At least two years have passed since I saw Aboudi play a basketball game at school. Last night, I watched the opposing team approach the court, and thought.. my God..they’re huge! they’ll crush them! Seconds later.. the EIS team walks on the court.. and my jaw dropped.. they are actually the same size! When did they grow to be so big? Its not that I haven’t seen my son.. but somehow, seeing among his teammates made me realize he’s a grown man.
Aboudi has loved basketball for as long as I remember. before he could walk, he crawled to the trashcan and dunked his little basketball into it. My late father, Allah Yerhamo, would carry him up to the lowered real hoop to help him throw his little ball into it. Soon he graduated to a Fisherprize hoop that mother bought for him, and that we had to transport back and forth between her house and ours, or else he wouldn’t go home. We watched him play for hours.
Not long after that, and despite his relatively small size, he started using the big hoop. Friends would comment on how good his aim was; someone even told me he is my ticket to fame! While other kids developed language skills and reading interests, Aboudi developed his game and knowledge of its history and statistics. At age 11, he could tell you the name, age, scoring record of every NBA player, past and present. His eyes glistered, his voice became confident and he could speak for hours.
If I wanted to talk to Aboudi I had to play a game of one-on-one basketball. Rain or shine, snowfall or extreme heat, we played HORSE, and I was always defeated. But that is when he spoke of what he loved, what hurt him, where he wanted to go, and much more. It was almost like the game brought his emotions to life.
If I wanted to gift Aboudi anything special, it was basketball related. One year, a colleague introduced me to Jerome Williams, a NY Nicks player, he sent Aboudi an autographed photo and some basketball paraphernalia. Aboudi was over the moon with excitement.
The game began, and while I heard him speak of his “game” and watched him practice often, I was stunned by his performance. As one teacher put it, he has springs in his legs. His focus, speed, precision and cooperation with his teammates were impeccable. He scored the highest number of points and managed to socialize with the other team’s players during the game. I kept having flashbacks of the first time I took him to basketball tryout in fourth-grade. The coach said he was the most amazing little player he had seen. I would watch him then run down the court; yesterday.. I couldn’t keep up with him! He was so fast, I would lose site of him, and find him on the other end of the court scoring.
Now I am certain many players have better skills, and many mothers have a lot more to brag about.. and yet I feel special. When Aboudi was 2, I was diagnosed with Cardiac Sarcoidosis and had a difficult few years in and out of hospitals, struggling to stay alive. During those years, when circumstances got very bad, I closed my eyes and dreamed of Aboudi as a young man.. I visualized him play like a professional, I heard the audience cheer him on, I felt how much that meant to him. And that dream kept me alive.