There is a collection of books at my parent’s house that belonged to my grandfather. They are classic novels, bound in a classic way. Whenever I pick up one of these books, feeling the scuffed covers, smelling the yellowed pages, and seeing the bookplate inside reading Lawrence J. Lane, I can see my grandfather with his grandfather smile, regaling my second grade class on Grandparents Day with stories of taking a boat to school when his hometown of Winthrop, MA flooded.
As my Dad got older, I could see my grandfather in him too. Mostly when he coughed or yelled (oh, that famous Irish temper). Or when he wore one of the sweaters that I can’t picture my grandfather without.
He died in February, 2000. A year before his beloved Patriots won the Super Bowl. Four years before the Red Sox won their first World Series since he was two years old.
He’s still there in those old books, in my Dad’s face, in the stories and pictures and memories where he always seems so vividly alive.
I’ve written before how baseball has connected me with my own father. I can’t watch a baseball game without his presence being there. Something always happens that reminds me of something we saw together. I can’t keep score at a game without remembering learning to keep score in that book we toted to every game. The simple rituals of packing his blue bag with his scorecard, pencils, homemade hot dogs, and Diet Pepsi; getting to the games early to watch batting practice from our seats so we could accurately judge homeruns and not be the fans cheering a pop up to the shortstop.
Rituals I want to repeat with my own kids someday. Rituals that will feel so comfortingly familiar it will be like he’s right there with me.
So when he casually mentions that this year’s may be his last World Series and that he’d like the Red Sox to be in it, my head doesn’t want to let those words sink in. When he makes the decision to discontinue the chemo treatments, I refuse to think it through to the conclusion.
I can’t even say the words out loud. I don’t want to talk about it. I can only mention it in vague euphemisms when I’m sure I won’t collapse on the ground in tears.
In a way, it was fitting that the Red Sox blew it in the last game of the regular season. My Dad scoffed at their slide and said he wanted them put out of their misery. When they lost it was another of those Red Sox heartbreaks that were oh, so familiar.
Everything seemed normal again for a few minutes.
Then I noticed how tired his face looked. How he goes to bed before games are over and sometimes barely has the energy to make it through a few precious innings. I feel exactly how not normal everything is.
Sometimes it’s like he’s gone already.
I don’t want to think about it, so I stop. And leave the house and watch a game somewhere else.
But every pitch, every play, every ridiculous broadcaster comment, he is there. Every tick I make on my scorecard, he is there.
I’m going to have to abandon this denial eventually and feel the things you’re supposed to feel when stuff like this happens. I’m going to have to start doing this soon.
It’s a little easier knowing I’ll never really have to watch a game without him.