Nine years ago I avoided his phone calls like the plague. For almost a whole year he wouldn’t take my phone calls. Growing up he was a tough guy to get close to. Over the past seven years we’ve grown closer. Nine years ago he couldn’t rely on me at all. Today he trusts me. Things change. Sometimes good things can come from terrible ordeals. Today, we went out to dinner. Nothing special … just an ordinary meal. We talked … about Facebook (“What is it?” he asked. “Should I do this Facebook thing?” “Can’t people just send me pictures by e-mail?”) … about how he met my late step-mom (“I was meeting with a lawyer on an estate matter. She was the lawyer’s secretary. I had to meet the lawyer many times and things just progressed. She told me she thought I looked sad and needed cheering up.”) … about baseball; yes … baseball. Cliche, perhaps, but that’s what this father and his son did … talked baseball. He talked about the glory days of the Yankees. He reveled in comparing Joe DiMaggio to Mickey Mantle. He told me about Sal “The Barber” Maglie and Ryne Duren ( a relief pitcher for the Yanks with a blazing fastball and lousy eyesight!). “The best hitter I ever saw play was Ted Williams. He never struck out swinging. DiMaggio was a better all around player but Williams was the best hitter … ever. You know it’s saying something when a devoted Yankee fan says this about a Red Sox player!” “When I was a kid, I’d get a $1 allowance for doing my chores. I’d walk all the way to Yankee Stadium – about 50 blocks. I’d get a bleacher seat – $0.60, a scorecard was $0.25 and that left me $0.15 for a soda and a hot dog. I used to watch DiMaggio in center field. He could see the signs the catcher was giving so he knew what pitch was coming. At the crack of the bat, he was racing off. He made it look so easy.” “Today’s baseball just isn’t the same.” No, it isn’t but neither are these conversations. Thank goodness for change!
It is a cold Sunday afternoon. As I sit here the wind howls outside and drives the already single digit temperatures to below zero. A perfect time to reflect on gratitude.
All too easily the sordid, the ridiculous, the ugly and the dark can carry us away and swallow us up; sometimes it swallows us whole and we can feel like our soul is leaking. We lose sight of the beauty around us for the darker side of things sweeps us away like a flash flood, a veritable torrent, it seems. Before you know it you wind up miles down stream and completely off the map. I know, I’ve been there and it is not a fun place to be (more about that some other time). It took me a few years to get back to a healthy, whole relationship with God and with others and it was a painful journey at times. I’d like to think that I’m a better man for the journey but to be honest, I coast at times and slide down stream a bit. But only for a bit.
It was suggested to me many years ago by people who possess more wisdom than I do, that I periodically make a gratitude list as a way to keep from slipping down stream and going over the falls. The key is to give it some thought, some deep reflection. I find that making the list serves me well on several key points: it keeps me positive; it reminds me that I have much to appreciate in life; it causes me to be mindful of the beauty in everyday things and the beauty in these “common” things are almost imperceptible unless I look for it.
Ugliness, hatred, evil, darkness and fear seem to scream loud and flash in neon lights but beauty … beauty is more subtle. It whispers. It is often shrouded in mist. You have to be open to, present in the moment, it in order to see it’s magnificence in all it’s glory.
So, here are my five things for which I am grateful on this day:
- Francis Albert Sinatra – there is no one whose voice can turn a song, an arrangement, like The Voice. No one!
- Baseball – the greatest game ever invented; it is poetry and ballet on grass, teamwork and also individualism when batter faces pitcher. Today marks the opening of Spring training camp and soon enough there will be cries of “Play ball!”
- Language – as limiting as it is at times the ability to express ourselves, to try to be understood and to understand is priceless.
- Music – it’s a variation on language but oh how it touches parts of our inner selves – parts that we thought were impenetrable – and suddenly we are connected with others who are touched in the same way.
- The cosmos – the magnificence and beauty of the universe … leaves me humble and in awe.
For a good read on the considered practice of mindfulness and appreciation of beauty (and the joy it brings) check out this little ditty: http://www.onbeing.org/blog/to-instruct-myself-over-and-over-in-joy/7296#comment-1628071
This Blogging 101 assignment asks me to describe the one skill I’d like to master. Most people would want to be a better person, father, mother, etc. but I don’t consider that a “skill”. That’s more a result from applying skills and principles in your life. Even then I don’t think anyone could say that they have “mastered” being a better person; that’s a work in progress until you breathe your last breath.
No. For me I’d like to master being a professional baseball player. I LOVE baseball. It is poetry and ballet on grass. To me it is the ultimate game that requires individual skills melding into those skills of an entire team. It calls for skill and thinking rather than brawn. No don’t have to be the fastest, strongest or biggest person in baseball to succeed; you just have to be the smartest. Out-thinking and out-strategizing your opponent. Just look at the mano-a-mano struggle between pitcher and batter each trying to out maneuver and out think the other. Is he going to throw a curve ball here? Is he expecting the change up in this situation? What’s he a sucker for? High fast balls? Where are the fielders playing me? To pull?
Granted there are many skills that go into making a great ball player and skills alone don’t separate the hall-of-famers from the other professionals. That takes some special quality – call it charisma, presence, personality or mojo – that you can’t acquire. You either have it or you don’t. That being said I’d still like to be able to master hitting a 95 mph fastball over the left center field wall in old Yankee Stadium. And be able to do it consistently. Here’s something you might not know: a batter has just 0.40 seconds to decide to swing or not if a pitcher throws some heat from the mound. That’s less than half a second to decide what kind of pitch it is (curve, splitter, slider, fast ball, change up), is it going to break at all and its location (inside/outside and high/low).
Yeah, I’d like to master that skill.
To hear the crack of the bat, the sting in your hands as you make contact, the roar of the crowd and the sunshine on your back as you round the bases! Goosebumps! You know what I’m saying … just like in “The Natural” when he hits that homer at the end of the movie into the lights. Yeah, like that.