Baseball Fireworks with Dad

Could be Anywhere, U.S.A. However, this was in Altoona, Pa at a minor league baseball game. Our “Curve” ran the bases five times more than the Binghamton Ponies, so that’s a win by any measure. Fireworks – combined with a “wrestling” theme ticket stamp (that never materialized into anything) – and perfect weather swung the evening’s five hour carve-out of life without an error.

Yes, a minor league game, but a major win for fun, relaxation, and connection … to dad.

He and I weren’t the typical dad/son baseball team. I didn’t enjoy the usual, “get-out there and do it, son”, kind of encouragements most young boys got. Music was my juice, not sports. One miraculous diving catch from a half-asleep pre-teen who went on to a hit-less career in little league did not produce any proud dad moments. Gladly did I hand in my uniform and cleats after my team won the local championship with no help from a useless bat so unproductively, and awkwardly, swung from the ends of my sportily unrhythmic arms. Piano, yes. Getting to first base, no.

So, sitting with dad at a semi-professional baseball game wasn’t going to re-live any remember moments between us. Frankly, I doubt either one of us, to this day, would know how to fill in a score sheet or analyze a game beyond the usual “ground rule double” or “balk rule”. He was a wrestling coach, primarily, focused on grunts and sweats in closed, hot, winter season practice rooms – not open, fresh air sports like baseball. My first – and only – mitt came via a great-uncle, not dad. See, we just don’t have that traditional baseball dad-son thing going on here.

What we did have Sunday evening, though, was time. Time to spend together … forty-five years of life experiences after a son stood ankle deep in outfield weeds praying a baseball didn’t arcfully whiz up in his direction. Decades after a dad was frustratingly finding ways to supplement a measley teacher’s salary, we sat,… together.

I understand, now, my age. In baseball years, I’m older than my dad was when he insisted it was better to look at the ball in order to hit it. Pick your methodology, “blind squirrel” theory, I believed was the best approach at the time. Even a tightly closed, shuttering little man at the plate was hopeful one blind swing at the right time – combined with that perfect pitch – would manufacture a hit. Alas, not to be.

I do believe this may be the regret on dad’s face in the above picture. He may be having flashbacks. Either that, or handing over a twenty-spot and getting no change back for one burger, a dip of ice cream, and a lemonade may be stinging his financial consciousness. Hey, he offered, and nobody says, “no” to a dad who wants to pony up for goodies at the ballpark. After all, the tickets were complimentary – and quite a nice surprise along the bottom tier behind our home team dugout. So, there was no problem giving him the pleasure of paying for a delicious $10.50 Curve burger w/jalapeno cheese, ketchup, mayo, and tomato. Don’t know about the ice cream and lemonade … suppose they were fine, too.

We talked over the usual words he’s familiar with – long hair under hats and too-high salaries. 2021 fashion and cell phone usage among the visitors at the ball-park was an occasional attention radar blip as is almost always the case in public when dad and I go out. The what’s and how’s don’t mean much to dad. He’s not so much fascinated or intrigued by life as I am. His contentment is in routine, stability, and helping others. At his age, these are the good ole’ reliables, I suppose.

And so, we watched the final out together then waited for the fireworks. The announcer began a ten-digit countdown with three-thousand remaining loyal waiters sitting, standing, and reclining so patiently within the comforting park … Ten, nine, eight …

I sat back behind dad. A few spritzes, little sparkles, and all different colors of artificial stars lit up a clear black sky for fifteen minutes.

The finale wasn’t your big city, New York, kind-of million dollar bang, for sure. We’re a little city. This was a “wrestling” theme ticket night with nary a Hulkster or hint of what they meant in sight. At least fireworks were advertised and delivered. The last of the bangers didn’t disappoint me, but not for the reason you’d expect.

That first picture sums up a lot of what baseball, and life, with dad means to me. It’s the end of something wonderful even though most of it wasn’t that impressive.

Most of our life together was, well, hitless. No need for details. It’s just enough to say music, sports, personalities, etc … didn’t run the bases together very well.

That was then, as they say.

We’ve come through the relational minor leagues together and have been on the same team for some time now. Up and downs? Sure. Disagreements and missed calls at home plate? Absolutely!! We are currently two very independent, strong-willed men who aren’t afraid to speak our minds when necessary … and sometimes when not.

This is all part of the experience. I watched dad watch the finale. At a baseball game we were. Both of us living weird, different life experiences now – neither thinking, a few years ago, we’d be inside our individual situations. Thing is, we are where we are together, too. This is, simply, a nice place to be.

We can’t choose some life things, right? I didn’t choose my inability to connect a bat to a ball, nor do I think I had a hand in playing simple Chopin at the age of six. Dad didn’t choose his personality or later-in-life challenges. We chose to go to a ballgame Sunday evening. The tickets were complimentary and the food was deliciously expensive, of course. His dime, so extra-good as far as I was concerned.

