It’s Father’s Day weekend. Just me and Malcolm. Mom and sister are on a trip with the Girl Scouts in Florida having a great time. So it’s Malcolm and I for four days – “batchin it”.
There have been trips to the Wake Forest campus, the playground at Sherwood Forest, the playground at the mall when it rained, West Forsyth High School, Krispy Kreme, the great toy store at Thruway that lets kids play with the toys (twice), Chic-Fil-A, Jason’s Deli, the pool, and a trip to see the Winston-Salem Dash, our minor league team.
Malcolm loves to see the mascot, Bolt. They have a connection. Always been there, always will.
So we went this evening. Beautiful night. A couple of hot dogs later, we get settled in our seats and then Malcolm does something that Malcolm does better than anyone I know – makes a connection with someone and goes with it.
Usually it’s with a new lady friend as Malcolm flirts with the best of them. The red hair, blue eyes, the smile. He knows how to use them to get the attention he wants. Simply put, he’s got game. Serious game. Grocery stores are adventures. He’s been known to push husbands out of the way to talk to a lady he sees as needing his attention.
If you are a single guy looking to see how to approach the ladies, Malcolm might be the person you want to hang around. Just saying. There’s a reason I call him my “genetically – enhanced womanizer.”
Except this time he makes a connection with a young boy in the seat directly behind mine in Section 107. This kid also happens to have Down Syndrome like Malcolm.
I did not grow up with my sisters, but I do have a connection with them, genetically and with shared memories. Nothing needs to be explained or defined about that connection. Malcolm and this young boy also have a genetic connection. They both have the same genetic disorder, Trisomy 21. They could have cared less about the genetic part. They knew they were special in the same way.
Many stereotypes exist concerning kids with Down Syndrome. They love all people. They smile all the time. They are docile. They aren’t always physically active.
Sorry, but Malcolm doesn’t really fit these categories. He actually has to warm up to people (unless you are a woman he deems worthy of his attention), he probably cusses me and others out multiple times on a daily basis, and he has a temper that makes his red hair turn a shade redder. And he is literally a walking muscle. Try brushing his teeth solo when he doesn’t want you to.
But Malcolm and this young friend of his never said any words to each other. Nothing had to be explained. They smiled at each other, laughed at the same time, and even ended up sitting next to each other for an inning or two.
Two guys just hanging out. No reason necessary. They probably were communicating telepathically about girls, baseball hats, Warriors vs. Cavs, and whether they might become prematurely bald because of their dads’ respective follicle challenges.
But then a song comes on the PA between the half-inning. It’s “Monstars” from the Space Jam soundtrack. The fifth track in fact. I know. We watch Space Jam at least three times a week. It’s the CD in the car right now. We have listened to it a dozen times already this weekend going to… well, you know.
All of a sudden Malcolm and his new best friend start dancing in their chairs as if they were on stage and all the world had paid to see them.
And they were joyous. Their smiles were immeasurable. They had a common secret on how to enjoy that one moment that many will never know.
The song was over, but Malcolm and his friend had a shared memory and their smiles were still there.
Malcolm and I left to go visit a friend who was announcing the game in the press box. When we were going up the stairs Malcolm said the first verbal word to his new friend in the entire time they were hanging out – “Bye.” He got a wave back.
We left the game and Malcolm received a gift of a baseball used in batting practice from Jeffrey, the announcer who has a great big heart to match his Lou Rawls voice.
On the way home we listened to “Monstars” twice. Like I said, the Space Jam CD is in the car.
When we got home, Malcolm raced to his room while I let the dog outside. He met me at the door with his glove, a Durham Bulls hat, a bat, and that baseball. He was ready to play right then and there. “It’s only night time Dad!” his expression seemed to say.
Why? Because he has game. Literally.
And he knows how to live in the moment.