Reality and Lies

It was last year and we were all sitting down at the kitchen table. We almost always have dinner together as a family, a lost moment in most of America today, or so we are told, but a wonderful result of moving to Cooperstown and working from home.

Nate burst out with a bit of conversation.

“Do you know the movie Snow On My Feet?” None of us did, and I admit I was a bit confused. I’m well-versed in cinema and, if I haven’t seen a film it’s almost certain I’ve heard of it. Not this one.

Nate continued. “It’s a movie comedy from 1961 and stars Ethel Merman and Buddy Hackett. It takes place in a ski lodge.”

Nate reads the weekly TV guide to see what’s on the movie channels in the coming week. I was skeptical of this particular flick, but he’s good on details, and there were a lot of specifics delivered. But I had to check.

I walked the two steps down from the kitchen to the computer room and headed to There was no such movie!

So, is this a lie? Nate tends not to fib, or, if he does, he immediately fesses up to it. What’s clear is Nate has very strong alternate reality and the world that lives in his mind often crosses into ours. It’s like Inception. He has a hard time distinguishing fantasy from reality.

Last week in biology class, the professor showed X-rays of broken bones and asked the class if anyone had ever broken something. Nate raised his hand.

“Eleven years ago I fell off the monkey bars and broke my leg.” A nice solid bit of classroom participation. When Elise came home and told us Nate’s story, we were happy he contributed. Problem was, it wasn’t true.

Was this a lie? I told Nate that he never broke his leg, and he said “I broke my foot.” That’s not so either. What’s probably true is he fell, hurt himself and, in his mind, it was as painful as a break.

How we end up dealing with these moments is by pushing Nate to answer questions that can lead him, and us, to a better knowledge. It’s bittersweet, because part of me hates to see his idiosyncracies disappear. I’d hate to hammer away his slightly off memories and funny way of relaying stories. Truth is, the more grounded he is in our world, that more likely he is to succeed.

And then there are times we go along with it. Months ago, Nate started harping on the amount of gas we had in the car. Endlessly he’d ask how much gas was in the car and, if the tank was nearing 1/4 full he’d panic.

“Nate, have we ever run out of gas? Don’t worry.” But he’d worry.

Finally we found out, after much poking and probing, why he was so anxious. He told us of a dream he had where we ran out of gas and it was bad. So now we always fill up early, to give Nate a little peace of mind. His world has become ours, as it often does.


About Jeff Katz

Jeff Katz is Mayor of Cooperstown, the “Birthplace of Baseball” and home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. His latest book, Split Season:1981 - Fernandomania, the Bronx Zoo, and the Strike that Saved Baseball, (Thomas Dunne Books, 2015), received national attention, with coverage appearing in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Sporting News and NPR’s Only a Game, among others. Katz appeared on ESPN’s Olbermann and The Sporting Life with Jeremy Schaap and MLB Network’s MLB Now, with Brian Kenny. Split Season: 1981 was a finalist for the 2016 Casey Award for Best Baseball Book of the Year.
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