When you’re constantly monitoring the news, things can get a little stressful.
I’ve got perhaps too many hobbies for stress relief, and then that kind of becomes a stress in itself, because I can’t find one thing to focus on, or I get upset about neglecting a particular activity. Even then, only a couple of these pursuits really accomplish that zen-like feeling where everything fades and, for a bit, nothing matters.
But there is one thing that brings more contentment and joy than anything else, and, for a long time, I had forgotten about it completely.
Turns out, I like nothing better than standing on a patch of grass in the fall, throwing a football and watching someone catch it. That’s it. It can be an actual, regulation-sized football, a Nerf ball or one of those smaller ones; as long as it’s got laces, or little foam bumps where laces would be, I’m content to grip it and let fly in a yard or park, or threading through the occasional outdoor wedding ceremony to the accompaniment of outraged gasps.
I think this is something I’ve always known, but it really clicked with me one evening this week when I was throwing the ball to my 6-year-old son. We’ve tossed the baseball around plenty, and that has all the emotional trappings and significance of the sacred father/son game of catch. But there was something really different and special about this.
For one, this was the first time in our brief history of passing a football he ran receiver routes. And I use that term loosely, but he ran down the field, turned around and caught the ball. Since this particular ball was small and comparatively soft, I could actually throw it overhand with a decent spiral and he didn’t immediately duck and cover. I don’t know how to explain it, but when he actually looked that first pass in and caught it ... euphoria. He was grinning. I was grinning. Somewhere, John Elway was grinning.
I had to do a little explaining of the basic idea of running down the front lawn and making a catch, as opposed to simply standing a few yards away and throwing it back. “Are we just pretending the other team is there?” he asked. I nodded. “Exactly.”
After a while, he had me run a few. I learned that he’s enamored with quarterback cadence, saying things like “Blue 80” and “Watch the blitz!” before getting to “hutt” and letting me take off. I also was reminded I get winded a lot easier than a 6-year-old.
Eventually, he got a little tired of the structured, linear nature of the process, which is perfectly natural with kids. But even that loosening focus, in itself, was beautiful. By the end, there was a rule that you had to touch a certain rock. Bases got involved, for some reason.
At one point, I was awarded an imaginary badge. I didn’t really understand a lot of this, but, more to the point, I didn’t spend a second where bits of my brain drifted off to things like a mortgage, Mitch McConnell or what our beagle did to a pair of my dress socks. There was just the throw, the catch, some running and something about the Power Rangers.
We probably played for 30 minutes, but it was enough to allow me to return to reality renewed, while my son was more ready for bed than usual.
Best. Evening. Ever.