Thursday, February 23, 2012


Don't hate me for this. I apologize in advance to any die-hard fans who may be offended. But I have to say that though it's heralded as our "national past-time" in the U.S., baseball is not my favorite sport. To be honest, I find it extremely boring. Now I confess that I'm not an athlete by any stretch of the imagination, and I'm not that interested in sports in general, but if I have to choose to watch or play any major sport, baseball would NOT be my first choice.

I've been to only a few live games over the years (of our local minor team), and I did get caught up in the excitement of standing up and doing "the wave" with the other fans in the stands, or singing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" at the top of our lungs. But the actual game down on the field seemed almost to be an after-thought. I never paid much attention to it.

I much prefer to watch soccer or basketball or rugby (which I don't understand at all, but which looks greatly exciting). I like sports that have a lot of action - running up and down the field, passing the ball, making goals. My younger brothers played on soccer teams when they were in middle school and high school, and I went to every game that I could. I was their biggest fan. I didn't understand all the rules of off-sides and why someone got a penalty kick, but I could get the concept of kicking the ball towards the goal. There was alwys lots of excitement.

Much of baseball, though, involves standing around and WAITING. I didn't mind that when I played softball in high school (not because I wanted to, but because I was homeschooled and needed a P.E. credit). I would have been quite happy to stay on the bench all season, but our coaches let everyone play a little bit each game. But if I HAD to play, I was thankful to be sent way out to right field, where I would stare at the clouds and pick dandelions and pray that no balls came my way. On those rare occasions when a left-handed batter came up to the plate, before the ball was even thrown I would yell to my teammates as I started to run away, "I don't got it! Cover for me!"

When I DID actually attempt to catch the rare ball that came my way, I would invariably either close my eyes at the last minute or duck my head, sure that the ball was going to knock my eyes out or break my nose. I seem to remember one fly ball that missed my glove and hit me in the face, but my siblings claim I'm making that up. Maybe I just imagined it happening so many times that I thought it really did happen. But I can't say for sure.

But besides my traumatic experiences in high school softball, I think the main reason I don't like baseball is just because of the slow pace. It's small bursts of activity followed by long stretches of nothing much happening. Hurry up and wait.

Today I was thinking of the similarities between baseball and caregiving for the elderly. Each day is filled with short flurries of activity, followed by long stretches of not a lot of excitement. Every day we help Grandma get out of bed - these days it takes at least two people and the "Hoyer Lift" - a sling we slide under her that attaches to an arm that gets cranked up to lift her out of bed and onto the toilet chair, then from the toilet to the wheelchair. And sometimes there are several people running around, bringing the toilet chair up, taking it back out, emptying the pot, bringing up the wheelchair, attaching the legs, adjusting the arms, putting in the back pillow, getting a blanket, giving her a drink, changing the sheets, getting her dressed, giving her medicine, fixing her hair, preparing her cereal, washing dirty pajamas, taking out the trash... And that's just before breakfast!

But then once she's sitting at the table with her bite-sized Shredded Wheat and sliced banana and orange juice and the weather page of the newspaper, we know that breakfast will take a looong time - sometimes two hours! But in this case there's not a lot of idle standing around waiting for breakfast to be done so we can do the next thing. Once Grandma's settled, we can all focus on the rest of our daily activities.

Every once in awhile, though, I think that sitting and waiting is not a bad thing. Sometimes if I have time, I try to sit with Grandma while she's eating and read my Bible, maybe reading bits of the passage aloud to her as she chews her cereal. And sometimes I point out the cardinals and chickadees and finches and woodpeckers that come to our birdfeeders just outside the back windows, positioned where Grandma can see them while she's eating. And sometimes I do a 100-piece puzzle of flowers and kittens with her in the afternoon after her nap, though it takes five times as long as it would if I were doing it myself. And I try to ask her questions about her girlhood on the farm in Kansas, or raising four boys and a girl in Cuba and Spain and Morocco, helping her when she gets stuck on a word mid-sentence and filling in the gaps when she can't seem to remember and trying not to make her feel self-conscious about it. And I let her take her time to fold the t-shirt or towel, though it takes twenty minutes, because it gives her a feeling of being useful and needed. There is value in waiting.

Next time I have the opportunity to watch a baseball game, I may look at it differently. It may be that the batter doing practice swings with his bat, or the pitcher winding up for the pitch are just as important as the soaring home runs over the fence and the frantic dash around the bases. Who knew that my grandmother could teach me something about baseball? I think I'll tell her about it. But first I have to wait for her to get up from her nap.