A Senses Series Story
When architect Gregory Hampton’s son, Davey, starts having trouble in Little League, Greg takes him to an eye doctor. The diagnosis hits them hard. Davey’s sight is degenerating rapidly, and eventually he’ll go blind.
Tom Spangler is used to getting what he wants. When Greg captures his attention, he asks Greg for a date. They have a good time until Greg gets a call from the friends watching his son, telling him Davey has fallen. Greg and Tom return to find the worst has happened—Davey can no longer see.
With so much going on in his life, Greg doubts he’ll see Tom again. But Tom has researched beep baseball, where balls and bases make sounds to enable the visually impaired to participate in Little League. Tom spearheads an effort to form a team so Davey can continue to play the game he loves. But when Greg’s ex-wife shows up with her doctor boyfriend, offering a possible cure through a radical procedure, Greg must decide how far he’ll go to give Davey a chance at getting his sight back.
“KEEP YOUR eye on the ball, Davey,” Greg Hampton called from the bleachers of his son’s Little League game. “I know you can do it!”
Davey turned toward him and nodded.
Greg ignored the way the players on the other team moved in as he concentrated and hoped that this time Davey would connect with the ball and hit it out of the ballpark. That was every father’s dream—to see his son excel at something the way he had. Greg had played baseball in college and had been scouted by more than one professional team. He’d even gotten an offer, but at the same time he’d also gotten a job proposal from a nationally known architectural firm as a draftsman. They’d offered him a good salary and a chance to continue his education so he could become an architect like his father. So he’d taken the job and put his baseball dreams on the shelf. In retrospect, it had been a good decision.
Baseball—professional baseball—was competitive beyond belief. He’d been a good player, but looking back, he could see he would never have been a great player. Instead, he was a great architect. People sought him out for his home designs, which were innovative takes on the classics. He’d designed Cotswold cottages for placement in Chicago, Swiss chalets with all the charm on the outside and incredible living spaces inside. He’d even designed a chateau for a famous billionaire that looked like it belonged in the French countryside and was hundreds of years old, but sat on a hundred acres of gardens and lawns just outside Grand Rapids, Michigan. Greg was a winner, and he wanted his son to be a winner at the game he’d loved so much.
“Is that your son?” one of the fathers sitting next to him asked.
“Yeah.” Greg grinned, glancing at the man and then turning back to Davey. “You can do it,” he called again as a helmeted Davey took the plate. His swing looked good, just like Greg had taught him, and his practice swings looked powerful. The elements were all there, but the first pitch came and Davey swung hard, getting nothing but air. “That’s okay. Take your time and wait for your pitch!” Davey stepped back to the plate and got into position. He fanned again, and on the next pitch, as well, before heading back to the dugout. “That’s okay. You’ll get them next time.”
Greg watched the next player come to bat, and the game continued. He rooted for each player in turn, making sure all the kids were cheered on. Greg knew some of the fathers weren’t able to make every game and he remembered how he felt when he was young, making a great play or hitting a home run with no one there to see it.
The innings passed, and Davey came up to bat again.
“He’s swinging too late,” the man next to him said.
“I know. We worked on that all week, and I thought we had his timing down better,” Greg said.
“I’m not complaining, just observing,” the man said. “Jerry Fisher,” he added, holding out his hand. Greg shook it and introduced himself. “Has he been doing that long?”
“No. It’s something that started happening this season. Last year he was a good hitter, but he moved up, and I think the more advanced pitches are getting to him,” Greg said. “I’ll work with him some more this week. He’ll get it.”
“Do you work with him a lot?” Jerry asked.
“A couple times a week. I played in college and I want him to love the game, so I don’t think at ten it’s good to push. It needs to be fun,” Greg said. “But we all know winning is a lot more fun than losing.”
Jerry nodded. “That’s my nephew,” Jerry said as Bobby, one of Davey’s teammates, came up to bat. “My sister and brother-in-law are out of town, so I’m nephew-sitting.” Jerry smiled. “Has the team lost a lot?”
Greg turned back to the game when he heard a sharp crack and saw Bobby run off toward first. The bleachers broke into cheers as the ball sailed over the fence for a home run.
“No,” Greg said. But he knew when you weren’t playing well and didn’t feel as though you were contributing, the wins didn’t feel like yours. He said nothing and did his best to be encouraging.
The game continued, inning after inning, until Davey and his teammates celebrated their win. Greg waited for Davey, ruffling his son’s hair when he approached. “Is the team going anywhere to celebrate?”
