Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Go Back to Go Forward

Thing 2’s Little League team started the season 0-8 this spring and the only bright side to that is that I’m not to blame.

You can look it up. My name is nowhere on the official league coaching roster.

I put in for the job but, as seems to be the case every year with our Little League, the folks on charge passed on me. They obviously aren’t aware of my work in the dreaded local youth soccer league where I have proven my obvious talents for coaching youngsters, a deep respect for authority and, most importantly, my patience to tolerate the little nosepickers week after week.

Instead I’m one of those dads. You know, the fun and helpful ones trying to relive their childhoods. I show up at practice in my old softball cleats, wad of top-shelf Bazooka in my cheek and a load of ultracheap Dubble Bubble in my pockets for the kids. I pitch batting practice, shag flies and try to impart wisdom about the finer points of the game like everyone lining up in parallel lines to play catch so an errant throws doesn’t clock one of your teammates in the back of the head.

I also try passing on the wisdom learned from my many years of playing ball. However, since I spent most of my time in high school warming up pitchers in the bullpen, I’m pretty much out of material once I explain the importance of a proper fitting protective cup.

cal and billy ripkenI did prepare just in case I made a leap to the bigs this season. Over the winter, I bought a few instructional videos in which Hall of Fame infielder Cal Ripken Jr. and his less talented but far more entertaining goofy little brother Billy pass on “The Ripken Way” of playing the game. It’s good stuff. They explaining basic skills and drills, breaking everything into digestible nuggets and what kid doesn’t love nuggets?

One principle they teach in hitting is the need for the batter to shift his weight get more power into his swing. The best way to do this is for the batter to bring his hands back a bit before swinging to gather his energy and strength, as they note, like a cobra that is about to strike recoils before attacking.

You have to “go back to go forward,” they each repeat several times.

I’ve been thinking about that mantra a lot lately, but it has nothing to do with baseball.

I spent this past Wednesday driving 70 minutes each way to the children’s hospital with Thing 1 asleep in the backseat most of the way. In between her snoring and my skipping back and forth across the tracks of a Stone Temple Pilots compilation CD I made 10 years ago, we visited our local specialist to update him on her juvenile myositis flare.

While the rash on her body looks better, Thing 1’s neck and trunk muscles have grown weaker in the past few weeks even with all the IV steroids and other meds coursing through her veins. She’s not falling over when sits on the couch, like she did at her worst at the tender age of 33 months but she’s not quite the spunky tween I knew only three months before.

The local doctor consulted with our specialist in Chicago and they agreed Thing 1 should go back on methotrexate, the foul yellow liquid I injected into her thigh every week for six years. It was the medicine that made Thing 1 puke simply by me telling her it was time for the injection.

“Go back to go forward,” Cal Ripken Jr. said into my left ear.

Through all that Thing 1 has gone through since this relapse two months ago, the news of weekly injections was the first to bring on a full-fledged meltdown.

“No no no no,” she cried, bawling into a pillow on the couch. “I don’t want shots. No no no no no. Don’t make me get shots again.”

“It’s only for a little while, sweetie, it’s to make you better so we can get you off all these other medications.”

“No no no no,” she wept, refusing to pull her face out of the cushion. “No more shots, Daddy.”

Thing 2, like any little brother, is normally his big sister’s mortal enemy. But there he sat on the lounger across the room, his lips curling and eyes welling. Then he ran into the kitchen and offered to his sister the Whoopie Pie dessert he had been hoarding.

He even offered to take some of the shots for her. I think he would if he could, at least until he saw the uncapped 27.5 gauge needle in my hand.

“Go back to go forward,” Billy Ripken said into my right ear.

I wish I could go back, even if it was just to two months ago. We wouldn’t need to go forward after that. We could just stop time and live forever in the moment.

# # #


If you haven’t donated to help Cure JM Foundation put an end to this disease that Thing 1 can’t seem to shake, then I have good news.

A special donor has come forward with an offer to match every dollar our family raises between now and race day (June 25), up to a total of $3,000.

So your $3,000 plus the donor’s $3,000 would put us just shy of the $20,000 fundraising goal our family has set for this year.

What are you waiting for? Give to Cure JM now! 


  1. Its a pity we don't really support baseball in this country.

    I know there are some baseball clubs around but its not a very popular sport here in SA for kids or adults.

    So I know nothing about it except for playing "Rounders" at school but I think that's your equivalent to softball. Is there a big difference?

    Remember to go enter Caption My Freak Photo Competition

  2. A friend's mother always says:

    "When you find yourself walking through hell, just remember to keep walking."

    Big hugs to Thing 1.

  3. Stength and love from my family to yours man. Though you already have plenty of both.

  4. Hey- cups are important, though.
    And I don't blame the kid - more shots? But as you said, "Go back to go forward". Ugh. So frustrating!!

  5. I'm in tears over this. I can only imagine how terrible it is for both of you, all of you, to have to do these shots again. If I'm getting this right, the needle is big, the med is gloppy, and the whole damn thing hurts like hell?

    Our tough get going mantra in our house is "You can't stop time." It's akin to all the other bits in the comments, this will pass, keep walking. . . and really it's little comfort, I'm sure.

    But, maybe one of these mantras will ring true for you or Thing 1 and while you're all gritting your teeth and surviving, time will pass and things will get easier.

  6. I don't blame Thing 1 for her meltdown. This relapse has put a strain on her and to face those shots has to be horrible. I'm so sorry she has to go through this. Thing 1's courage amazes me, as does yours and your family's. "Go Back to Go Forward" can sometimes be so daunting. I wish nothing but the best to all of you.

    Now, I think the Little League made a big mistake not picking you as a head coach. I don't know what your ranking would be, but I can tell the kids would have a lot of fun!

  7. Sometimes getting the wee ones to see past the going back, to get to the going forward, is so hard. But they aren't to blame;its the sheer cussedness of the universe that is to blame.

    My heart aches a little, my friend. I'm wishing some peace and strength for you and Thing 1 and family.

  8. Nice article, thanks for the information.

  9. That's my kids, too, mortal enemies until one is suffering, then it's all sweetness and sacrifice.

    "Oh, turn right to go left!"

    Best wishes for her to be done with the backwards and on with the forwards soon.

  10. I think A Daft Scots Lass is spot on with her comment. Aren't you glad she's found you? I think every blogger needs a clueless maggot, um, mascot. Y'know, to keep things in perspective.

    Sorry you've all got to go through this again. Breaks my heart for Thing 1. Damn good thing you guys have raised her so well. Otherwise you'd be needing a cup every time you went near her with that damn syringe.

    And damn! How could they NOT choose you to coach? Idjits are out of their minds.

  11. Great post. I was touched. :( Sending you and your kids lots of love!

  12. I have felt the pain of little league coaching and, as bad as it is when it comes from the kid who couldn't hit a ball if you taped it to his bat, I think it's worse from the parents who are certain they have conceived Joe Dimaggio Jr. Check out what I mean. http://maddadzblogs.com/blog/2011/07/18/coaching-little-league/


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