John and Jenny sit at the kitchen table after dinner talking about the road trip. She cuts them each a slice of homemade berry pie, a large slice for John and a small one for herself. There is a pot of coffee done in the machine and she pours a cup for him, while making herself a cup of herbal tea, and then sits down again. “So, tell me of all the places you went, which one did you like best?” She says. He answers her with a question of his own, “Where did the pie come from? It’s very good.” He assumes Jenny didn’t make it because she doesn’t do any baking, leaving that to their moms, who are constantly dropping things off to them. “My mom and dad came by the other day, did you forget my question?” She teases him. “No, but where did the new hanging swing on the front porch come from? He asks her. “I told you, my mom and dad came by the other day, and Dad put up the swing that they found at a yard sale last weekend. Do you like it? And when are you going to answer my question?” She is till teasing him and now starting to giggle. He replies, “Yes I like it, it’s perfect for the porch. Care to grab a blanket and try it out with me? You said you have some news to share with me and I’m being very patient, but still curious. Since when did you start drinking herbal tea instead of coffee? Is the switch your news?” She answers as she gets up from the table to get a warm blanket from the bedroom, “I read somewhere that caffeine is bad for you.” He laughs at that and follows her out of the kitchen and onto the porch, and says “It’s never bothered me and I’ve been drinking coffee since I was seven years old.”
They settle comfortably onto the swing, with Jenny’s legs tucked under John’s for added warmth. It is cooler tonight and they are both wearing sweaters and drape the blanket across them. Jenny snuggles in closer and John wraps an arm around her and says softly, “Now honey, tell me your news. I know you and you are never at a loss for words, or hesitate to share news. This one must really be something to get you acting this way.” She says, “What way is that?” He searches for an appropriate description before answering, “I’d say you’re about ready to burst.” She giggles again, “That may be a true statement in about nine months.” John turns her face towards his and says, “Really? You mean you…I mean us…we are going to have a baby? When?” She nods yes in reply, and then he kisses her, again and again. When they stop kissing she tells him, “I have an appointment next week with an OB Gyn doctor, she’ll be able to give us an estimated due date, but if my guess is right and you do the math, I’d say the baby will be due about the All Star Game break.”
They rock back and forth on the swing in silence for a few minutes and John has a thought that he shares with her, “This is one of those moments that we will never forget.” She replies, “I know, I wanted to tell you on the phone so many times in the last week, but wanted more to wait until we were together.” John then asks, “Does anyone else know?” Jenny says, “Of course not, I wouldn’t tell our families or friends before you. Although I have a feeling Ellen knows, she has some kind of “farm sense” about life. She has stopped by to check up on me almost everyday while you were gone, but she never said why.” John nods in agreement, “I know what you mean, I felt them same thing about Mac, that he always knew more than he said. When are we going to give everyone the news?” Jenny says, “Sunday, you know how our parents and friends are going to react, and I don’t want us to overshadow tomorrow’s wedding party for Riley and Gwen.”
John holds Jenny close, and says, “It’s cool out here, do you want to go inside? She says, “No, no yet, this feels so good that I just want to stay here for a while longer, but another cup of tea would be nice.” John gets up, tucks the blanket around her and says, “I’ll be right back with it.” He makes her tea and pours himself another coffee, and then returns to her and the swing. After they finish their cups, Jenny tells him, “I was a little worried this would be too much for you, happening during your rookie season, and with a new club in a new city. That with all you’re going to be handling, the news of a baby would be overwhelming, but you don’t seemed phased at all by it, why not?” John smiles at his wife, his love, and replies, “Honey, compared to the thought of becoming a dad for the first time, playing a game of baseball is going to be easy. I guess I’m not really worried about either one because I’m with you.” He kisses her again, and then she says, “You never disappoint me, Mi Numero Uno, let’s go to bed.”
John wakes up before the dawn sun comes over the Eastern skyline and gets ready for a run along the dark streets of town. He manages to ease himself away from his wife in bed without waking her, and although she moves a bit and reaches for him in her sleep, she stays asleep and he lets her be, she is now sleeping for two. He puts on running clothes, and turns on the coffee pot for later, and before he goes out the front door, he stands in the doorway to their room. He stands there for a few moments and sees his Jenny sleeping, and then he smiles to himself and has a moment of complete contentment.
There are very few moments in any life that are a moment where you know that every other moment before now has led you to this place in time, and you feel and know utter and complete contentment and happiness. The house is quiet, with Riley and Gwen asleep in the other bedroom. The coffee pot is starting to work and the scent of a fresh pot fills the kitchen with it’s aroma. John walks out the door onto the front porch, and he pauses there to stretch a bit before starting his run. There is no sound at all on this November morning in his small town. The street lights are still on and cast dim spaces of light across the dark streets. He starts down the stairs but hears the front door open behind him. He turns and sees Riley coming out onto the porch. “You’re up early buddy, you feeling okay?” His friend rubs his eyes, and then replies, “I’m doing fine, just smelled the coffee. You go ahead and run around town, I’m going to sit, drink coffee, and watch the sun come up.” John says, “Okay, I’m going to the truck stop this morning to say hello to my Mom and Pops, want to come along?” Riley nods a yes, and goes for coffee as John heads out for his run.
