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The door creaked, Grandpa’s chair creaked, the floor beneath the musty carpet creaked. I stepped from the doorway onto the floor, walking across to the couch nearby the chair Grandpa sat in, rocking slightly back and forth. It was a couch chair likely more ancient than the house itself, and Grandpa loved it too much. It was just one of those things he wouldn’t get rid of – I would define him as a hoarder, but he wasn’t the kind of hoarder who keeps their old cream cheese containers in every nook and cranny and hides useless junk from their kids so they don’t take it from him when they come to visit.
Above Grandpa’s chair was the baseball, the red almost faded from its binding. I had theorized that it was a holy object of some sort to him, a last shrine to the one thing he seemed to worship above God: Baseball. All around the house was evidence to this theory. There were certainly more pictures of him playing baseball from years and years ago than there were crosses in the house: pictures of playing baseball with his dad, pictures of his little league team from years ago, pictures of him in middle school baseball, high school baseball, college baseball, a single picture for every team he had coached in his life. Plus Grandpa had the pictures of his baseball idols, and that was just the pictures. Dozens of baseballs hung in cases like the one over his chair throughout the house, many signed by his idols. The one above his chair was the one that was most important to him. His baseball. He had played with it throughout his life. His dad had given it to him when he was a kid, and he had used it whenever possible. It meant the world to him, and, by some miracle, it wasn’t busted. Sure, it had its dents and it was very faded, but it was useable.
Grandpa grunted as he lifted his old, rackety body from the torn chair. He hoarded things of sentimental value – stuffed animals from his childhood, bibles that had covers almost falling off, chairs and tables and couches that were years past their prime. He stretched his hand out to grab the baseball case, and I rushed from the couch where I sat to help him take it down. Grandpa didn’t so much as look at me. He saw me, but he didn’t look. He stretched a little more, and batted my hand away as I tried to help him take it down. He didn’t like to recognize the frailty of his body, but then again, no one really does. He got the case down after shaking it a little, and collapsed back into his chair in relief. It was isolated from the couch that I returned to, an island from the mainland, but it faced toward the couches. A shining golden baseball trophy from his childhood lay on the center of the table that was between all the couches. The table was old and wooden, scratched from all that had gone on in this ancient house. The house was grandpa, I believed, inside and out. It was old like him, southern, and a shrine to baseball. It didn’t have Wi-Fi or any technology I was allowed to use. I had brought my drawing tablet, but both my dad and my mom had warned me about it, and when I insisted, they told me to make sure I kept it hidden.
“This baseball has been in my family for hundreds of years. You know that.” (I was positive my great-grandpa had obtained the baseball when he was about thirty years old, when grandpa was five. That meant it was only about eighty years old.)
“Yes, Grandpa.” I spoke loud and clear for him. Ever since grandma had died, his body had gone downhill from there. He kept forgetting things about me, my grade, what I liked doing, that sort of thing. Maybe he just didn’t want to know, or didn’t care. He was very quiet, often lost in his own thoughts, a turtle who rarely came out of his shell, and if he did, only a little.
“Your dad…” Grandpa sighed. “He never liked baseball as much… as much as I did.” He paused occasionally to cough or clear his throat. “I know you do.”
I pursed my lip. I had heard him say this sort of thing to my mom before, how he was glad I liked baseball. The truth is, I wasn’t very athletic at all. I liked to read and draw and all that, but I’m sure Grandpa would think I’m a nerd. I paused and waited for him to continue.
“It’s about time I gave you this. Your dad wouldn’t take it. He was always too busy studying his medical books, growing plants.” Grandpa sort of mini-scoffed.
“I can’t take it either.” I said, shaking my head.
“I… it belongs with you. It belongs with your family. I know you can do great things in baseball.”
“No. It’s always been yours. I don’t want to take it from you.”
Grandpa looked troubled now. “You deserve it. Take it. You can succeed with it. Please.”
“I… I don’t like baseball, Grandpa. I like drawing. I’ll show you.”
Grandpa bit his lip. He was shaking a little.
I walked to get my drawing tablet, but Grandpa told me to stop. Louder than I had ever heard him speak.
“I thought you liked baseball.” Grandpa said. He sounded as if he was whimpering, a little.
“I’ve never really been into sports.” I said, trying to smile. “I could draw the baseball for you. If you have paper, I could sketch it now. I could show you.” I was proud of my drawing skills. I had gotten my artwork into local papers, contests and such. My art teachers always said I would go far. I had been drawing since before I could walk, and I was fifteen then.
“I don’t want your drawing. You… betrayed… me.” He said slowly, and tears began to drip down his face. I ran from the room, his words echoing in my mind. They still do to this day. Tears streamed from my eyes as I rushed to the room I was staying in. They continued to pour as I opened my drawing tablet and began to draw the baseball. I stayed up all night drawing it on my tablet, and I painted it when we returned home. It was the best artwork I had made so far, and the picture still hangs in my house.
Ever since that day, my mom told me I should have accepted it and lied to Grandpa. My dad never said anything on the issue, but his face told me that he believed I had done the right thing.
Grandpa died eight months after the incident, in a nursing home. The baseball was buried with him now, in the ground with him, where it belonged. I hope they bury me with my baseball too, the watercolor one. I always felt responsible for his death somehow, but I knew, in the part of me that was logical, that that wasn’t true.