Our Sick Little Boy

There’s part of every parent that wishes their kid would stay a baby forever. Nate provides that for us, in spades, and never more so than when he doesn’t feel well.

Most of last week, Nate was ailing. Stomach problems, a little feverish (see the last post). When he’s not well, Nate is very clingy (or “clinge-y,” as he pronounces it).  It makes life a tad difficult around here, since Karen or I have to be in close proximity every one of his waking minutes. I read while he plays video games (his latest favorite is a shoot ’em up, Saints Row 2. Every sequel is referred to as the second Lion King. So, Nate calls this game Saints Row 2: Simba’s Pride). Or, if he’s not up for action, he’ll watch TV. He discovered the joys of HBO last week and we watched the Wolverine movie repeatedly.

One of his sick days, Nate was out of it, lying on the couch with Karen by his feet. I was above him on the platform that holds our second couch. (We have stadium seating in our TV room). Like a small child, Nate doesn’t quite get the severity of his illnesses, so each time he’s laid low, he gets worried.  Really worried. At one point, he picked up his head and said, with great concern, “I’m not going to die,” which, in his way of speaking, means, “Am I going to die?” We assured him he would live, which led to a bit of playfulness.

Nate put his head back down and said, “I’m dead.” Like the cartoon he thinks he is, he lolled his head and stuck his tongue out of the side of his mouth. His eyes were clamped shut, and if he could have, he would’ve put “X’s” on them a la an animated corpse. That’s when Karen and I joined the fun.

“Oh, poor Nate! He’s dead. We miss him so much,” Karen mock wailed. Nate didn’t react at all, still playing possum. That’s when I thought of an old movie scene that Nate loves.

Way before Netflix, there was a mail order video rental company called Home Film Festival. They had foreign, silent and rare movies that Blockbuster wouldn’t dream of carrying. I used to pay $9 per rental! Can you believe that? But HFF allowed me to catch up on all the Truffaut, Fellini and classic films I’d never seen. I went through a major Buster Keaton phase. One Buster classic, Spite Marriage, caught Nate’s fancy. In it, Keaton is dressed as a Confederate solider, whiskers and all. When he can’t get his fake beard off, he grabs a pair of scissors and goes to cut. He almost clips his ear, which 7-year-old Nate found hysterical. Back to the couch.

I leaned over the back and said, “I think I’ll cut off his ear and keep it as a souvenir.” Nate, eyes still shut, couldn’t help himself and grinned widely, lips still pressed together. After all, he was dead! His face became the image of his former self and touched us both.

Now he’s better, back to telling me to shut up and calling me rude names, but, for a few moments last week, we were visited by little Natey, and it was sweet.

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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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