throw it was too, and I caught it and underhanded it back as carefully as I could. “Holy cow!” I thought to myself, “I’m playing catch with my Dad!”
Dad catches it and back and forth it went — the first and, it turned out, the only time Dad and I would bond over a baseball.
And then it happened.
Dad threw one to me underhand, high, high up into the air — like a fly ball to deep centre field.
I move under it, glove up in front of my face — “Got it!” I shout, knowing I’m going to snag this would-be home run for the third out in the ninth inning in a one-up game, and down it comes that heavy big softball like a hurtling meteor and it glances off the top web of my glove and SMACK! It nails me right on the ole schnozz.
Within three seconds, I’m bleeding like a stuck pig, blinking back tears and Dad runs over to see if I’m OK. Apologizing and leading me and my gushing nosebleed back into the house.
I felt really bad — more for my Dad than for my sore nose, and I felt oddly sad for a long time.
We never had a catch again and Dad’s been gone since before my Rotten Kids were born.
And now it’s fall and baseball is in the air and that wonderfully maudlin perfect baseball movie Field of Dreams surfaces every year about this time, and it just kills me. When Ray’s Dad comes out of the magic cornfield, out of the past as a young man, and Ray meets his young Dad and shakes his hand and introduces him to his daughter and the Dad turns to walk away, back into the magic cornfield and leave forever, Ray suddenly says: “Hey Dad. You wanna have a catch?” And they play catch in the perfect autumn sunset. And I wish a fairy tale could come true and I could have one more catch with my Dad, too.
And believe me, I wouldn’t miss the fly ball this time.
Harley Hay is a local freelance writer, award-winning author, filmmaker and musician. His column appears on Saturdays in the Advocate. His books can be found at Chapters, Coles and Sunworks in Red Deer.