“Pizza,” Davey answered.
“Well, then, let’s go,” Greg told him. He said good-bye to Jerry and followed Davey to the car.
Davey was quiet the entire ride to the pizza place. As soon as they arrived, some of Davey’s teammates met him at the car, jumping and shouting. Davey joined in, and Greg hoped, at least for now, the memories of Davey’s strikeouts would recede.
The boys went inside and sat together at a large table in the back. Greg joined the dads, opened his wallet, and handed a twenty to the guy in charge. The order was pretty standard, and once placed, the coaches and parents took tables near the players to act as a buffer between them and the other patrons. Jerry sat across from him, and Greg used the opportunity to scope the man out a little. He was sort of cute, but Greg didn’t let his thoughts travel too far.
When the food arrived, the din from behind him settled down as the boys started to eat. The pizza for the adults arrived a few minutes later, and Greg’s stomach rumbled at the sight of the loaded pizza. He placed a slice on his plate and waited for the others to get theirs before taking a second slice.
“I wanted to speak to you if I could,” Jerry said when the others were involved in a discussion of some proposed rule changes.
“Sure,” Greg said. He’d had more than one conversation start like that, and it usually centered around the “gay thing,” as one man had put it. He took a bite and waited for Jerry to continue.
“I don’t do this lightly, but have you had Davey’s eyes checked?” Jerry asked and then reached into his pocket and pulled out a card. “I’m not trying to drum up business—I’ll examine him for free.”
“He wears glasses,” Greg said.
“I’m an ophthalmologist, not an optometrist. I won’t charge you for the visit,” Jerry repeated.
“You think there’s something wrong?” Greg’s stomach clenched.
“I don’t know. But you have nothing to lose by having him checked. Like I said, I’ll do it for free,” Jerry said.
Greg nodded and looked down at the card. He read it and then placed it in his pocket. “I’ll call next week,” he said, not really believing his answer. But Jerry had started him wondering, and it grew until they got home, when Greg picked up his phone and dialed the number on the card. He left a message on the machine for Jerry and requested a callback. He got one first thing the following morning.
A WEEK later, Greg drove Davey to his appointment.
“Why are we doing this, Dad?” Davey asked, fidgeting in the front seat. “I can see just fine.”
Ever since Greg made the appointment, Davey had gone out of his way to demonstrate how well he could see, but Greg noticed little things, like Davey moving closer to a book and then pushing it away when he saw his father watching. Greg didn’t want to argue and thought Davey probably just needed a different prescription. When they arrived at Jerry’s office, the receptionist took their information, and Greg filled out a bunch of forms. But she didn’t ask for any sort of payment or even an insurance card.
“David Hampton,” the nurse called after a while, and she led them down a hallway of examining rooms. People passed them going in and out for eye exams, and she led Greg and Davey back farther, into a room next to an office with Jerry’s name on the door. “Please have a seat there,” she instructed. Davey and Greg settled in the plastic chairs off to the side.
They didn’t have to wait long before Jerry came in. He sat on his stool and immediately began talking to Davey. “There’s nothing to worry about. None of what we’re going to do today is going to hurt. But I am going to shine a light into your eyes and have a good look around. I’m also going to run a few standard tests, and then, based on those, we might do some others. Okay?” he said to Davey, who looked at Greg and then back at the doctor and nodded.
“Good. I saw you play the other week,” Jerry said as he got his instruments ready. A nurse came in and settled at the counter behind Jerry. “This is Annette. She’ll be helping me today.” Davey smiled nervously. “When I saw you playing, I noticed that you were swinging late, and your dad said you didn’t have that problem last year.”
“No. I was hitting good last year. At least, Coach said I was,” Davey answered.
“Have you had any troubles seeing in school? Do you sit closer to the front now so you can see?” Jerry asked and slid his chair closer to Davey. Greg saw his son tense.
“Nothing to worry about. It’s just a light. Will you take your glasses off for me?” Davey did and handed them to Jerry, who passed them to Annette.
“We have assigned seats in school,” Davey said.
“Have you found school harder this year?”
“Yeah,” Davey answered. “It’s fifth grade.”
Jerry nodded. “Look at the chart over my shoulder and don’t follow the light. Just watch the chart. That’s good.” Jerry alternated talking to Davey and speaking to Annette in what must have been eye doctor code. He continued working with Davey, looking at his eyes through various kinds of equipment. He did the puff test, which Davey did better at than Greg ever did. It was the worst part of his eye exam.
