A Bit of Catching Up

Joey and I visited Robbie in Brazil last week. I have to say I’m not much of a traveller, preferring the comforts of home and the surroundings of my records and books. Not for me a country where you can’t flush toilet paper, can’t drink from the faucet and can become a buffet dinner for mosquitoes and mites. But Robbie is kicking ass down there, speaking fluent Portuguese and making us big time proud.

The tedious journey to the Southern Hemisphere began with an extensive delay at Albany airport. It was while waiting for the plane to come that I got a Facebook flash from Nate. Here is the entire back and forth:

Nate – Good news, Joey and my dad are visiting Brazil for this week, and I’m hoping my dad’s bringing me a Brazilian chocolate bar or something…

Me – Nate, I’m going to bring you chocolate and a giant snake from the jungle!

Nate – Remember, dad, I don’t want any snakes!

Me – I forgot Nate. I’ll bring you a poisonous tree frog instead.

Nate – NO WAY!!!!!

What I love about this dialogue is its complete appropriateness and its sense of play, although knowing Nate I’m guessing he was scared and angry, rather than joking, when he went all caps.

When we got home, Karen told me a great story about Nate. We have a friend with, I think, a ten-year old boy who is more classically autistic and nonverbal. When she came to see Karen while I was gone, there was a nervousness about letting her son out of sight range. Karen, who surely has been through that and more, told her, “Don’t worry, let him be,” and, with that, the boy was off.

I’ve written before about how autistic kids see a kindred spirit in Nate and gravitate towards him. From a distance, Karen heard Nate say firmly, “You need to speak nicely, not like that!”

Nate Katz, amateur speech therapist and guide. Think how far he’s come to be able to say something like that. A little later, Nate had some more advice. “”Use your words,” something he’s heard from us for most of his life. Karen felt that Nate got through on some level, as the boy seemed to respond to Nate’s words.

To find Nate today, not just more talkative and connected, but also understanding the importance of language and how valuable communication can be, was the best welcome home present I could imagine. In return I brought him a bag full of Brazilian candies and cookies. A fair trade for all.

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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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