Archives for posts with tag: parenting

My son Jonesy has a little plastic baseball he won at Chuck E. Cheese that we take to the park all the time.  We’ve thrown it around plenty.  I’ll shape my hands into a mitt or hold out my actual glove and say “put it right in Dad’s hands buddy, as hard as you can.”  I couldn’t help but notice that the kid could hurry it up but good into Dad’s hands.  Now as much I wanted to start imagining Jonesy on the mound at Citi Field (or Fenway; or PNC Park; or Tropicana Field; I’m not picky, honest) even I, who judges baseball to be the greatest thing in the whole wide world, slowed down enough to down enough to say to myself “well, he’s my son, so naturally I think he throws hard.”  But now we’re hearing from his physical therapist at school that he has a very strong throwing arm– a left-handed throwing arm.

The physical therapist at Jonesy’s school is a perfectly nice woman and very good at what she does.  That’s why I feel a bit bad that the rest of my family will now blame her for what she’s unleashed.

To answer the question I have been asked by nearly everyone in one form or another since these findings were reported on my wife’s Facebook page,no I am not staring at the phone waiting for the Mets to call (or the Red Sox; or the Padres; or Diamondbacks; again, any team will be just fine, really).  But regardless of my love for baseball,  I now have a positive obligation as a parent to at least introduce my son to a sport which will allow his physical talent to find expression and baseball is as good a one as any.  And obviously somebody’s kids make it to the Majors. so maybe it will be my kid.

In honor of both that possibility and this  October 21st, 2013, the state occasion of my son Jones Patrick Lilly’s fourth birthday, I will lay out for the record my hopes and sage counsel for Jonesy Lilly, future ace left-hander for some Major League ballclub.

Important stuff first, son.

I hope you don’t throw a curveball until you’re eighteen at the youngest.  Your arm will still be growing all through high school and I don’t want you anywhere near Tommy John surgery if you can help it.  You can by not even thinking about throwing a breaking pitch until you’re in college.  Before then, a fastball and change-up will be plenty.

I hope even when you’re a ten-year veteran they’ll still be teaching the wise words of Ray Miller, a pitching coach for the Pirates back before you were even an idea to your mother and me:  work quickly, change speeds, throw strikes.  It’s good advice for any pitcher, regardless of his natural ability.

Your coaches and mangers will teach you that you need to pitch inside to win and they’ll be as right then as they are now.  You don’t want hitters going up there feeling comfortable and the only way they won’t be comfortable is if you give them a reason not to be.   I just hope you’ll know that there’s a way to do that without coming up near anybody’s head.

Even more important stuff next boyo.

You’ll be perfectly free to sign with any team you like when you become a free agent.  There’s nothing wrong with that.   No matter who you play for, you’ll have the right to sign for as much money as some owner is willing to pay you and that’s as it should be. I just hope you remember to be very grateful:  God will have blessed you with a gift that allows you to be paid millions to play a game.  Remember also that it wasn’t always this way.   There was a time when the owners would have had you at their mercy.  A lot of players, some you’ve heard of, some you haven’t, did an awful lot of work to get you the sweet deal you’ll  have and the nicest thing they were called was un-American.  You might be a millionaire, but you’ll still a union man.  It runs in the family, going back to your great-grandfather’s organizing days.

And before you make any decisions about where you sign when you hit free agency, just remember that if you, my daughter-in-law, and my grandchildren are happy where you are and the organization is treating you right, that’s worth something.

No matter how many Cy Youngs you win or how many World Series you pitch in, I hope you still go speechless when old Tom Seaver totters into the clubhouse (I bet he’ll look great pushing 100)  and that you still smile at all the memories conjured up for you when you look up at David Wright’s retired number 5 that should be hanging up on the wall at Citi Field by the time you’re in the bigs.   You’re part of a story that began long before you and will continue long after you.  I hope I and your grandfathers and uncles and everyone you learned the game from did a a decent job teaching you about what came before.    I remember hearing once about a poll of active Major Leaguers that showed that some pathetically small percentage of players knew who Jackie Robinson was.  I don’t remember what the exact number was.  I just remember wondering how in the bloody hell it wasn’t 100.  If I have my way, you’ll know exactly who Jackie Robinson was and who Gil Hodges was and who Hank Aaron was and…well you get the idea.  Or will have when I’m through.

