My son called me recently to ask if he could bless his children every Friday night as is the custom in many Jewish homes. Our family custom was to bless the children once a year and he felt that he needed my permission to change a family tradition. I appreciated his call and then proceeded to tell him that if I had to do it all over, I would have blessed the children every Friday night. To be able to look each child in the face every week, to bestow a blessing upon them, and then to hug them and kiss them is a treasured moment that ideally should be done every week. There is no down side to such a practice. I simply had not done it weekly because I had no family Sabbath tradition of blessing the children in my own family and, therefore, only adopted the once-a-year custom as a default position.
I thought of this as I watched Trouble with the Curve, a baseball movie that is really a story about a dysfunctional relationship between a father, Gus Lobel, a baseball scout for the Atlanta Braves, and his daughter, Mickey, a successful attorney on the verge of becoming a full partner in a prestigious law firm. They rarely look one another in the eye, they seldom embrace, and hardly ever speak to one another after the untimely death of her mother when Mickey was only six years old. Gus retreats into his own reclusive baseball world of scouting and she tries to find meaning and success in practicing law, which she has done only to win the attention and affection of her mostly absent father.
Their relationship is tested when Gus discovers that his vision is becoming impaired, severely affecting his ability to judge and evaluate new baseball talent. Coupled with this challenge is the reality of his advanced age, which makes him a candidate for retirement or being fired from a position he has held and nurtured for the life of his professional career. When Gus is offered a comfortable early retirement with the option of collecting disability plus a pension, he sarcastically responds: “Save it. Being comfortable is overrated.”
Gus does not want to retire. Although he is sent to scout one of the top prospects in the upcoming high school draft, his superiors lack confidence in his judgment. Many of them prefer to rely on computer-generated information and devalue the contribution of the veteran scout who sees the player live on the field in a competitive situation.
Mickey wants to be a good daughter and assist her father, but he consistently refuses her aid in a gruff, insensitive manner. In spite of this rejection, Mickey resolves to join her father on his trip to North Carolina where he is evaluating Bo Gentry, the whiz kid who may be the answer to the Braves’ quest for success on the ball field for the next five years. This special time spent together affords them an opportunity to redefine their relationship and to allow the love that was dormant for so many years to re-emerge and create new pathways of understanding between them.
Trouble with the Curve on one level refers to the inability of a batter to hit a curve ball, but, in a deeper sense, it refers to the reality that life is not a straight line. Life throws us curves, and it is our job to adjust to the inevitable change that occurs to all of us. In the face of emotional chaos and confusion, we need to reaffirm our love to those who mean the most to us.