The AtHome Pilgrim

Musings at a Slower Pace


Philly area, Pennsylvania, USA
"Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita," I find myself still asking some of the same questions I did when I was just a punk kid. The Big Things confuse me. Fortunately, though, many little things delight and amuse me, and some Big Things--my wife, our kids, our bird and bunny visitors, food, baseball--make me very, very happy. In my pilgrimage, I try to be guided by the wisdom of dear old Auntie Mame: "Life is a banquet!"


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SEPTEMBER 12, 2009 7:57AM

Two Brothers

Rate: 14 Flag

“Baseball saved me,” he once said. (Yet another reason to love baseball.) 

It was around 30 years ago, and he was living on the edge, a life marked by bouncers and fights, drugs and women, motorcycles and bars, bad memories of Nam, testosterone and—because there was always a core of him that was different from the usual macho madness—spirit. He has said that if he continued in that life, he probably would have died. 

But a friend pulled him out, told him that he would be traveling with a semi-pro team up and down the small towns of interior California, and made him come along.  

Those months also had their wildness, no doubt, but they were nevertheless a break with that more turbulent recent past—a paradigm shift of life. Being on the field, being outside in the sun, feeling the glove on his hand, feeling the muscle memory guide his throw to the mark, reawakening the dormant delicious high you get when the bat meets the ball—feeling all those moments of reassuring joy that you can experience on a diamond, even the disappointments of a tough loss, which can be tamped down by the knowledge that another game will come, all those experiences combined to lead his feet onto a new path. 

He settled in one of those small towns. Began living with a woman, got a job, had another son. Still enjoyed his dope, but left the harder stuff behind. Played ball each spring and summer, practiced his creative profanity, developed his cooking. Years later, in Ohio, he became the leader he was always destined to be, coaching girls softball for many years, becoming the ringleader of and chief cook at annual pig roasts, helping lead the union drive at his shop and being elected as first local president.  


All this time, his life a mystery to us. It was as though he were one of those intrepid explorers who left civilization for the wilderness and were not heard from again. No. It was like the disappearance of Judge Crater. When the Corps of Discovery set out from St. Louis, after all, people knew what they were up to and, vaguely, where they were going. He had simply vanished. No one knew where. We could only speculate why. 

The disappearance had a cost, of course. He had abandoned a daughter and a son that he loved. We saw glimpses of the pain that abandonment caused on a visit some ten years later. We took them down to Washington, D.C., to see their great-grandmother and some of the sites. At the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, our nephew, then thirteen or fourteen, desperately looked for his father’s name among the dead, a fruitless search, of course, because he had returned from Nam. But it was what made sense to the kid. His father had to be dead. Why else would he be gone?   


Several years later, his wife tracked him down. He had no interest in being with her again, but he reestablished contact with his kids. He and I got in touch. We talked as often as we could and visited when we could. He reconciled with our father, a great thing for both of them.  

Two years ago, I went out to see him on opening weekend of baseball season. We watched many games over the next few days, welcoming in the new year, experiencing the revival of hope and the mystery of life that a new ball season represents. It was fun, though not easy: our tastes and interests differ in so many ways. But it was fun.

This spring, after learning of his cancer, I went again. A more bittersweet visit, but still with sweetness. 

Thirty-three years ago, in August and September, we all gathered in the hospital as our mother faded. This morning, Mrs. P, Number Two Son, and I drive off to Ohio to see him in the hospital and begin what feels very much like another death watch. His son is flying out from California to see him, too—there is no greater evidence of forgiveness and acceptance than that.  


In Bang the Drum Slowly, Bruce Pearson, the catcher stricken with Hodgkin’s disease, tells narrator Henry Wiggen, “Arthur, I’m doomeded.” We are all, of course, doomeded. But we usually don’t remember that as we go about our trivial days and nights. After Bruce dies, Wiggen ends his reflections on that sorrowful and memorable season this way: 

“He was not a bad fellow, no worse than most and probably better than some, and not a bad ballplayer neither when they give him a chance, when they laid off him long enough. From here on in I rag nobody.” 

We are all that. No worse than some and perhaps better than others. We are all in need of finding the game that suits us, the thing that will save us, the people who will care about us and for us. We are all flawed. We are all special. My brother caused people pain, but he also helped many.

When we spoke, fifteen years ago, for the first time in eighteen years, I had no interest in casting stones. He came out to see us a couple of months later, and it was the best damn birthday present I ever had. We could be together again. That’s all that mattered.   


Words © 2009 AtHome Pilgrim.

All Rights Reserved.

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Heart breaking and beautiful. Sometimes, siblings that live within blocks or miles of one another are more estranged than those who "disappear" to find their purpose or themselves. Even though this is is a sad time for your family, I sense your profound understanding that happy endings are created by recognizing the frailty and speed of life and being able to hold on to the good memories in our hearts. Very well written. Safe sojourn and peace to all of you during this difficult transition. xoxo Rated.
Ohhhhh, so sorry, Pilgrim. So sorry. So glad his son will be there, too.

Take good care.
Reconciliation can be sweet...blessings on you and your family.
Redemption... it's one of my favorite words. I believe in the human capacity for redemption, and the human response of forgiveness. My pop was a pretty mean drunk who turned into a sweet old man. I embraced his late life incarnation and held his hand when he died. Love is powerful stuff, and your post is full of it. Beautiful... rated.
Thank you, Cartouche. "Frailty and speed of life," indeed.

waking: Yes, the kid's coming is one of the best parts of the whole situation.

Patie, thank you. And blessings on everybody.

CKDH: I'm glad for you that you had that experience. At some point, everybody needs to feel they can come home, right?
dustbowldiva: You snuck in there! Thank you.

To everybody who comes later: Outta here now (soon, anyway). I'll be intermittent for the next week or so. Be good to your peeps, whoever they are.
I wish I could say it better than Cartouche, but those words fail me. Life is both long and hard and fast and easy. It just depends on the day.
Great post Pilgrim. Be safe, keep well.
I love true tales of forgiveness and healing. Most things that trip us up in this life could be solved if we could but answer this question honestly: will this matter two days, two months, two years from now?
Michael: I like your summary of life: pretty accurate!

Pen: Thanks for your thoughtfulness.

wind: "True Tales of Forgiveness and Healing!" Sounds like a great comic book (graphic novel, now) series! I agree with your essential question: too bad we don't stop to ask it often enough.
This post drew me right to the heart - namaste and blessings, AHP.
What a story. It hurt my heart and made me stop and ponder my life and loved ones. You have a gift At Home. Thank you for sharing it with me this morning.
You are under appreciated gem, Pilgrim. Prayers for everybody.

And selfishly: hope to see you back around here soon; you're one of my favorite baseball writers.
Owl: bless you.

Dave: You have a gift that I greatly admire: cherish that.

TMichael: Wow; that's very sweet of you (twice).
Lost and found. How fortunate you are to be with him now. How good to be together.
Powerful post - and your presence in his life now is no doubt invaluable to him.
I too lost my brother. God it hurt. Many things you speak of remind me I still have a brother left, and there is no time like now to visit.

I'm sorry I missed all of these posts ...but catching up now.
consonants, Andy, Buffy: Sorry I'm finally getting to your sweet and thoughtful comments now.

consontants: Yes, there was some Amazing Grace going on.

Andy: I think he was glad that we were there, even though he would not bring himself to ask for us.

Buffy: Call him!
Just finding you, and this, now.

So many resonances here... Bang the Drum Slowly, estranged sibs, stubborn-ness.

Thank you.
Connie, thank you for visiting and for appreciating.