I hope you find yourself a good catcher and that you two stay together on the same team for a long long while.    Seaver and Grote.  Carlton and McCarver.   Tiant and Fisk.  A whole lot of lucky Reds pitchers and Bench.  And of course you’ll have grown up watching Matt Harvey and Travis d’Arnaud all those years.   There’s no friendship like the one between pitcher and catcher.

The most important stuff to finish up lad.

I hope that the whole jock-nerd dynamic is a thing of the past by the time you grow up, but that’s probably a longshot.  I just hope you remember, Mr. Successful Athlete, that your dad is a huge Star Trek fan and played plenty of Dungeons and Dragons growing up and if I have anything to say about it, the same will be true for you.  Of course if I have anything to say about it, you’ll know that kindness, just plain old kindness, is the most important quality any person can have.  I’m not too worried though.  The four-year-old you is off to a great start in that department.

I hope you’re still going to Mass every Sunday but that you don’t turn into one of these weirdos that feels compelled to thank God on camera after you pitch a shutout.   I can’t sit here and tell you that I’ve never prayed for a little help for the Mets and I’ll probably say the Rosary from  your first pitch to your last in every outing you ever have.  Our blessed Lord tells us that even the hairs on your head are numbered and if that’s true and as it is I would move heaven and Earth to make you happy, can you imagine how God feels about you?  Nevertheless, I would hope He would have bigger things occupying His mind than you beating the Astros.  Besides, if you thank God  on TV after every win, don’t you necessarily have to go on TV and ask him why He has forsaken you after every loss?

I hope you make a commercial that starts with you saying something like “Hi, this is Jonesy Lilly of the New York Mets (or whichever team; I swear, whichever team).  I was diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum when I was a year and a half old but thanks to my own determination and hard work and with the help of some great teachers, I was able to live out my dream of making it to the Major Leagues.”  Something like that.  Then announce that this season you’ll be donating $1000 to an autism awareness foundation for every strikeout.  I know you know you’re wonderful just exactly the way you are, but not every kid on the spectrum knows that.  You’ll be able to help them realize that and you should.

I hope I do a good enough job with you that everyone from your Little League coach to your big-league manager raves about how they wish every player they had was like you.  Remember, whether it’s Mr. Leach in t-ball or John Farrell, you do like skip tells you.

I hope I do a good enough job with me that I’m not driving your skipper crazy by telling him every five minutes how he should be handling you or that I’m not yelling at umpires or other parents or any of the other nonsense that would just make you wind up hating the game and resenting me.

I hope when you give your speech at the BBWA dinner to accept your Cy Young Award and when you give your champagne-soaked interview after you’ve won Game 7 of the World Series and you when you’re up at the podium in Cooperstown, the very first person you thank is your mother.  Trust me , anything you ever get right you’ll be getting mostly from her and it’ll will in all likelihood be her who racked up six figures in miles driving you to practice after practice and game after game.  And when she rushes out of the stands hysterical because that liner back through the middle caught your square on the knee, you be nice and pretend not to be embarrassed.  I know all your high school teammates will be looking on– who are we kidding son, this is your mom we’re talking about, it could just easily happen as you’re pitching in the All-Star Game at Wrigley Field– but let her do it.  She’s your mother.  No further explanation should be required here.  She’s your mother.

I know no one will believe me when I say this, but if I have to revise this whole missive because  you became anything from an actuary to a modern interpretive dancer, I’m fine with it.  I can’t help but hope you’ll pitch in the Majors, win a bunch of Cy Youngs, pitch and win a bunch of World Series games, end up in the Hall, the whole bit.  But mostly I just hope you’re happy and healthy.  You’re both those things today at age four and there is nothing in the whole of God’s own cosmos I wouldn’t do for you to stay that way all the days of your life.  You’re just a great kid and from the second you came into my life you’ve unlocked whole new levels of unconditional love and wellsprings of joy I had no idea existed.

