When my brother got a divorce 12-odd years ago (he’s 10 years older than me) the catalyst was the puppy he’d bought. I think this stuff is fairly common, you know, it was one toke over the line (Sweet Jesus!) and his ex-wife had enough.
(She was also a scathing bitch, so I was more than happy to see her go and reclaim my name. Her name was ALSO Rebecca and she took my last name when she married my brother. This effectively meant that there were two of us in the family, and she was the far nastier one).
The puppy was a German Shepard who came with a high pedigree, with both of her parents police pooches and my brother adored her. But he travelled a lot, and without a wife-y at home to help with the dog–Stanzi is her name–he couldn’t care for her. So, as many animals that my brother and I adopt, she moved in with my parents.
She grew from a neurotic puppy into a highly insane dog, climbing onto my mother’s lap–all 90 pounds of her–at the vet’s office and during thunderstorms, hiding from me whenever I’d come home, and playing ball with a devotion I’d never seen before. Our previous dogs had always been of the sweet but stupid variety, but not Stanzi, no never her. She continues to be freakishly clever and my parents have had to take all balls (except those attached to family members, of course) and hide them from her. Because if given a ball, she will play it relentlessly and obnoxiously.
If a ball is not available, she will bring whatever twig, rock, or toy over to you, sit down in front of you patiently waiting, her eyes darting back and forth between you and the ball, anxiously waiting your toss. I found out recently that this is a hallmark of Shepards, the police dogs are given not treats for good behavior, but ball-time. Something in their brain is hardwired to love this simple game at all costs.
It seems that however unlikely this may be as I don’t have The Sex with dogs, that Alex was born with a couple of these Shepard genes. While Ben also loved balls when he was a toddler, he would merely line them up exhaustibly, becoming mad and frustrated when the balls moved out of line (why he didn’t choose something less, oh I don’t know, ROUND, is beyond me).
Not Alex, though, Alex loves balls with an intensity I’ve never seen before. Maybe they remind him of his days at the boobs, or maybe he’s just destined to be a rugby player, I don’t know. What I do know is that I have a miniature Stanzi living in my house, bringing me balls pretty much at all waking points of the day.
He’ll crawl up to wherever any of us are sitting and depending on the size of the ball, it will either be clutched in his hand, making a twack noise–he looks like a wee pirate– when he determinedly crawls to wherever a Ball Player sits, or pushed in front of him as he crawls, bringing it dutifully to one of us. Alex then hoists himself up on one of our legs, ball in hand, or next to him and throws it in our laps.
Once we have possession of A Ball! he sits down with a diapery-plastic thump and crawls about three or four feet back, turns around, opens his legs and yells “BAAAAALLLLL!” The joy oozing from him at this point is palpable and honest.
Whomever his latest victim is will, depending on the ball size and weight, gently toss it to him or roll it towards him. He will scoop it up, hoist The Ball! over his head and whip it at us. This game of catch continues until Ben, The Daver or I get sick of playing, or until he has to go retrieve another ball (he has many). Then he will find his next victim and play with them until they are tired of it as well. Rinse, repeat.
What shocks me the most about it is that he’s actually really good at this game. The child born of a mother who has, in the past year alone, fallen through a door stone cold sober, broken a toe while making a peanut butter sandwich, sprained her ankle while walking down a flight of stairs. It’s safe to say that I am not coordinated. Nor, really, is my eldest (although he’s better than I am, but not by much) and The Daver is not exactly a ninja himself (sorry The Daver).
This leaves me with two viable opinions as to how Alex got to be so coordinated:
1. He’s actually someone else’s child and there was a horrible mix up in the nursery. Someone else has gotten my child who now stumbles into walls, crawls in horrible pathetic circles instead of a straight line, and pretty much will always look drunk.
2. Some previously unexpressed bundle of genes has expressed itself in Alex, and he may grow to be some sort of sports player (and not on the Special Olympics, which is probably the only place that the rest of us would qualify for. And I assure you that even there, we’d all get our asses kicked).
I’m not quite sure which of those options is correct, but since Alex wasn’t out of my sight much during his hospital stint (his insistence, not my own), I’d venture a guess that between this fact and the fact that he looks almost exactly like my father (shut up! Ew!) he’s probably my son.
Which means that I have quite the future ahead of me sitting on the sidelines (freakishly like my past!) and watching as my youngest plays all types of sports.
Maybe I’ll never understand his love for sports, maybe it doesn’t matter because I love him and that’s enough for us all, but hey, at least I’ll get a good tan.