Sports writer Julie Dicaro talks dealing with motherhood and how retiring American sportscaster Vin Scully made a difference.
My youngest son was not an easy baby. His brother, just 18 months older, was a breeze. One of those babies so serene, so happy, so simple to care for that I assumed his demeanor was attributable to my superior mothering skills. Every mother’s first baby should be as easy as he was. Even as a teenager, he’s as even keel as they come.
My second son, though, came out of the womb screaming and didn’t stop for the first 9 months of his life, right about the time we discovered that what doctors had assured us was “colic” was actually painful gastric reflux. The madness finally ended when I went to his doctor, steeled by a group of moms in my corner, and refused to leave his office without a prescription for baby Zantac. By that time, I was completely spent, physically and emotionally, and when I handed my red-faced, screaming child over to his pediatrician, I considered, briefly, making a run for it.
There are entire months during that time that I don’t remember. I know I went days upon days without showering, dropping off into a shallow sleep during his infrequent catnaps. I often wonder what future damage I did to my oldest son during those months, just surviving from minute-to-minute rather than making sure he was physically, emotionally, and intellectually engaged at all times with Baby’s First Electron Microscope or whatever the popular toddler stimulus was at the time. I don’t recall and I’m sure I didn’t know at the time. Those months were a giant blur of breast feeding, The Wiggles, and desperately praying for sleep. Some days my husband would come home from work to find me sitting on the step with both kids in my lap, because I literally could not wait the 30 seconds it would take him to walk in the door from the driveway to hand over one (or both) of the babies.
My story is the story of a lot of women with young children at home. But I was lucky. I had Vin Scully.
Sometime around my youngest child’s birth, Major League Baseball had released their first version of MLB.com, which allowed fans to listen to games from anywhere in the country, online. And the games were archived, so you could go back and listen to a game that had already ended earlier in the day. There weren’t a ton of options for entertainment when up breast feeding a baby at 2:00 am, but every night, on my computer, there sat three hours of audio of Vin Scully.
I was working from home at the time (Ha, did I mention trying to keep two children and myself alive wasn’t even my full-time job?), so I saw most of the game my Chicago Cubs played each day while perched, precariously, only my couch, holding my son in the exact position that would keep him from screaming. It was possibly more exhausting than being up and moving around.
But at night, I would sit in front of the open window, feeding my baby, and let Vin’s voice, his stories, his memories of baseball from a time gone by, wash over me. It got to be a ritual every night in which I could lose myself, float up out of my body and hover somewhere in the warm wind over Chavez Ravine, just listening to Vin and thinking about baseball. It was better than meditation. It was (almost) as good as sleep. I could begin to relax, feeling some of the frustration with my never-quiet, never-sleeping, never-happy baby start to dissolve. As Vin would talk, I would unwind. Those few hours of relaxation every night recharged my soul, kept me going, and allowed me to be the mother I wanted to be the other twenty-one hours of the day.
This week, Vin Scully will call his last game for the Dodgers, and an era will end. And while I’ll miss him in the same way other baseball fans will, I’ll always feel as special fondness for the man who, unknowingly, got me through the hardest months of my life. My son is nearly a teen now, and he still needs my attention constantly. He’s emotional and sensitive and overly-dramatic, much like he was as a baby. He’s also fantastically creative, ridiculously outspoken, and hysterically funny. I wouldn’t trade those months, hard as they were, for the world.
A few weeks ago, as the Cubs and Dodgers played their last game of the regular season, our local Cubs TV station played an inning of Vin Scully calling the game. My son bounded into the room, all brown curls and long lashes and smelling of sunshine, to exclaim “Hey, who is that? I know that voice!” Without waiting for an answer, he left as suddenly as he came, flying off to answer a text from a friend.
He probably wouldn’t remember the sound of Vin Scully’s voice, but I’ll never forget it.