An hour later, the two of them are in the truck heading east along the highway, and as they pass by Ellen’s farmhouse John looks to Riley, “Are you and your wife going to move into the farmhouse while Ellen goes with Esteban?” Riley just nods yes, and then says, “We are, I’m not sure how she is going to handle a Kansas Winter, but we’ve talked about it, and yes we can be happy there together until Spring Training time.” John keeps his eyes on the road, but replies, “Us too, where are you two planning on going next?” His friend just looks out the window for a few minutes and then says, “I don’t know about you kid, but we are going to Arizona, I heard the Angels signed a hotshot rookie and I’d like to see if he turns into anything special. I’ve been thinking about watching him play, and come the tail end of Kansas cold ass winter I’m thinking Gwen would like to see some warm sunshine again.”
John turns the old truck into the lot of the truck stop, and then he notices that snowflakes are just now starting to fall. This is an early season snow, and the flakes look large and full of water – wet snow now. He didn’t pay attention to the weather report at all, and he turns to Riley and asks, “Are we going to have to hook up the plow today?’ His buddy looks at him and laughs before responding, “Yes, the weather turned while you were running and I was drinking your coffee. Let’s go say hi to your Pops and get busy, I’m guessing we’ll see a couple of inches in the next hour.” John nods an okay, and the two of them have the plow blade hooked on the truck in ten minutes, and only then go into the store.
Pops is working the counter, and when he looks up for the next customer he sees his only child, now a grown man standing next to one of his oldest friends. He smiles his best one, and then walks around the counter to give them both a welcome home and glad to see you kind of greeting. He says, “It’s good to see you both home, how was the road? Let’s have a cup and let me hear the stories that weren’t already on the TV?” He then looks to Riley, and with a shake of his hand says congratulations. Riley pulls Sven in closer, and pats him on the back, and replies, “Thanks, it’s good to be home.” The three of them sit down for a while and tell John’s dad about the road trip in between customers, and then Pops tells him to go onto the house and see his Mom. First, he walks around the truck stop and looks at the minor improvements completed by the contractor – there is a noticeable difference to the old place, and he thinks it looks good. He stands in the middle of the back lot, and Riley bumps up alongside him and says, “Good looking stop kid, you did good.”
John leads the way through the front door of their old house, pauses for a moment to smell the fresh pies just out of the oven. His Mom is getting some things ready for tonight’s party at the farm house, and she comes out of the kitchen with her baking apron on and smiles at him and Riley. His Mom’s smile when he first walks through the front door no matter how many days he has been away from home makes him feel like the look he knows she gave him the day he was born. He doesn’t remember the look, but knows it when he sees it. He hugs her and then she gives Riley a big hug and says, “I never thought I would ever see you married, but I am so happy for you and can’t wait to meet Gwen, our Jenny tells me she is a sweetheart and that’s good enough for me.” Riley actually shows a blush on his cheeks under his beard, and tells Deb, “Thanks, yes she is a sweet woman, and thanks for this party tonight.”
John leaves them talking and goes into his old bedroom looking for something special. Deb and Riley sit down on the sofa, and she asks him, “How are you feeling?” He gives her a smile in reply and says, “I’m doing alright. I get tired some days, and for a few minutes feel depressed about not having much time left. Still, I’m determined to make the best of it, and to make it through Winter until Spring. The road trip is a great memory, and having Gwen with me makes a lot of difference.” Deb nods in understand and then says, “Have you thought about having another discussion with the doctor about possible treatments? I know you, and never seen you give up on anything.” Riley says, “Yes, I have. Gwen wants me to make another appointment to see what’s possible.” John comes back into the living room with an old ball glove in his hands. His Mom looks up and smiles when she sees him holding it. “Honey, that’s your first glove, isn’t it? Are you going to take that memento home with you?” He replies, “Yes, I’m thinking this is a reminder of how far I’ve come, and another motivation to go further.” She smiles at her son, and says “I’m sure you will find other uses for it someday.” John looks at his Mom, and thinks to himself as he and Riley leave the house and head for the shed to hit some balls, she knows about the baby. He and Jenny have told no one but their moms and Ellen all seem to know already?
Journal Entry – A cold Sunday night in November – South Haven Kansas
Jenny has gone to bed and I’m sitting at the small desk in the living room of our rental house. It has been an eventful weekend and this is the first chance I’ve had to reflect on where we all, meaning my wife and my extended family, are heading next. Last night, the Magruder farmhouse was full of family and friends to celebrate Riley and Gwen’s wedding. My old friend pulled me aside at one point and said, “Thanks for everything, I guess I didn’t realize I had this many friends. I’m going to go ahead and try whatever treatment plan the docs suggest. I’ve spent my whole life just getting to the next stop, and then getting back on the road. I guess I’m not ready to quit yet.”
