Growth or Home Plate?


We knew about this morning for a little while. Trip to the orthopedic surgeon to find out the results of x rays done to Middle Guy’s right shoulder, otherwise known as his pitching shoulder. I was at the school’s Family Fitness Night a while back, February 7th to be exact as I had to write it on the form at the doctor’s office just this morning and found it there on the old Google calendar, and he had to leave early for basketball practice. On February 7th it’s no shocker that the blacktop was covered in ice and, knowing Middle guy, it’s no shocker that he fell on his shoulder not once, but twice, sprinting to a friend’s car.


For the next week or so it was baseball and basketball practice as usual. We do baseball 3 times a week all winter. I am a coach of this team. Basketball is until 9 PM every Thursday (after an hour of baseball and usually 40 minutes of lil sis’ karate) with a game usually Saturday afternoon. After a week or so of baseball he decided to fess up about some shoulder soreness. His teacher, my friend (my two younger kids go to the school I work at) is married to a former pro baseball player and has gone through it all with athlete sons. She told me to watch out for growth plate problems. She said, after the x rays on his right (throwing) shoulder were taken that they’d probably need to take some on the left side for comparison’s sake because that’s how they tell if there’s growth plate damage. If there’s growth plate damage, she said, my 11 year old athlete might be on the shelf for upwards of a year getting healthy again.


A few days later, when the x ray results were to be in his mom texted me. They wanted him to come in for x rays on the left side. There might be a fracture and they need to compare. Yay. Not a fracture as in broken bone because by now it was obvious it wasn’t that, diagnosed his teacher, my friend, but yes – that’s what they say and call it when there is damage there in the fibrous cells or whatever that make up this growth plate area. Could be a fracture. A year on the shelf. I took him for x rays Friday after work. Snap snap – 10 minutes in and out. This morning’s appointment already in the books a mere 3 days away at that point.


I was the Big One’s head coach starting in t ball. He was my first. My dad never coached me, I got into it before he realized it was a thing he could do or before he was able to free up the time, but after I started playing he coached my brothers forever. He was a little league coach. So that’s what I did. I loved it. Until I didn’t. It got competitive and while I am a competitive person, I did not like where it was going being in that position of decision making when kids were included. Parents wondering why the team wasn’t winning. Other parents wondering why their kid wasn’t being allowed to play here or there or this many innings. How to counterbalance the parents who expected wins with those who wanted little Johnny to pitch despite him not being able to get the ball to home plate over-handed. I managed things ok for sure but I was not comfortable and Middle Guy was ready for t ball so I stepped down after rising almost all the way up, and started again.


I loved watching the Big One play. He was so cute and then he was so big and he was pretty much always kind of clumsy but so, so passionate. I love watching my kids do literally anything they love to do. It was very hard for me to step away but it felt right. It became apparent in like game one of year two: coach pitch, the Middle Guy was going to need to play travel ball at some point. That the confines of in-house leagues just weren’t going to provide much of a challenge for him. So we started our own team. This was right around the time I got divorced and, as I am wont to do in such situations, made the knee jerk reaction to step down as head coach based on some argument I had at the time with their mother because “that’ll show her” (nothing of this reactionary nature ever did) and became just a regular coach dad. Which, thank god, because now we are at the hot water level I stepped down from once before but now there are logistics and finances and umps to order and fields to procure and tryouts to delegate for and parents with thousands in investments in the teams they chose and on and on. I just love being part of it. Love it. So much. Which is not the point.


He loves it. Really he does. He comes alive on a field or court whether it’s organized or sandlot or even pixelated – he is in it. That said, as we drove up together this morning after I let him sleep in and shower and made him a slightly fancy breakfast (I put butter and some blueberries in between his 2 chocolate chip Eggo frozen waffles and then, my secret, I pop the whole thing in the microwave for like 10 seconds to get the syrup and stuff all hot and gooey), he said he wasn’t nervous at all. I said “dude, you might be out all year!” I didn’t need to look into the rearview to feel his shoulders shrug. He was part playing it off because 11 year olds are Fonzie but I think part of him really knew it wouldn’t be the end of the world. Or his athletic career. And part of me could see him being ok without the go go go of summertime travel ball, playing video games and such. But being an adult (kinda) I also knew that a year’s worth of rehab would mean limited fun stuff. I’d give him a week into break before he was in tears with the things he couldn’t do. But we were pulling in, ready for whatever was about to come.


I was holding checks to finish paying for travel ball and other related things to hear if he was even going to be able to play. As a single dad of 3, I’m the last one with a vast majority of the amount still due. I’d have to see if there was possibly some wiggle room for a guy with a kid out with an injury for the year. If they said it was even possible for him to maybe make it back for the final week of the year I would take my tax return right down to the facility and gladly pay the whole thing. Lots of money, time, and planning for the whole summer hung on what this guy in the white coat was going to have to say. In the shower i pictured he was looking at the x rays, studying his patients for the day, preparing to give all the news and plans and medications and prep for surgeries and check schedules and make golf jokes or whatever.