You know how much I love baseball?

No comparison to you.  Nowhere near.  Like comparing the ’62 Mets and the ’86 Mets.

I’ll make sure you understand how profound that difference is.

Anyway…I love you little boy.


Before I say what I’m about to say, let me first establish that I mean no disrespect to Dr. Martin Luther King.  I also intend no offense to anyone who loves Three Kings Day,  the NFL playoffs, or is in some other way weirdly devoted to the first month of the year.

January is without a doubt the crappiest month on the calendar.

First, let’s just do a quick comparison.  Here’s a brief list of all the reasons to like each and every one of the other eleven months:

February- Valentine’s Day (which admittedly is better if you’re with someone; it’s nice being married); pitchers and catchers report

March- St. Patrick’s Day; spring training games begin

April- Easter; Opening Day; for five minutes,  weather stops being unrelentingly savage;  nightfall at long last is later than like two in the afternoon

May- Memorial Day; baseball in full swing; weather is finally fit for civilized people; periods of daylight now long enough to be appropriate to creatures who aren’t morlocks

June- More baseball; school ends; weather now actually good; blessed blessed swimsuit season is with us (what?  I have two good eyes; also I have a hot wife); games that start at 7:10 need not turn lights on until the third or fourth inning

July- Independence Day; more baseball; weather and daylight hours now officially kick-ass; did I mention blessed blessed swimsuit season?

August- More baseball; weather and daylight hours still kick-ass; did I mention blessed blessed swimsuit season?

September- Labor Day;  weather and daylight dip slightly, but still adequate; pennant races at full boil, taking sting out of losing blessed blessed swimsuit season

October- Topsfield Fair;  Halloween; playoffs and World Series; my birthday; my son Jonesy’s birthday; weather and daylight take hit, but aren’t full-on stinko yet.

November- Daylight takes severe hit, but sudden onset of dusk in mid-afternoon kind of fun as a novelty for a couple of weeks; holiday train leaves the station with Thanksgiving the first major stop

December- CHRISTMAS, CHRISTMAS, AND MORE CHRISTMAS; AND NEW YEAR’S EVE;  for many, myself included, oodles of time off; for others, at least chance to slack off big-time at work

Some months have a little more to recommend them than others, but every month at least has something to warrant its continued presence on the calendar. And then the year ends and we’re stuck with god-awful January.

January rolls in and the holidays roll out and stay rolled out for the longest possible time before they occur again.   It hits you that there hasn’t been any baseball for a very long time and it’s going to be a very long time still before you see any.  The cold is positively obscene.  The snow that everyone would’ve thought was ever so charming just couple of weeks ago at Christmastime now just makes your commute a frozen hell that ought to be outlawed by the Geneva Convention.  A commute you’re making again because you’re back to work or at least not able to goof off at it because as previously stated, the holidays are over.

No, there is nothing good about January…at that used to be the case.

Then along came one sweet adorable little laugh-machine of a boy and finally January has a justification for its existence.

It was practically the middle of the night when I started up the car to drive my wife to Beverly Hospital,  north of Boston, Massachusetts.  It was pitch dark but since it was January– January 28th to be precise– it could just as easily have been ten in the morning.    Since it was January,  we plunged down 128 South through snowdrifts.  I don’t recall what the temperature was– I think I remember seeing an electronic billboard in front of a bank that read “absolutely bloody arctic.”  We checked in, got set up in a semi-dark windowless room, and met with a series of tremendously skilled and very very nice doctors and nurses.  One of these remarkable persons flooded the lower half of my wife’s body with drugs.  I donned all manner of gowns and masks and just as I did with the birth of my first child, I felt what I think must be what an athlete feels as he suits up for a do-or-die playoff game.   We all made our way down the hall to an operating room.  The only thing I really remember next is a doctor very patiently explaining that maybe he should hold the camera while I picked up my new-born son and brought him over to my wife.  Around a quarter of eleven or so I was seeing sunlight for the first time that day as I stood by a window just down the hall from the nursery.   My wife and baby were both just fine so I had some time.   Since it was January I figured I’d better enjoy the sun for the forty-five minutes it was going to be out so I camped out by that window and began making calls: sister-in-law, mom, mother-in-law, another sister-in-law, and so forth.  As I did, I surveyed the scene outside that window.