Today, Jenny and I started the day with a late breakfast with the newlyweds at our house. Jenny drove into Wichita last week, and went to a custom T shirt shop. She had shirts made special for everyone, and gift wrapped for when we visited them today to share the news that she is pregnant. We started with Riley and Gwen because they live with us for now, and when we sat down at the table, she handed them their packages. They opened them, and the front of the shirts had a logo with crossed baseball bats with a ball in the middle. My wife is bold, and always believes the best of me, so she added a line of script under the logo. It says “Our Little All Star”. On the back, it said Uncle Riley and Aunt Gwen. Riley smiled when he saw that, and Gwen teared up and gave us both hugs. Next, Jenny and I stopped by her parent’s house with two more shirts – one for Grandpa Ted and another for Grandma Mary. Ted beamed with pride, and Mary joked that she was too young to be a grandmother, but she was tearful too. She pulled me aside, and then told me that she knew from my first date with her daughter that she would one day see the two of us become new parents, and she couldn’t be any happier. Jenny left “Uncle” shirts with her Mom for her brothers, they are off working the winter months at oil field jobs in Texas, but her Mom promised to call them today and mail them their shirts.
Our next stop was at the truck stop, where we found my Pops and Mom at the house on a Sunday afternoon. My dad has a new counter man working for him now that gives him a break from the normal long hours, so he takes more time off away from the store. Pops had a fire going in the fireplace and the house where I grew up felt warm and comforting. I haven’t said anything to Jenny, but I have been having thoughts about being a father myself at just 21, and during my rookie season. I guess I should admit to myself and to her that I’m more than a little nervous how I’m going to handle all of this. Jenny gave my parents their package, and they looked at us with a question in their eyes. My dad opened his up first and it said “Grandpa Pops” on the back. Now my Pops has lived a hard life, done hard work day after day, and never paused or complained. He is by nature not an emotional man, but today he smiled and laughed out loud. My Mom opened her package too, and hugged Jenny, and then looked at me and said, “This explains you taking the glove home yesterday. What if our baby is a girl?” I told my Mom, “Then maybe she will play softball?”
We left my parent’s house and drove to see Esteban and Ellen. Esteban was sitting on the front porch smoking one of his thin cigars, and Jenny handed me his wrapped up shirt, and then said, “You should give this to him outside while I go inside and talk with Ellen. I think you need some coach talk time.” My wife knows me so well, knows what I’m thinking when I don’t say it out loud. She gave Coach a kiss on the cheek and then went into the house. I sat down in the chair next to Esteban on the porch, and then handed him the wrapped shirt. He looked at it, and said, “What’s this Mijo? It’s not my birthday?” He opened it up, looked at the logo on the front and then turned it over. It said just Abuelo, meaning grandfather. He looked at me, took a small drink of tequila, and said, “What does this mean?” We both heard Ellen’s laughter from inside the house, and then she came out the front door with her own shirt that said Abuela (grandmother), and gave Esteban a kiss. She hugged me, as Jenny followed in her wake and also hugged Esteban. He said, “It is a fine day, another ballplayer is on the way, Que No?”
Esteban poured me a shot of his tequila, and lit another cigar. He raised his glass and said a toast to our blessings. He looked at me, and then said after Jenny and Ellen had gone back in the house, “What are you thinking?” I told him about wondering if I was ready for everything – becoming a dad, my rookie year, taking care of all of my family. He looked away, looked off to the south for a few minutes before responding. He said, “Mi Toro, I know your heart and it is strong. You can play our game of beisbol well because you live life well. You listen and learn, you work hard, and take care of your family and your teammates. You speak little, but say what matters. You can do anything that you choose to do. Have no doubts Mijo, trust yourself and be yourself in everything you do. You are going are going to be a great Padre to this baby, and have many more. Salud.”
I sit here tonight feeling very good about everything in my life. The next few months until Spring Training will be full and busy. I wouldn’t want it to be any other way, but tonight I’m thankful for a moment to be quiet and still, and reflect on the past, and look forward to the future. I know I love the game, love playing it and want to do it well. However, if the game was taken away from me tomorrow, I would still be happy because I have a family and friends, and my wonderful wife.
John puts away the journal notebook, turns off the desk light, and goes into his bedroom where Jenny is sleeping. She fell asleep with the bedside table lamp on, and next to it is his first baseball glove. He stands next to the bed, looking at the glove, and at his sleeping wife that he loves, and has a thought before getting into bed with her. Someday, just like his Pops did with him, he will play a game of catch with his son or daughter; it will be just a game of catch, but so much more than that in meaning.
Author’s Note – Although the story has come to an end, I expect that sometime in the future I will pick it up again and continue it in a sequel. In the meantime, I have a few short story ideas to add to the Bedtime for Ballplayers collection, and still thinking about extending the stories of Jack and Diane, and Jim and Carmen too.