Saturday Walter and I were playing outside with his Mega-Chuck-E-Cheese-Ball his mother had bought him at his B-Day party. He loves it and will kick it, punch it, or simply chase it for hours. I’ve worn him out with it many times. “Race the Ball” is the game I made up. Which frankly should be more aptly named “Run back and forth on the driveway till your legs are jelly so you will go to sleep at a reasonable hour Game!” I bounced the mega-ball and Walter gave it a Karate Kid kick and it bounced behind the dumpster where it hit a rusty nail sticking out of a beam. It was a one in a million shot and it popped the ball. Not only did it pop but it popped and came flying back out like a dead ghost and laid limp in the driveway. Walter immediately went to Nam level sadness and started to cry. I emphasized and got down on my knee. He ran right over and buried his head in my shoulder and cried for a good five minutes. It was all I could do not to myself. I just hugged. I couldn’t find words for my little dude.
He stepped away and looked at his ball and gasped. He looked at me and said, “Dude, my mommy gave me that ball.” I’d thought he’d cried before but this time he let loose. I hugged him for as long as he’d let me and I went to text Dudette. I wanted to see if she’d thought buying another ball was bad. As I composed the text I saw his shoulders shaking with his head down as he walked to me. He leaned up against the wall crying. I said, “You want McDonald’s for lunch? Happy Meal?” I know child obesity, blah, blah, blah. (If you are thinking of advising me against my dietary choices for my kid I’m going to take this moment to tell you to go fuck yourself.) He nodded his head but I could tell it wasn’t going to cut it. I said, “You want a new ball?” He looked up at me wide eyed and nodded with a frown. I said, “I know it’s not the ball your mommy got. That was special and we can keep this one forever if you want. If we get a new one at least we can play.” He nodded his head again.
I took him upstairs so I could get my cell phone and he lost his shit and buried himself in the couch cushions. Apparently he thought I was lying about the ball and brought him upstairs to stay. I asked him what was going on and he screamed, crying “I want to get a BALL!” I said calmly, “Yeah that’s why I want to leave but if you want the ball then you will have to come out.” That got him going.
I worried all night that I was spoiling him by just running out and replacing it. I told him if he’d broken it by playing to rough with it or purposely I wouldn’t have done it. It was just so random and see his heartbreak in front of me like that I just could not help myself. I told this story to my dad. Former Marine, legendary, solid like a rock, no spin zone, tell it like it is tough guy says without hesitation, “I probably would of done the same thing.”
Walter was sitting on the couch with his new ball (which happened to be purple his favorite color, old ball was green.) I said as I picked up the deflated green ball, “I know this one is special but we’ll have fun with the purple ball too.” Walter asks, “Did you buy this with your money?” I nodded and he said, “This one’s special too Dude. Cause you bought it for me.”