Right Where We Didn’t Want to Be

Man, is everybody sick? For the last week I’ve had a bad cold, severe sore throat and other viral symptoms I’d rather not discuss. It’s certainly not conducive to writing.

This morning Nate went out for the second of three sessions at his latest job training site: Hannaford’s Supermarket. Remember when I said we didn’t want Nate packing grocery bags, that that was the last thing we wanted for him, that he is a college graduate with great skills and doesn’t need to be doing just anything to be out in the work place? Remember all that?

Last week, Nate packed grocery bags. In fact, Karen saw him at work and he seemed to be doing well. The truth is he likes this sort of thing and loves being in a store. I’m beginning to think this is similar to when Nate took math in 8th grade. In his last year in Illinois, Nate took algebra. In his first year in Cooperstown, he took the same course. I assumed that was because we moved to another state and there was likely an overlap of instruction. When, for the third year in a row he ended up with a nearly identical curriculum, I bristled and called the school to complain.

What I realized in mid-tizzy was that my hopes for Nate were very much wrapped into my success as a student and in math. What Nate needed was very different from what I needed, and I learned to reassess him outside of my personal experience. That’s what I’m learning with these jobs he’s been on. I don’t see Nate as someone who is suited to cleaning tables in a college cafeteria, or working at a factory or bagging food, but he seems to genuinely enjoy the tasks and the assessments are pretty good overall. Plus, he’s learning things like keeping an eye on the clock to know when break time is over, and how to better converse with co-workers.

So I’m going through a change on this. Maybe having him out in the world doing anything does have its merits. Still, as I list more of his art and wait to move ahead on Alpha Folks, it’s a jarring contradiction to think of Nate the artist as Nate the bag stuffer.

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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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5 Responses to Right Where We Didn’t Want to Be

  1. Mary Margaret Kuhn says:

    It may seem a contradiction to find pleasure in both, but Nate is at a very different place on God’s continuum than you were at his age. Please don’t send messages that honest work is not valuable. Many artists have wiped tables and swept floors while they create art that moves us deeply.

    • It’s hard to write about this without giving the impression that I think the jobs are “demeaning.” I don’t. For me it’s simply trying to figure out meshing how I see Nate and how the real world will handle him.

  2. Amanda Pinney Holland says:

    Many of the finest artists have had to toil at “day jobs” before hitting it big. If Nate has two jobs that he can enjoy, he’s way ahead of many people.

    Also, hello Jeff! I feel like a bit of a ghost of Cooperstown past commenting here, but I came across your blog through mutual friends and I think it’s fantastic; I’m a dedicated reader. Glad to hear such great things seem to be happening for you all and I hope all is well!

  3. Kathy says:

    Nice to see growth on your part and on Nate’s. I know we are in different situations with our kids but the one thing I have learned is if they are happy doing something you never thought you would pick for them leave the kid alone. Let Nate pick his own direction. 🙂

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