Ok, then don’t care about baseball.
Rachael said it so matter-of-factly and with such confidence that I almost believed that she had rehearsed that line in front of her mirror, knowing at some point she’d say it to me. It was a perfect analogy, delivered with genuine conviction, to help me understand how her mind works.
And how my mind works so similarly.
We were discussing the recent withdrawal of Carlos, one of her second graders with whom she had developed a close bond. Having worked with him last year, she was wholly aware of how challenging his life was, bookended by two absentee parents. In the middle, a man who had dated Carlos’s mother and, upon her flight from adult responsibility, accepted the role of stand-in father.
But something was off.
Still, Rachael found him in her class again this year and was excited at the prospect of another chance to provide seven hours of stability in his otherwise chaotic life. Despite her natural empathy and maternal instinct, despite countless street-side conversations and calls home, despite my intervention during a formal meeting to discuss attendance, lateness, and academics, one day Carlos stopped coming to school. Later, we’d find out his adoptive family moved amid alarmingly flimsy circumstances.
Her: Can we call over to his new school? Something is off with Manuel (adoptive father). I can feel it. We have to at least alert the school that this child may not be safe.
Me: Sure, I will call over and tell them what we know. But you have to let him go now. You did amazing work with him, but you have to let him go.
Her: Ok, then don’t care about baseball.
Knowing how much I love the game and still obsess over the previous weekend’s at bats or performances on the mound, Rachael practiced what I preach all the time.
She met me on my level.
I can’t turn off my love of the game, I can’t control dreaming about baseball (often under bizarre or losing circumstances), I can’t help but draw analogies between the game and our profession, and I can’t help dreading the day a doctor or my wife tells me I have to stop playing.
So, I can’t simply attach a platitude, or Disney song, to my love for the game and “let it go.”
Nor can Rachael stop caring for students with the same fervor and empathy with which she cares for her own children. She can’t look over at Carlos’s empty cubby or table and be like, “meh, bummer.” She won’t put him into a former student box, tucked away in her consciousness, with the rest of her wistful, mournful, or otherwise transcendent memories of students from days gone by.
It was foolish and short-sighted of me to suggest Rachael flip a non-existent, unrealistic, and aloof switch in the wake of Carlos’s departure. None of us is capable of simply turning off our passion when it becomes inconvenient.
Down by one run last Sunday, I led off the 8th with a strikeout looking (the pitch was high, but still), and I haven’t been able to shake my disappointment since.
Because I care about baseball, and I can’t turn it off.
I don’t much want to either.