A Hushpuppy of My Own

I watched Beasts of the Southern Wild a couple of nights ago. Have you seen it? It’s a wonderful little movie about people living off the grid down in the bayou country. The plot, for what it is, centers around a father trying to teach his little girl, Hushpuppy, how to survive on her own. I was shaken up, profoundly, as I thought about Nate and his future.

There’s gonna come that time, further on up the road, where Nate is going to be without his parents. Karen and I think about it abstractly, but the film made me focus on where we are and how much we are preparing him for that eventuality. Could Nate live alone? As I went through a long laundry list of tasks he’d need to learn (including laundry), I felt that, yes, perhaps, he really could. Waking up, preparing his meals, shopping, communicating with people – all those things are there or very near. Could he pay his bills? Hmm, that’s a toughie and he may always need someone around to oversee his financial affairs.

A few signs of improvement this week gave me additional hope. I was at the gym with my phone’s ringer off and, when I got home, I saw that Nate had called. Now Nate usually doesn’t put his phone on, let alone make a call out. But he did, and I missed it. He still needs a little work. Nate doesn’t get the voice mail part, so he ends up thinking he’s got someone on the line.

“Oh, hi Dad…(pause)…Oh, hi Dad…(pause)…arraagghh!” That was the message he left.

He also called his aide yesterday. First going through the same process as above, but then, after I prompted him and he was ready to leave a message, he got through. I heard him, and her on speaker, and he did very well.

Nate’s further efforts to reach out were evident on Facebook. He loves Maverick Software’s food apps, where he makes various virtual dishes. Nate consistently contributes to Maverick’s FB page, so much so that people think he works there. Read this:

Jane Doe: Help! Double rainbow achievement in More Snow Cones… we can’t get it! We’ve tried using the rainbow cup and using all the colors on the cup, but it’s not working. Please help.

Nate Katz: Try using a sno-cone with the cherry, banana, green apple, blue raspberry, and grape syrups in a rainbow cone, okay?

Jane Doe: That worked! Thanks, you rock, my kids have been going crazy on that one.

Nate Katz, coming to the aid of those in need! Amazing.

We were in the car together yesterday and I asked Nate if he thought he could live alone at some point. Usually he would kick at this very idea, but he went with it. As I ran through a list of activities we should work on, he seemed to buy into the idea. Later in the day Robbie and I were talking about Nate’s future and, though we’ve never told the other boys that Nate was their responsibility, Rob soothed me by saying they’d never leave Nate out on his own.

That was wonderful to hear, but, still, we as his parents need to get Nate in a better position to take care of himself. It’s up to us to push him forward. Time to get to work in earnest and get that boy prepared for the future.

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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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