The Big “A” that I knew
I am a mess the past day or so. Not that anything is bad or going wrong it is just that emotionally I am a mess. As I try to get back into normal life I find emotions brought up by my dad’s death three weeks ago going all over the place. Today was so strange; it actually began a couple of days ago when I finished the third chapter of my series on “Meeting Jesus and the Team at 7-11” entitled “A Death, a Rain Delay and a Visit from Saint Pete.” Since my dad’s death due to complications from Alzheimer’s disease I have experienced number of things that sent my emotions into overload because they somehow connected with dad and his death. Over the past couple of days these intense emotional surges, I cannot call them swings because they are not swings, I am not going between depression and elation but rather experiencing strong emotional impulses as things remind me of my dad or of childhood. I know that I am okay because grief and the emotions that follow the loss of a parent particularly your father if you are the oldest son are guaranteed to mess with you. They are normal, I am a highly trained pastoral caregiver but since I am not a Vulcan but a Romulan with probably a bit of Klingon mixed in the emotional surges that well up from under my normally cold and logical exterior are a real bitch, no wonder the Romulans wage war with such ferocity and the Klingons appear to be in a perpetually foul mood. But I digress…
The past couple of weeks have been weird because I never know when something is going to trigger emotions that remind me of my dad. Much of this of course revolves around baseball as it was my dad that taught me to love the game and through the connection between baseball and dad there has been, even when he was no longer himself due to the ravages of Alzheimer’s something that brought a sense of stability and peace to life, even when I was a post-Iraq PTSD mess.
Now I am a mess again as things that I see, hear and experience things that bring me back to dad. At this moment my excrement is together but I have no idea what or when the next emotional surge will hit and I will be blubbering like I girl, not that there is anything wrong with that.
The past few days are a case in point. I went to Harbor Park on both Saturday and Sunday and had a great time, at the same time I felt like my dad was there. He never came to Norfolk during my time here because of his physical and deteriorating mental state but now since his death it almost feels like he is there with me. I went to work Monday and had the on-call overnight duty at the Medical Center and was doing pretty well but in the late afternoon I was called for a cardiac arrest of an 81 year old man and off and on throughout the evening was called back as he continued to get worse to take care of his family, a wife of 63 years and a son a couple of years old than me. I really wanted this man to live but it became apparent as the night wore on that he would not survive the night and his wife asked me to perform the Sacrament of Healing or what some used to refer to as “Last Rights” which I did with she and her son present using the rite form the Book of Common Prayer. With his condition somewhat stable I went to our call room where I attempted to get a little rest on the bed from hell. Of course getting to sleep on said bed is difficult at best and since when I am on duty the hyper vigilance factor is real and present it takes a while to get to sleep. About 0215 my fitful sleep was interrupted by the pager going off and with it the message to come back to the ICU as the patient was dying. I went back and was with the family when he died and until they left the building about 0315.
The next morning or rather later in the morning, but not much later I was back up and preparing for a meeting across the bay at the VA Medical Center. While I prepared I found out that George Steinbrenner had died. When I felt the emotions well up in me, especially while I was watching ESPN’s Sports Center and various players, managers and other sports figures were interviewed about the Boss the emotions started coming in waves, funny how that happens. As I reflect on this I guess it is because in many ways my dad and Steinbrenner were similar, passionate, outspoken, driven but also caring and good fathers who often showed compassion to others but in a private manner. Now my dad was not a fan of Steinbrenner or the Yankees, but the Boss engendered such emotions in people, positive and negative I am not surprised my dad had little regard for the American League after all he was a National League man. When I heard Derek Jeter, Joe Morgan, Paul O’Neil and so many others talk of their relationship with Steinbrenner I laughed, cried and reflected on dad. Strange connection but a connection anyway.
Photo Day 1970 with Angels Manager “Lefty” Phillips
Later in the evening I went to Gordon Biersch for a salad, beer and to watch some of the Major League Baseball All-Star game which was being played at the home of the Los Angeles Angels, at one time th California Angels, Anaheim Stadium, the place where more than any my dad taught me a love and respect of the game of Baseball. As I looked at this cathedral of baseball, now expanded and Disneyfied since I was a child shagging foul balls and collecting autographs I was taken back in time. I remember the very first game that dad took us to at Anaheim Stadium as it was then known as the “Big A” like it was yesterday, July 4th 1970 the day after Clyde Wright pitched a no-hitter. On this day the Angels did not win, the A’s won 7-4. I saw the first major league home runs that I can remember seeing in person that night as we sat in the lower level of the right field corner near the foul pole. At that time the bullpen was adjacent to the grandstand and there were no mountains, valleys, palm trees or whatever else is out there, a log ride perhaps, but I digress. Back then there was a warning track and a fence as well as an amazing scoreboard in the shape of a big block “A” with a halo near the top.
That night I saw home runs by Reggie Jackson, Bert Campaneris and Sal Bando for the A’s and Jim Spencer for the Angels. Jim “Catfish” Hunter got the win and Jim “Mudcat” Grant got the save. Rudy May took the loss for the Angels. The fact that I saw two future Hall of Fame players in this game was amazing, the winning pitcher, Hunter and Reggie Jackson. Later in the year I entered a contest and wrote why Jim Spencer was my favorite Angel. I had met Spencer at an autograph signing event at the local Von’s grocery store and when the contest winners were announced I was a runner up. I got tickets behind home plate and my name announced by legendary sportscaster Dick Enberg on the radio and my name in the Long Beach newspaper that sponsored the contest. Dad took us probably to 30 or more games that year and I fell in love with the game.
Back in those days teams still had photo days where players would be available on the field for pictures and autographs and on autograph day in 1970 my dad took my brother and I onto a major league ball field for the first time and I was in awe. The warning track was a red clay and the field was lush green as I looked back in toward home plate I wondered what it would be like to play in such a place. From that season on the game had a hold on me. Dad and I did not have much in common, my brother I think is actually more like him than me but Dad taught me about the game at the stadium and in our back yard and gave me a gift that connected him to me more than anything else, something that I didn;t realize until much later in life. I looked at that stadium on television and I saw the field, the main part of the stadium is still so much like it was when dad took us there and as I looked at it and remembered him I was in tears, I had a hard time keeping my emotions in, kind of embarrassing to be in tears at a bar during a baseball game but I was doing my best to hold it in. Judy told me that I probably needed to talk to Elmer the Shrink about this but he is out of town until next week. So I’ll wait, everyone deserves time off.
While we were still there and I was working on my second Kölsch style sömmerbrau a friend came up to me. He was a bit lit up having consumed his fair share and maybe more for the night but God used him and in his own way to bring comfort to me in what appeared rather earthy and even ludicrous manner but when he was said and done I felt better. I think that he will need to serve as a model for some character in the Meeting Jesus and the Team series, I have no idea which figure from the Bible or Church history just yet but I will look around because what he said even though a tad under the influence of decidedly good beer was profound. God does use people in strange and mysterious ways.
So I will continue I am sure to have emotional surges whenever something reminds me of my dad and I guess in the long run that is a good thing as my friend said it would make me better at what I do, I have now experienced the loss of my dad and am that much closer to the time that I will pass away, a generation has been removed between me and the end of my earthly life. This is something that so many people that I know already deal with. It allows me to be connected to them in a way that just a few weeks back that I could not be. It makes me a bit more human and more connected.
Dad, the Boss and the All-Star game at Anaheim Stadium, it is amazing what this concoction of images, memories and feelings can turn me into, a blubbering girl, not that there is anything wrong with that.