It was a blasted frozen heath.  The sun couldn’t have been more pointless:  it served only to remind me of everything it was supposed to do and wasn’t doing even a little.  Massive chunks of snow that I knew were at least sixty per cent grit and grime and therefore wouldn’t melt until Patriots Day dominated the scene.    The trees looked every bit like they hadn’t seen leaves since before the last time any pitcher had thrown any meaningful pitch to a hitter waiting in a batter’s box. If George Lucas had looked upon this tableau, he would’ve tabbed it as the perfect setting for the planet Hoth and thought better of it because he’d know that, long time ago in a galaxy far far away or not,  no one would believe that even a tauntaun could survive in a place like this.  In a word, it looked like…January.

And to me, at that moment, it looked as beautiful as Eden itself.   In the simple act of being born and being seven pounds and seven ounces of absolute perfection, Eamon Anthony Lilly had done what I had always thought to be impossible.  He made January good.

January 2012 has been far milder than that January of 2011.  Rationally, I know my boy Eamon hasn’t had anything to do with it, and yet I wouldn’t put it past him.    A boy who looks like we found him playing in the merry woodland kingdom of the elves, a boy who seemingly does nothing but laugh and smile and play with his toys all day, a boy who could cheer up a Ted Nugent fan trapped at an Indigo Girls concert, might just be able to convince the weather to go easy on us at a time of year when it delights in tormenting us.  His mere presence has transfigured the calendar.  Today, my wife and I gathered with family and ate and drank too much.  We watched a happy little boy rip open presents with the able assistance of his older brother.   We partied and had a grand old time.  The kind of stuff that was supposed to happen at the end of December and then not again approximately forever happened at the end of a month that used to be a 31-day abomination.

So congratulations January.  All you used to be was a tremendous motivator for scientists trying to work out some practical means of hibernation for humans.  You had nothing going for you.  Now you have Eamon Anthony Lilly’s birthday.

You know you can take that and put it up against anything any other month has to offer and hold your head up high.


Since I know I’ll need to, I’m going to start this blog entry with a number of caveats.

I tend to favor stricter gun laws over loose gun laws, but on balance I believe in the Second Amendment as I believe in every part of the Constitution.  Nevertheless, I have two small children and for as long as they reside in my house, no firearm ever will.  I consider that too great a safety risk  and would consider it so whether I was a Marine sharpshooter or someone like me (who has no experience anything more menacing than a paintball gun).

While the whole “mama grizzly” angle may be all the rage right now, we dads are in fact every bit as protective of their children as moms are. I’d like to think I’m not a violent person.  Nevertheless, the last person you’d ever want to be would be someone who would dare harm a hair on the head of either of my sons.  I sincerely hope I don’t get any kudos for that sentiment.  It’s not particularly noble or heroic.  It simply goes with the territory of fatherhood.  I pray fervently every day that I never have to actually prove the truth of my words in this case.

We Americans are not a perfect people.  No such people exists.  But we are on the whole a good people and this is a good country.  I know that seems a little obvious and you would not think I would need to spend three sentences articulating it, but given the subject matter, I take no chances.

Last caveat coming up…

I’ve read the accounts of what happened involving a woman named Sarah McKinley as she shot and killed a man named Justin Martin as he and another man tried to invade the home she shares with her three-month old son.    While there might be some details that haven’t emerged yet, everything I’ve heard leads me to the conclusion that Ms. McKinley probably did the only thing she could do and at the very least the actions she took were entirely understandable.

I’m not writing this to condemn Sarah McKinley.   I keep thinking about her story and I keep coming back to the same conclusion I think most people would come to:  you can’t condemn her.  You can’t put yourself in her place for even a second and then honestly say to yourself that there’s no way you wouldn’t ha’ve done the same thing.