Immediately he asks why we’re there. I filled out a small novella upon arrival after going in for two different x ray sessions and basically breaking down the kid’s entire 11 years on earth for the nurse for 20 minutes before this guy walks in. I wanted detailed answers from a medical professional who put everything on hold for the weekend when the x rays hit his email files Friday night until he cracked the case of what exactly was ailing my star athlete son and what the best possible method for recovery would be, replete with a timetable for return to action and in-depth plan for rehabbing that bad boy so he came back stronger and tougher than ever! Or at least be looking at the x rays on that big light up pad-thing they have on TV at like 7:30 when I was in the shower thinking that’s what he was doing for our 9 AM appointment. That SEEMED realistic. My students don’t come in and I’m like, ok so what are you all here for? I mean, usually I’m not.


But no. Dude was like, “so what’s up?” And we went through the thing and they don’t have the big pad it’s just a normal computer screen with files to click on that have my kid’s name on them and up comes what appears to be, and I’m not radiology tech or anything, but a chubby 3 year old’s bent leg. On like 4 of the 6 x ray files with my kid’s name on them. As I am typing just this very second I realize that when he was about a chubby 3 year old he did break his leg and therefore that might have actually been an x ray flashback to the chub of the leg of my progeny but in that moment it sure wasn’t, at all, what I was hoping to see pop up after Mr Doctor Man had no idea what we were doing in his office. The whole season hangs in the balance, though!!


He found some shoulder skeleton pictures. Flipped through a few. Made some doctor sounds I suppose. It was weird and quiet. I kind of blurted the words “I’m not a doctor by any means but growth plate” and he swiveled right around, pronounced that had a growth plate injury occurred he would have been at the hospital or at the very least his family practitioner’s office within 2 to 3 days, regardless of how tough he was. Officially? He hurt his shoulder. It’s still sore so he’ll be out 2-3 more weeks but can play in the big basketball playoffs this weekend as long as he ices it. He put us in the system for 12 physical therapy sessions but we can just go to one if we want and learn the moves. If we want.


And that’s it. I don’t think my guy was so calm because he didn’t care as much as his dad who would later sit down and write this whole long Slice thing about it. I’m hoping he just knew his body was ok. I have seen him since he was basically a baby play games and the fire and intensity and pure, sheer joy he gets out there. He has passion and love to go with that talent. I know it as a father. If we’re doing ortho surgeons and physical therapy and thousands of dollars I don’t have worth of year round training because it’s what he thinks I want? Would I even be writing this if I didn’t think that was a remote possibility? Ugh. Vomit. No. I know my kids. I taught him to push himself, yes, through brick walls to achieve what he wanted and to always leave it all out there whenever blessed with the ability to compete at anything in sports, school, or life, YES, but I know I have also taught him that nothing and nothing and nothing is more important to me than his health and happiness. We talked about that too, after. For a half of a brief flick of a millisecond I picked up that he thought I might be upset that we took off school and did all this stuff to come find out it was nothing or close to nothing.


I did look in the rearview then and I made sure we were on the same page on this topic now and forever that I was proud of him for pulling away when he thought he might be hurt. That being in tune with what your body is saying is not only huge for an athlete but just for a person. And that he could walk away from this sport or any sport any time he wanted if he felt it was taking a toll on his body or on anything else and I’d happily walk away with him onto whatever the next thing that puts fire in his eyes might be. All that said – we get to have our summer together. The ups and downs and cold and hot and dust and sweat and hugs and tears. We bond. Big One and lil sis comes too and we bond. It’s one of the main places we have summer. Together. And my kid isn’t hurt and we get to have that and we found that out this morning. Sigh. Positivity.  

3 thoughts on “Growth or Home Plate?

  1. Yay for happy endings! I really liked the line, “I didn’t need to look into the rearview to feel his shoulders shrug.” Your writing reflects the deep love and bonds you have with your children.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I was getting really nervous there. Shit, that’s a lot for a kid, parent – ANYONE to have to work though. Very glad it ended up working out, but I didn’t really doubt. any of it. One or another a real life happy-enough ending was coming. I just didn’t know for sure what “happy” might mean. Also so complicated when we’re grown-ups. I can absolutely relate to that.

    A few other things to point out – “He was so cute and then he was so big and he was pretty much always kind of clumsy but so, so passionate. I love watching my kids do literally anything they love to do. It was very hard for me to step away but it felt right.” NAILED IT. Great bit of writing with heart there. The other thing I really loved was the imagery you implanted of the interaction you had with him in the car. So great.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You are such a great dad. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this slice. I agree. When your body is telling you to take it easy, take it easy. I immediately imagined a lot of the scenes you set…. especially the car seen. It warmed my heart. Don’t you ever for a second stop being amazing, those kids are going to be so freaking amazing thanks to you and your level of connection that you have with them.

    Liked by 1 person

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