A special evening to think about what was – and to watch dad watch a finale in a place that wasn’t Anywhere, U.S.A. It was home base for a dad and a son.

Morning Sun’s Facetime

In between the occasional seasonal sneezes, drilling sounds from a necessary garage door repair to my left, and anxious, happy doggie barks inside, this sun provides me much needed calm. Warm facetime across a right cheek as I sit comfortably on a rocking wicker chair – morning feel good massaging a pre-Friday, 7:45 a.m. sore body. Ninety-four million miles away, yet immediate relief after two days of uphill crazy-town, mental drive-throughs with peoplefolk.

It wasn’t their fault, I guess. Better to dismiss it away than to get in the weeds trying to figure out why conversations and activities go the way of ridiculous. Especially in business dealings, I find myself in the land of the lost when folks don’t consider time or effort valuable … especially when spent on their behalf. Nobody needs a bucket of praise here. Just a simple dribble from the faucet of respect would have been nice the past 48 hours.

And so I sit, quite peacefully, on a well-accepting agreeable chair while the sun’s 8 minutes of aged warmth reaches my face. It feels 100% amenable to what I need right now: Quiet in the midst of drilling, barking, and sneezing.

Connecting to what has been around for 4.6 billion years is better … for now. Sitting on a back patio wicker chair for a few precious moments, away from everyone except two guys repairing a garage door, is what repairs a soul. Breathing in the history and snugness this sun provides, while allowing the denim cushion on which I sit to ease in the day, fades away all the discoloration from days past.

These are the nice carve-outs we need.

I don’t expect life to be a perfect, tasty pie of sweetness all the time. It’s rough. Days are challenging – we know this. Gosh, the past year-and-a-half, right?. Life is difficult. My family will soon experience how so.

Monday, I expect life to change drastically for a loved one. That day’s decision will affect a lot in his life, although the sunshine rising early on the days remaining in his life will remain steady. Schedules, friends, hobbies, and other constants he has known are going to adjust because the independence he has known is being driven away. His license, most likely, will be, sadly, taken away. I hope this won’t be the case, but the glaring exit ramp ahead is too obvious to avoid. Mental traffic has been congested and we need to clear the roads ahead for him.

… And it’s up to the son, his loving siblings, and the sun, to find a way forward for a dad who has been challenging at times, a loving father as only he knew how to be, and companion to me across many a lunch and dinner tables.

This will be a few days from now. As it stands, Father’s Day is Sunday – the day before a doctor’s appointment happens soon after sunrise. I have a small gift wrapped for him. I wish I could wrap the sun for him and reverse time instead of the gift.

My past few day’s inconveniences are minimal compared to his potential life-changing few minutes. This carve-out helps me look at big picture things. It’s time to think. Ninety-four million miles away, yet so close is the sun and a son who is thinking about his father.

My hope is he will find his morning sun’s facetime soon after we leave the office.

Find your morning sun to set aside crazy-town peoplefolk and focus on others who have life struggles ahead. They’re under the same sun. Eight minutes of aged warmth will reach you … and touch the faces of those who reach an age when life just isn’t the same anymore – like dads who did the best they could.

Father’s Day After

It is 12:01 a.m., June 22nd. If I planned my life as well as I – apparently – worked out the timing of this writing, I’d be sipping non-alcoholic iced teas, sitting on a very comfortable beach chair, while basking under a western Bahama sun. Counting my untold riches would be the least of my worries and the glistening reflection coming off the blue waters would be bouncing off my toes onto my Dita Epiluxury Palladium Aviator sunglasses.

Alas, this is not the case. I have Western-PA T-shirt tan/burn lines around my neck and upper arms from sloshing sausage, burgers, cheese-steaks, and hot dawgs (yes, this is how I spell them) around on my business grill all weekend. Melted cheese and the area’s best chili sauce is happily dripped all over my 10′ cart which has yet to be cleaned. Dishes remain cleaned out – but not washed, rinsed, or sanitized – in the ever present commercial kitchen as yesterday’s close of business left me without energy to go any further. This happens. I’m getting older all the time, so liveliness and vigor is a commodity not so easily accessible as ketchup and mustard. A long, three day eventful weekend clogged up my life’s bottle of yellow and red tastiness rendering me speechless … and seemingly beach-less as well.

With your permission … almost speechless. Those fortunate enough to be around my humility (sarcasm) are aware I have no problem engaging in conversation. Serious or silly soliloquies, banal or bright banters are never far from my reach when others pull their conversational wagons around for protection from the outside world. I could argue, earnestly, it is for this reason I am happy to inhale and exhale, minute by minute .. oh, and to stay alive as well. Existing is a good reason to breathe. (Didn’t mean to minimize the importance of the oxygen and carbon dioxide gas exchange in the lungs).

