I was not looking forward to my 40th birthday. For some reason, that particular milestone of mortality was leaving a bitter taste in my mouth. (And not in a good, well-hopped IPA kind of way.)
My wife was six months pregnant with our second son (Younger One), and wanted to move. I was feeling somewhat stymied with my career and stagnant with my professional growth. These stresses, combined with the thought of being half-way to the grave (if I exceeded statistical averages), created a toxic cocktail of malaise in my mind.
My son, Older One, was nine-years-old at the time, and far more stoked about my pending birthday than I was. He was especially excited about my birthday present. He had picked it out himself. It was awesome. I would love it.
When the big day rolled around, Older One joyfully bounded into my bedroom, woke me up and handed me my present: a new baseball mitt.
A new baseball mitt. A beauty, too. A Wilson A1665 Elite 5 (lightyears better than the Elite 4).
To Older One’s nine-year-old, Little League-obsessed, baseball-mad mind, it was vicarious euphoria. To my forty-year-old, self-absorbed, self-pitying soul, it was a wake-up call.
A new baseball mitt. A sweet and simple invitation to get out of my funk, and enjoy my son’s youth.
It worked. Older One and I oiled up my new mitt, and spent the rest of his childhood breaking it in. In time, I would teach Older One’s little brother how to throw and catch a baseball, all the while wearing the mitt that I received while he was still in the womb.
That was 13 years ago, and that mitt has been a steady companion ever since. (I wore it just last Saturday to have a front yard catch with Younger One.) Older One was right; it was an awesome 40th birthday present, and I did love it. It has helped keep me young.