I would however like to think that if any of us were faced not just with her impossible crisis but also its aftermath, that we wouldn’t be happy about it.  We wouldn’t celebrate it.  We wouldn’t see it as an occasion for crowing.  To my knowledge, Sarah McKinley doesn’t see it as such herself.    But she has a whole legion of new fans now who can’t bay their praise of her at the moon shrilly enough.  Here are just a few posts I’ve found relating to Sarah McKinley’s utterly terrible but thoroughly legitimate decision to kill Justin Martin:

“Nicely done. I am glad I live in a state (Florida) that allows people to be safe in there own home!”

“This was definitely a win-win situation- one less piece of garbage out of society, another one off the streets.”

“It’s too bad she couldn’t get both of them.”

“Damn. Go, Mama!”

I realize that these are posts from message boards and the average message board offers all the thoughtful reflection and nuanced opinion of the average survivalist compound in the wilds of Montana.  Reading them still brought me up short.   It wasn’t just the comments themselves.  It’s the comments and the time someone at one of the Republican debates shrieked “Yeah!” at the discussion of someone being allowed to die because he or she didn’t have health insurance and couldn’t otherwise afford healthcare.   It’s the comments and it was one of the candidates at another of the Republican debates receiving an applause break when his record of executions carried out under his governorship was discussed. It’s the comments and the glee that the news of Osama bin Laden’s death generated.    If it could be said of anyone that his departure from this world made it a better place, it could be said of him.  I certainly didn’t  grieve that night.  Even so, there was still a little part of me that paled at the joy death seemed to bring my people.  I see similar sentiment now in the wake of what happened to Sarah McKinley and it unnerves me again.    I find myself wondering not for the first time and not for the last:

Do you think maybe it’s time to quit calling ourselves a Christian nation?

Christ’s teaching on mercy and loving your enemies is integral to the Gospel.  It isn’t a stretch to say that those teaching define Christianity.   They are precepts  we Christians are justly proud of.  Almost no one that I know of in this country follows them.   When we list what’s great about us as a people or as individuals, we almost never list our quality of mercy or the understanding and dignity we afford to even the people we despise most.   More and more what I hear called virtues are being “uncompromising” and “tough” and more and more it seems like the way to be uncompromising and tough is to be belligerent if not downright warlike.

Now because a mother in one of the most terrifying situations you can imagine makes a desperate decision that will no doubt leave her and quite possibly her son traumatized, warlike behavior is now a clear sign of great parenting.

Sarah McKinley is all of eighteen.  She has a three-month old son she is raising on her own because her husband lost a battle with cancer during the recent holidays.  For my money, the clear sign she’s a great mother is that she hasn’t utterly cracked up and blasted off her shotgun at anyone and everyone she can find in range in the state of Oklahoma.  She has about as good a list of reasons as you can find to spit her pain at the world and she chooses– she chooses– not to do so.  She realizes she has that perfect little boy and she knows she must keep it together for him at all costs even when keeping it together is the absolute last thing she wants to do and certainly must seem like the hardest thing to do.   That’s  what will get  a “damn, go mama” from me.   That’s uncompromising and tough through the roof.  Shooting some guy who was trying to break into your house with a knife is just a horrible moment in your life you never want to relive and you’re just glad it’s over with.   It’s nothing to celebrate, not even for a second.

Sarah McKinley exercises mercy and compassion every day.  We will never hear about it.  She shoots somebody and now suddenly we realize what a great parent she is.  Justin Martin had parents too.  Their grief will be dismissed as insignificant because their son will be judged to have had what happened to him coming.  While that may or may not be true, I would like to think that wouldn’t matter.  I would like to think that anyone’s death is a cause for grief, for the realization we are lessened with every life lost, no matter how wasted a life it was.

That’s not how it works for us.  It might work that way in some hypothetical Christian nation.  We’re not that.  We rejoice over death too much to be one.

Sarah McKinleys walk among us everywhere and show kindness and decency ripped straight from the pages of the Gospel.  We don’t care.  We just want to see those who we have decided deserve to die get what’s coming to them.   Then we celebrate.

I won’t be so presumptuous as to declare that God weeps for that.

I just know that I do.