While sympathetically breathing, it is great for me to engage with my fellow and fellow-ettes stomping around on this 6,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 kilogram rock bouncing through the silence of a dark matter, dark energy, neutrino filled, infinite space …

A space which knows no boundaries, Covid-19, Donald Trump, Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, masking, hot dawgs, Bennett Cerf (I’ve been watching a lot of “What’s My Line?” re-runs lately), racism, football, bond valuations, or why muskrats even exist. My space, though, the used-to-be within 6-feet distance where words could be safely exchanged, is well defined: beautiful. If for no one else, for me.

… And this is why “Father’s Day After” is so well timed.

To write about my dad on the day for fathers would be untimely. I called him yesterday – during a break at my business – to wish him the usual as I always do. He’s a shorter man than I with a receding hair line I like to define as “completely bald”. Marks scar his head – from years of sun beating down – as his work ethic drove him to stand on ladders, painting houses and windows, during the summer months between the academic Septembers through Mays. Those 33 years spent teaching English in a classroom full of (later) appreciative teenagers who didn’t fully appreciate the value of his teaching at the time.

We lost mom eight years ago. She died with a full heart and a body full of cancer. It was an inevitable end of a five year journey. Dad’s relationship with her to this very day is a mystery. He speaks of her in muted tones, with quiet words, in almost silent idleness. I will not, in respect, challenge his memory of her. There are some frequent conversations with my siblings about our parents’ relationship, but we cannot draw an outline clear enough to even start coloring in the lines with vibrancy, life, and fullness. Suffice to say, we had food, shelter, and clothing … and love as our parents were able to provide.

The response to my call was predictable. “Where are you set up today?”. This would be my dad. This had to be my dad. I know as sure as I am a partially tanned, overly talkative male that he didn’t hear my “Happy Father’s Day, Dad” coming through the phone … And, I know why. Every day, for as long as I’ve been tonging and dipping my way around town, hearing my voice on the phone – to him – meant I was calling to check in and was selling somewhere. Yesterday was no different. He heard my voice, but didn’t listen to my words.

Since mom died, we’ve worked at developing a closer relationship. Mom and I were inseparable. Music, humor, silliness, etc … pumped through our bodies – saddled on every drop of blood circulating around and about the very tip of our toes and fingers. Dad? Serious, methodical, organized, and prognosticatingly predictable. The chasm between dad and I, emotionally and structurally, could not have been wider the day we – along with my siblings – rode down the elevator in the hospital minutes after mom died.

In as much as I dislike the phrase, “That was then, this is now”, there is none more appropriate. He and I are older now. Dad isn’t the same. I am not, either. Our relationship isn’t defined by what it once was. We had a horrible time when I was young. There’s no language I can use other than those words. There’s no fault to attach. He made decisions based upon what he knew to do at the time. I grew up and learned to manage my life the best way I knew how. Then mom died.

We struggle through conversations now … not because there is miscommunication. I am tasked with the responsibility to laugh with him – all the while wondering if he’s able to focus properly and stay with a line of thought. Probably the usual concerns a son has for his aging father, I guess. We hug more than ever before, jiggle a few jokes around the table, and argue a small stew pot’s amount of political positions. The quarantine he weathered well … considering all of his social stilts were kicked out from under him. I gladly searched for low-sodium canned soups and granola at the local market while he dutifully remained indoors – fearful of an airborne virus. That’s dad. The overachiever.

We did finally re-connect last night after I got back. I tried again.

“Happy Father’s Day, Dad!”.
“Are you still set up? I was going to get a hot (dawg) …even though I just ate”.
“No, I’m done for the day. Wanted to call you to see how things were.”
“Oh, well … Did you have a good day?”
“Yea, I guess. It was a long weekend. I’m tired”
“Glad you had some sales. I’ll let you go.”
“Ok, Dad. Talk to you tomorrow. I have the day off, so I’ll stop in.”
“Bye.”
“Bye.”

I’ll stop in today for sure. Father’s Day after. Another day. Not a day I will find myself on a sandy white beach, under a big colorful umbrella, stretching out my muscle-less middle-aged arms over an over-sized beach chair. There are no piles of money to worry about at this time … and probably not in the near future as I continue forward in life – as most of us do. One step, one breath, one heartbeat at a time. And, yes … one word at a time as well.

Words I like to use – sometimes not grammatically correct, or in proper syntax, but meaningful to me. Dad will most assuredly never see these words as he does not read this blog. Well, let me assert I do not know for sure he doesn’t, however, I can reasonably assume the English teacher in him would be hard pressed to not correct my error(s) if he, indeed, did.

That’s my dad. He’s my one parent left here to still love me as his son … and I’m here, as a son of his, to love him as my dad. There will come a day when this isn’t a part of my existence on this heavy rock. For now, the day after, I’ll accept the blessing.

Happy Father’s Day, after, to all.