Every spring the parents of our town's Little League baseball and softball players get together to clean up the fields that the children play on. I normally bring my backpack blower and help with the leaves that are leftover from the fall.
A few people bring their children, but for the most part kids are usually left at home.
My blower is crazy loud and so I wear noise-cancelling headphones while I operate it. The headphones, combined with the music they play, have a way of mixing with the vibration of the blower to create my very own sensory deprivation chamber. I can't hear anything but the music and so no one ever tries to speak to me, it's as if I'm invisible.
Eventually my blower ran out of gas and the illusion of being alone was lifted. I looked up and saw a little boy in a red hoodie playing by himself in the grass of the outfield; he must have been all of four years old. I watched him play for a few moments; he appeared to be off in his own world. He spun in circles and was talking out loud to what seemed like imaginary playmates - his parents off somewhere helping with the clean up. The site of him was heart-warming and yet, I was also crushed by the carefree nature of his joyful abandon.
I couldn't stop myself from wondering if his parents knew how fortunate they were to be able to let him run on his own, without worry. I tried to remember what it was like to not feel that pressure in the back of my head - do you know where I mean - it's the point where my skull and my spine connect. That pressure of concern and vigilance, the feeling that you are always guarding against something that may or may not be coming. It's the omnipresent tension of readiness to act, coupled with the intensity of constantly having to assess and reassess your surroundings and situation, so you can be ready at a moments notice - for anything. An ever-present and exhausting state of fight or flight.
In an instant I felt ashamed for wanting the boy's parents to know how I feel. It was a mad rush of conflicting emotions that left me confused. There was a part of me that wanted to tell his parents how lucky they are, I wanted to beg them to cherish this small, yet wonderful moment. I wished I could convey to them just how jealous I was so that they could know how fortunate they are. My shame deepened when I recognized that my jealousy was a despicable conflict of the love and admiration that I have for my daughter and the intense way that I want type I diabetes to not exist. I watched the boy for a second longer as I wondered if my daughter will ever get to feel life so simply ever again, then I lifelessly mumbled 'fuck' under my breath and walked away to refuel my blower.
When I returned to the leaves my moment of jealousy had passed and I began to think about all of the dozens of people on the field. What challenges did their lives hold that I am not aware of? In just a few minutes of consideration, I realized that each of the people at the park likely had countless life issues. As I tried to imagine what those challenges were, I recognized that they could be marital, health, financial, family, and on and on. The more I thought, the more I could imagine - and the less feeling jealous about the boy in the red hoodie seemed reasonable.