I looked up, and there she was.
At a gymnastics class, surely like many other parents across the country on a Monday night, I sat and “watched” as my daughter ran around a room with other three-year-olds, galloping and playing and learning how to do a somersault...or at least trying to learn as she lays on the floor laughing. Between phantom potty breaks and the casual conversation with those around me, I glance at my phone for a variety of reasons - email, social media, fantasy basketball...the trivial things that we all try to convince ourselves we must check because they “matter”. I am guilty of getting lost at times in the damn device...searching for satisfaction in a fantasy playoff victory, or looking for updates regarding a project at work that has to be complete at 7 PM ET on a weeknight. Especially when it comes to my various jobs, leaving them at “home” has become harder as I have gotten older. I sent an email to a someone about something that could have waited, and then...
I looked up, and there she was.
All the cliches you hear about parenthood are true. You learn how to live with less sleep, unless you learn to sleep when they do. You have to let them cry sometimes, or else you will cry later. Listening is vital, if not inconsistent, on both fronts. It does get easier...as you learn to forgive yourself for not being perfect.
And they do really, really look like you. And up to you.
Staring through the glass at this little person who views me far more highly than she should, I dropped the phone and waved to her. She waved back, blew me a kiss, and ran off to go back to her teacher and classmates. In that moment, I looked around as parents said “awww” and “she looks just like you”...the things all parents hear to varying degrees. Right then I felt ashamed, because instead of seeing the world right in front of me I was seeking it in my hand.
I almost missed a moment...and in the moments that followed I smiled through the glass at my world as she walked the balance beam, laughing, not concerned about anything but the here and now.
In the midst of a different kind of “push” than Grizzlies fans are accustomed to, it can be easy to come up with ways to make light of the situation facing Memphis. It is a coping mechanism - Chandler Parsons knee jokes, #WePlayToConvey hash tags...to varying degrees, we are all guilty of it. The future of our beloved Grizzlies is uncertain, not in terms of “will they or won’t they move”- the national media’s favorite unfounded pipe dream and a local’s nightmare, but in terms of what they will look like months from now?
Will Memphis have a draft pick to use on young talent, which should be exciting but depending on placement could be quite disappointing? Or will they not have a first round selection, which should be frustrating but actually, in the convoluted mess that is the Grizzlies draft pick situation, would bring comforting clarity moving forward?
Will there be a new front office? There should be, but inaction from ownership does not instill confidence. A new head coach? J.B. Bickerstaff has struggled this season, but the Grizzlies front office - again, in place because of ownership - had a limited search in large part because they felt they already had their man.
Which of these players will even be around in seven months when training camp opens? Mike Conley will almost certainly be back on the trading block, multiple current Grizzlies have varying forms of expiring contracts and player options, and the guys we are fairly sure will be around - Jaren Jackson Jr., Dillon Brooks, and Kyle Anderson, are out with various ailments that may keep them all out for the rest of this broken season.
So it is forgivable for Grizzlies fans to find ways beyond the court to endure these tough times. Looking to tankathon.com and opposing scoreboards for placement among the lottery is entering its second season of being in the bookmarks of Memphis’ browsers, and the dreams of Zion Williamson dancing in our collective heads let us escape from basketball purgatory for a little while and think of better days somewhere off in the distance.
But nights like Monday night serve as a reminder that the current Memphis Grizzlies are still worthy of our attention, regardless of how long their stay in Memphis will be. If you look too far in to the future, you will miss an attempt at a career resurgence from Joakim Noah, who is having a shockingly effective month of February-
Joakim Noah in February— Jon Roser (@Jon_Roser) February 26, 2019
12.4ppg, 7.3rpg, 3apg, 1.1bpg (58.8% FG, 81.8% FT) https://t.co/DxOesUVhWR
For someone who was paid by his former club to NOT play for them, his energy and ability off the bench for the Grizzlies has been sorely needed. He is making the most of his moment of opportunity, and it seems to be providing clarity for him. When most logic suggests he should be slowing down as his career progresses to its conclusion, he is fighting to keep his NBA days going, whether it is in Memphis or elsewhere.
If you focus too much on how the Atlanta Hawks are doing against the Houston Rockets, you might miss Jonas Valanciunas posting a double-double while grinding on the block like Zach Randolph once did. Check to see how many simulations it takes for the Grizzlies to land the #1 overall pick once too often and you may just miss a Bruno Caboclo three to help clinch a game, a sentence no writer thought they’d be writing at this stage of the season.
And if these are indeed the last days of Mike Conley in Memphis, a player who has grown up here, started a family here, put down real roots here...you risk missing him being one of the very best players on the floor on a night where the (arguably) best player on the planet shares the court with him. Every three, every tear drop, every salute, and even every frustrating look at an official refusing to give Mike the respect he deserves on a call could be the last.
There are many stories to be told, and moments to be made, even in a lost season. Chandler Parsons’ apparent Sisyphean attempts at a return to being a good NBA player that damn well may fail, but not for a lack of effort. The continued performance-based assessments of Justin Holiday, Avery Bradley, and Delon Wright as they pursue their next NBA destinations, be it here or elsewhere. The collective pursuit of establishing motive and identity in a place and time where these sorts of things should have already been found.
They’re all there, right in front of us. We just have to choose to look.
More often than not, these ties that loosely bind will snap at points and the Grizzlies will fall in their chase to convey. But that doesn’t make moments like Monday night mean any less to those that made them...or got to enjoy them. The wins, the streamers, the smiles...they all come from a place of genuine joy that few things in life can bring. The reward in a job well done, and the work put in to get to that point, is in an of itself made up of various moments that led to the memories we carry with us, even on a random Monday night.
These times are fleeting, but that doesn’t make them any less meaningful.
Walking out to the car, I hold the hand of the world as we started to head home to the rest of my world, which was waiting for us at home. I look down at her and ask her how class was, and as she talks about how much fun she had and how she likes her fruit snacks, I think about that random look through the glass we shared and how I might have missed it. How being in search of fulfillment and meaning in other places far from my reach can make me miss those within my grasp. Work, and play, and tasks that can be put of for tomorrow are worth leaving for this moment, especially when the here and now holds such promise.
Off we walked, father and daughter, hand in hand, on an occasion that resulted in good times with friends and a fruit snack for the little girl...and a not-so-simple lesson for her old man.