Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness

Meaningful Connections

40 Reflections: 40 days of raw recollections during the Lenten Season

No. 19

I love connecting with people, young and old. Conversations spark memories, stories shared signal similarities among us, and spending time with others is just good karma.

Typically when I’m at a field, court, or pool waiting for a game to start or practice to finish, I follow my “workout while I wait” philosophy. I usually just go for a run. Yesterday, however, I arrived at my son’s baseball game about 45 minutes early, found a stadium seat in the sun, and settled in with a cup of coffee and my computer. I’ll write. I thought. That’s a workout for the mind, right?

I greeted a few parents who nestled themselves under blankets with snacks, phones, and their classic cast of characters surrounding them. Some had grandparents, siblings of players, or friends. I instinctively started a conversation in Spanish with a player’s grandmother who is originally from Texas. We exchanged our philosophies on life in Spanglish for a bit. The flow of our conversation was similar to the chats I have with my parents. Sing-songy with a lot of joking and English woven in, yet said with a slight Cheech and Chong accent so as to blend in with the Spanish. No explanations for colloquialisms, no apologies for not knowing a word in Spanish, just conversation. 

She talked about leaving her hometown years ago, following her kids to Georgia so they could be together. Then back in 2010, their son got a job in San Antonio, so they assembled dozens of moving boxes and moved with them to help care for their grandson. Feeling like minimalists, they parsed down their belongings to whatever would fit in the rented moving truck.

Three months later they repacked the Uhaul and returned to Georgia because “Sometimes jobs don’t work out.” She paused, “But it was fun and we were together.”

Once the game started we all found our spots, phones ready to record at-bats and base running. I opened my computer once again, took in the setting, and began cobbling words together.

“Looks like you’re taking score today?” I heard from the gentleman sitting one seat away from me.

“Yes, sir” I replied knowing he was joking. “I’ll have all the answers if you need them.” I closed my computer again, a natural instinct when I’m around anyone who strikes up a conversation or is over 70. Something I wish all teenagers would do when speaking to adults. He went on to tell me how tired he and his wife were because they just walked up a long hill to a baseball field, only to realize they were in the wrong park. They sat, exhausted and thrilled to watch their grandson. “Which is yours?” he asked. “Shortstop”. “Ahhh, he’s a sly one! Quick hands, quick feet.” I sat up a little straighter, honored someone noticed our guy.

We went on for the next few hours chatting about how the wind was “whipping and storms were brewing”. He lumbered back from the snack bar balancing two hot dogs wrapped in foil and steaming white cartons filled with mini churros sprinkled with white powder sugar. I pictured him at the snack bar chatting up the teenagers saying something like “You kids sure are working hard! Do you make those hot dogs yourselves?”  

He unloaded his dinner delivery and announced to his wife and anyone listening, “You can’t say I didn’t take you to dinner!” They shared their meal and insisted that I “help” them eat the churros. I had one, knowing it’s just plain rude to say no to something so greasy and delicious.

We continued our visit, scrolling through pictures of his grandchildren and listening to stories about volleyball games they attend and the cakes baked together in their kitchen.

The wind picked up and in his jokey grandfather tone he reached for his vest on the seat in front of him and said, “I should go ask my daughter if she can get me the sleeves for this jacket she bought me!” I laughed, channeling my father’s humor and joining in on the conversation…” Maybe she’s saving up for the rest!” we laughed.

The game ended and he pulled a well-folded paper towel to wipe his eyes out of the back pocket of his creased Levis. Again, I connected the sight to all the handkerchiefs I ironed when I was young. Small, white squares piled at the end of the ironing board ready for Dad.

1930 and 1940’s babies are so similar. They are conversationalists, conscientious, grateful, and simple. Honestly, I love sitting with grandparents at games, helping them locate the Ovaltine at the store, or complimenting them on their haircuts in the checkout line. It always brings me comfort to hope someone is kind to my parents or in-laws. Maybe a child smiled at them as they waited for an appointment or a teenager held the door for them at church or a neighbor stopped by for coffee and conversation. So I pay it forward and try to make meaningful connections with grandparents. After all, family is family – and my parents love hearing stories about the people I meet and the fact that we take the time to enjoy each other’s company.

On the way out, the grandmother from Texas and I caught back up to each other and her husband told me it was her birthday, so I sang “Las Mañanitas” to her and she sang along, blushing. She let out a deep sigh, “Ai, ai, ai, I haven’t sung that in years. Gracias. Muchas gracias.” It reminded me of when I’d sing it to my Godmother over the phone every year until she passed away.

Reach out to one another and make meaningful connections. Just listening is a true gift.

Now for a cup of Ovaltine. I’m such a senior citizen.

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