Note: In honor of Opening Day & my not-so-little-boy's birthday today, I am reprising this post. As much as I would love to be at Nationals Park watching President Obama throw out the first pitch, I am instead taking Gatorade to his 30 classmates. Woot!
Baseball’s Opening Day holds a special sentimental place in my heart.
My son was born on Opening Day.
A year later, my daddy died on Opening Day.
I’m not sure why I mark these events by the opening of the baseball season, but for some reason I do.
I’m not exactly sure why or how my attachment to Opening Day started. It’s not that I have memories of growing up and going out to the ballpark. I grew up in a city without a MLB baseball team. We didn’t even have a decent minor league team. In New Orleans, we loosely followed the Astros, the Braves, or in my case, the St. Louis Cardinals.
No, I think it must have started once I was a grown-up (hah!) and moved to DC/MD. As an Orioles fan, I had Cal’s streak to root for and Johnny Miller’s most-awesomest voice on the radio. I spent many evenings driving home up Rock Creek Parkway with the top down (when I was cool, before kids, and had a convertible) listening to the O’s broadcast as a way to wind down and leave work behind.
Books have been written about the rituals and tradition of baseball. I won’t try to replicate them or make this Field of Dreams. But, opening day games used to be a big deal. They were played in the afternoon and were special. There is nothing quite comparable to playing hooky from the office to spend the afternoon at the ballpark sitting in the sunshine.
It makes me more than a little sad that Opening Day isn’t such a big deal anymore. Blame it on the media, blame it on moving Opening Day to Sunday night, blame it on President Obama. Who knows why? But it is.
Still, it’s a big deal to me. Ten years ago in April, which was also Easter Sunday, I went into labor with my son. My second child, I expected him to come quickly after my water broke, but he decided to take his time. I went to the hospital overnight; they said it was too soon for an epidural but they gave me drugs to “take the edge off” (please no chastising from the peanut gallery – it is what it is).
All I know is that one minute I was watching SportsCenter, the next minute I was hallucinating. I slept a little, watched more SportsCenter, slept a little more through contractions.
The day after he was born, I was still in the post-partum fog and remember watching a seemingly endless O’s game. Doze, nurse, watch baseball, change diaper. Repeat.
The kid, who was named after my Dad, and I watched a lot of baseball those first few weeks. Oh, and the coverage of Columbine (but that’s a different story).
the kid - about 18 months old
A year later, on a Thursday evening, I got a call from my Mom that my Dad had had a heart attack. The doctors were still running tests and she said I didn’t need to fly in until they knew more. The next morning, my sisters called and said, basically, “…get your ass down here.”
Daddy had had a quadruple by-pass ten years earlier and a stent and angioplasty in the meantime. It didn’t look good.
We spent the weekend with him in the ICU. We listened to LSU basketball on the radio and watched the NCAA tournament on TV. He was alert, but in pain and seemed to enjoy having us with him. The doctors were still running tests and were noncommittal about his status. A nurse warned my sister and me that the prognosis might not be good.
On Sunday evening, my sister and I said good-bye and planned to fly home to our respective cities Monday morning. We would be back in a couple of weeks for Easter. Daddy passed away overnight; my Mom was with him.
Daddy on his boat - as a much younger man
I don’t remember much, but I remember that it was Opening Day that day.
I remember, too, holding it together to go to the Funeral Home with my Mom and sisters to make arrangements. I remember losing it shortly thereafter and being pissed at God, at myself, saying through my tears, this is why Jews don’t name their babies after people who are alive. My mom, bless her heart, responded that Daddy was honored that my son had been named after him.
I found out later that that doesn’t hold true in all Jewish traditions, but still there is that little bit of doubt that somehow I put the gris-gris on him.
Two days later, we buried my dad on my son’s first birthday. It was necessary at the time, but it still stings.
I try to remember the good things and be thankful that at least he got to meet him. I try to look at the big picture and consider the circle of life and all that. I’m grateful that Daddy didn’t have to live through Katrina and see his house destroyed.
My family and friends have suffered a lot of loss these last ten years. But, we’ve also had a lot of joy – new babies, weddings & new family members to welcome in, birthday parties, Mardi Gras, JazzFest, and the rebuilding of the city.
Perhaps Opening Day serves as my reminder that for everything, there is a season.
Come on, we can be corny now, you know the words…
There is a season - turn, turn, turn
And a time for every purpose under heaven
A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep
- The Byrds