The day couldn’t have been any more perfect. Liz briefly lifted her face toward the vivid blue sky. The sun radiated with a brightness that caressed Liz’s cheeks with warmth. She knew to cherish the soft heat that also deterred mosquitoes from antagonizing the parents in Pallet Park’s baseball stands. Trees around the park itself varied in height and greens. It was the picture of summer.
When Liz returned her gaze to the ground, her eyes caught Grace at the end of the bleachers. There was no way she could have missed her in her yellow and white striped t-shirt and maroon, below-the-knee shorts.
Once Grace made the declaration that she was the surrogate grandmother to Cameron, she embraced the job with undeniable veracity. She attended all of Cam’s games and assemblies. He, in turn, introduced her as “Gran Grace,” to everyone.
Just then a bat cracked, signaling a connection powerful enough to merit a home run. Parents screamed their adulation. “Run, run, run.”
Liz jumped up and down in the bleachers. The metal drumming amplified her cheers. “Good job,Cam.”
Grace stood in front of the fence separating the parents from the field. She clapped and yelled along with the excited crowd.
Cam’s tense movements reminded Liz of his father. His arm pumps propelled him while his legs pounded the ground, creating little clouds of dust. It had taken time, but Liz had reached the stage where she could remember David with fondness. The sadness of loss held all beauty and forgiveness for the betrayal. She liked to think that in the end, David would have told his family about her. Then they could share the joys of Cam’s successes. In other words, he would have been a proud father.
Cam’s body curved with the turn around second base. One of the outfielders fumbled with the ball, dropping it and stumbling to pick it up. Cam arched around third base. Liz could feel Cam’s determination to beat the ball to home plate when he lowered his chin and plowed through the dusty white pentagon.
He straightened and looked into the bleachers. There was no mistaking the grin and wave for his mother in the stands. Liz gave a quick nod and threw Cam a thumbs up to say, “Good job.”
By then, Bryce was on the field, patting Cam on the back and leading him to the dugout. Liz said aloud to nobody in particular. “Nothing can ruin this day.” The weather was perfect. Cam had a home run. Later, he would spend the night at Sammy’s for a sleepover. It was summer like she remembered living it as a child.
People moved to make room for Grace, who climbed the bleachers by purposefully placing her feet on at a time on the seats. Liz scooted a little more. “I’m glad you made it in time to see the home run.”
“I am so proud of him,” Grace beamed. “Dirk wasn’t adept at baseball.” She pointed to the outfield. Two of the boys pushed each other playfully. They seemed oblivious of the game being played in the baseball diamond. “He was more like the boys out there.”
True love is seeing a person for who they are and liking their flaws too. Liz had to laugh, because Grace was right. If there was body to body contact, Dirk was all in the game. But he struggled with games like baseball or golf. Distractions got between him and the actual activity.
One time, when Dirk was Cam’s age, he walked off the field mid-game. He held something cupped in his hand the entire time. It was such an odd behavior everyone in the stands watched him with stunned bewilderment. When he reached Grace, he lifted the top hand to show her his discovery. “Mom, can you hold this for me.”
Grace dutifully accepted the new family pet. “Sure son. Now, can you go back to playing the game.” Dirk grinned widely before obliging his mother’s request. He ran with determination to his outfield position.
The parents in the stand chuckled. “There’s one in every team. I’m glad it’s your son.” Fifteen year old Liz was embarrassed for Grace and Dirk. Looking back on the moment, fondness filled her. Dirk had always marched to a different drum. Everyone saw and liked him more because of it.
Grace lifted her hand to her eyebrows, shielding her eyes from the sun and scanned the area. “I wonder if Dirk is going to make it.”
Liz’s first inclination leaned toward wondering if Grace was showing the early signs of dementia. Dirk was hundreds of miles away on the oil field. Rather than make a big deal of the disconnect, Liz let the statement drop and gazed toward the direction Grace was looking.
Other than a couple off in the distance playing with a frisbee, there was nothing for Grace to see. Liz passed her the bag of sunflower seeds she had been nibbling on. “What are you doing after the game?”
Grace wiggled her shoulders. “Don’t tell Dirk. With Dirk being gone, I’ve had time to make gentlemen friends. I have a date with Lorne Miller. ”
“Gentlemen,” Liz wagged her brows and smirked. “There’s more than one?”
“Well, there’s one that I talk to more than the others,” Grace admitted. Her cheeks pinked with a pride filled flush. “It’s nice getting to be a person. I’d been a mother for so long, I’d nearly forgotten that people would like me for my companionship.”
Liz’s glanced over at her son and Bryce. She and Bryce had a similar conversation. Liz, at the tail end of grief and ready to move on, chatted with Bryce frequently about dating and relationships.
“It’s different for men and women,” Bryce tried to explain. “When men see a woman with her son, they see that she’ll take good care of the children she’ll have with him. It’s a commercial, so to speak.” He picked up a toy Sammy had left on the floor and tossed it in the general direction of the boys. Then he yelled, “Sam, pick up your things.” Returning to the conversation, he said, “Women see men with children, and they see the headaches. I don’t get a chance to woo and entice with romantic gestures.”
“Have you ever thought that perhaps, women like to know what they’re getting,” Liz argued. “Sure, we want to be wooed. But you’ve eliminated the shock of what happens when the shimmer of the woo fades. Women aren’t as shallow as you’re making us sound.”
Dirk hadn’t been too romantic. His consistent presence made up for that. While being dutiful to his mother, he took every chance to be there for Liz and Cameron. Life was pleasant before Dirk. After Dirk made it clear he planned to be in Liz and Cameron’s life for the foreseeable future, it was fresh and fun. Sure, romance was nice. Knowing that strong arms would be there to hold her at the end of the rough day was that many times better.
The recollection of the conversation brought Liz’s attention back to Bryce. He was down on one knee, talking to a little girl. Her red helmet bobbed her affirmation to what he said. Bryce tapped her on the shoulder, and she ran up to the base with the bat. When Bryce developed the courage to go after the happiness he deserved, some woman was going to be a lucky lady.
Liz’s heart warmed with the happiness she knew would come his way. One day, I’ll be able to tell him I told you so. She knew she was right because she was living it.
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