One Step Beyond

A mainstream education, moving to Cooperstown, high school graduation, an impending college graduation. Looking back on all we’ve accomplished, all Nate has accomplished, takes my breath away. Are we ready for the next step? Am I?

We had a meeting with Nate’s support team last week and the focus was on post-school life. Nate is going to need some help in getting a real and worthwhile job. I’ve always thought it pointless for him to, say, bag groceries. He’s too smart and has too many skills to simply be assigned a task for the sake of saying “Nate has a job.” I always said I’d rather sit and read novels with him for the rest of my life than have him do something unchallenging.

A regular job, we believe, will be complemented by the Alpha Folks t-shirt idea, and maybe an outlet for Nate’s art. Good signs abound on those fronts. When the conversation turned to Nate living independently from us, I found myself ambivalent about a major, and normal, life step.

We haven’t had any of our kids leave permanently. Obviously, when that occurs, we’ll have mixed feelings. Sure it’ll be sad to see them out of the house full-time, but there’s a level of triumph in having helped shape such fine people. The fears of them being out in the world loom large: will they have what it takes to find good and fulfilling work, do they have the skills to live on their own, will they find themselves under the influence and manipulated by others in a way they can’t see and aren’t prepared for? Hey, we’ve all been through it, but I’ve never been through it as a father.

After the meeting, we got an email notifying us that there’s an apartment available  across the street and the landlords, who know Nate, would be willing to look in on him if we thought we were ready for that next step. We are not. It’s a wonderful and caring offer, exactly what we’d hoped for Nate when we moved to a small village, but the thought of myself sitting and watching TV, while visualizing Nate puttering around alone at a house I can see through the window from the couch, made me so sad.

Last night, I entered the big TV room, where Nate was lying down  watching X-Men Origins: Wolverine. I asked him if he’d like to move out and have an apartment and he emphatically said no. It’s one thing to have, by a natural progression, your kids leave the house. It’s another to force them out. Especially if it’s a child like Nate.

Will I ever be ready for that? I just don’t know, but if I want him to lead a life similar to the norm, I better get over it. I’m not sure how that works.

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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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