I eat peanuts when I watch baseball. Roasted, boiled, or otherwise. I don’t care which kind. It’s nostalgia, really. I don’t attend ball games without them.
They have roasted peanuts for sale at this kid’s baseball game. Six bucks per bag. That’s highway robbery, I know, but the money goes to a good cause. Baseball camp for team-members whose parents can’t afford it.
The boy sitting next to me is eating peanuts. Let’s call him Derrick.
Derrick’s younger brother is on the team, a magnificent athlete.
I ask Derrick if he plays ball. “Not really,” he says. “I got asthma, doctors said I shouldn’t.”
Derrick has more than asthma. He has severe diabetes, and a few other related health problems that make him different than your typical Sears-and-Roebuck twelve-year-old.
His mother overhears us talking. She interjects.
“Derrick’s good at ART,” she says. “Show him some of your art, honey.”
Derrick is thoroughly embarrassed.
She brings out a cellphone and thumbs through photos of landscapes, portraits, and colorful drawings.
“These are good,” I remark.
“Not THAT good,” says self-effacing Derrick, still recovering from the humiliation of his braggart mother.
The crack of a bat.
Derrick’s brother smacks one. Parents go wild. Derrick’s brother runs. The third-baseman makes an error. Derrick’s brother sprints for home. It’s going to be close.
Derrick is cheering so hard that my ears will never be the same. He excuses himself and leaves for a refill on peanuts.
His mother tells me Derrick has gotten good at being supportive of the other kids. It hasn’t always been easy. But then, it was Derrick who started the peanut-effort to raise money for baseball camp.
“Sometimes I’m mad at how things are,” his mother says. “Don’t seem fair that one of your kids has to fight so hard to be normal.”
Derrick’s brother runs to the fence, giddy from home-run adrenaline. He shouts to his brother. Derrick stands on the other side and wedges his hand through the chain links. They high-five.
Derrick loves his brother.
When the game is over, Derrick and Little Brother have arms around one another. His brother eats ice cream. Derrick can’t eat any because of the sugar.
“I know siblings are usually competitive,” his mother says. “But Derrick’s not. He’s proud of his brother. He always says something like: ‘I wanna be like him when I grow up,’ even though he’s two years older.”
But Derrick knows better than anyone else what he will and won’t be when he grows up. So, he keeps painting and making sketches.
There is a drawing on her phone. A smiling face. It’s an impressive portrait in colored pencil.
“That’s one of himself,” she says. “It took him half a day.”
The word stunning doesn’t cover it.
“You know,” she says. “You think you’re gonna be this wise old parent, and teach your kids all kinds of stuff. But it’s him who’s teaching us. He’s a good kid.”
He’s more than that.
He’s what I want to be when I grow up.
Thanks for the peanuts.