Greg tried not to be nervous as the exam continued. Jerry did the various eye chart tests as well as some Greg had never seen before.
“I’m going to dilate your eyes with some drops. It will feel funny for a while, but I need to do this to get a better look. It doesn’t hurt, but when you leave, we can give you some temporary sunglasses because you’ll be extra sensitive to light.”
Davey agreed, and they went through the rest of the exam. When Jerry was done, he said good-bye to Davey. “The nurse will help you out to the waiting room. I’d like to talk to your dad for a few minutes.”
Davey got up and left with Annette, who closed the door behind them.
“I’d like to run some additional tests,” Jerry said. “David’s vision with his glasses is about twenty/forty; without them he’s twenty/one hundred. How old are these glasses?”
Greg thought for a few seconds. “Less than a year. Why, did they get the prescription wrong?”
“I’d like you to tell me where you had them made and give me permission to have his records transferred here. But I doubt they got the prescription that wrong. Instead, it appears that David’s vision has deteriorated considerably in the last eight months. Those glasses should have given him twenty/twenty vision. They didn’t say anything to you otherwise when you had the glasses made?”
Greg shook his head.
“Don’t worry at this point,” Jerry said. “I’ll have you sign the forms so I can get the records, and once I do, I’ll call you. We can also set up an appointment for the tests I need.”
“Can’t you do them here?”
“No. These need a radiologist. I want a CT scan of the back of David’s eyes.”
“You really think there’s something wrong with his eyes?” Greg asked. He swallowed hard, his stomach clenching with worry.
“Quite honestly I’m concerned about the apparent deterioration in his vision. I won’t be sure until I get the records from his previous exam as well as the results of the tests I’d like to do, but I do have concerns.” Jerry paused. “I don’t want to make a diagnosis based on incomplete information. We’ll get the tests scheduled as quickly as we can so we can get some answers. I promise.” Jerry nodded for emphasis, stood up, and opened the door.
Greg walked out front, and Jerry followed. Jerry gave the receptionist some instructions, and they helped get the appointments set up. Greg signed the forms for the release of the records and then joined Davey in the waiting room.
“Let’s go home,” he said with a touch of excitement he didn’t feel. Davey nodded and slowly got up, and they left the office. They walked to the car in silence and got in.
“Dad, what did the doctor want? Is something wrong?” Panic edged Davey’s voice.
Greg didn’t have answers and figured the truth, or at least part of it, was the best way to go. “He wants to run some more tests. He saw something but isn’t sure what it is. We’re going to have your records transferred, and the tests should tell them what’s going on.” He shifted toward his son, watching Davey blink his blue eyes as he stared back. Greg leaned over the seat and hugged Davey as best he could. He didn’t know what else to do.
“It could be nothing, Dad,” Davey said.
Greg knew in his heart it wasn’t likely to be nothing. But they could do amazing things these days, and whatever was wrong, Greg hoped it was something correctable. He could feel Davey’s nervousness as well as his own, but there was nothing they could do right now. So Greg determined to continue their lives as normally as possible until they got some answers.
OVER THE next few weeks, Davey had the tests and the records were transferred. Once the results were in, Greg and Davey sat waiting, not in an examining room, but in Jerry’s office, with bookshelves behind the desk and diplomas and awards hung on the walls. Davey fidgeted in his chair, and Greg felt himself doing the same thing. Whatever came of this meeting, he knew it would be important.
“Good morning,” Jerry said as he came in and closed the door before sitting behind his desk. He opened the folder in front of him and looked at Davey and then at Greg. Over the next ten minutes, Jerry explained the results of the tests and what they meant. Davey was stunned, and Greg listened as best he could, trying to take in all of the information Jerry had for them. By the end, Greg sucked hard for air as tears filled his eyes, knowing his son would eventually go blind.
In typical Andrew Grey fashion, we visit real people in real settings who have real life things happen to them.
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Overall, this is another outstanding book by Andrew Grey.
A love story about a father and his son as much as one between two men, this is a superb example of Grey's command of the extraordinary in the everyday ordinary. For readers who wonder what gay romance is all about, this is an excellent place to start reading.
It was warm and sweet, well written, and enjoyable.
This does not send me to tears, but it does make the world clearer, with the ball beeps and the laughter of little boys who just love to play the game.
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