Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Journey - Chapter 6

I was a New York Giant season ticket holder in the 1980's. This had been a franchise of greatness in the late 1950's and early 1960's but had fallen on a generation of hard times since then. I even attended a dinner of like minded unhappy fans in the late 1970's who ended up protesting their displeasure by having a plane fly over the Stadium with a banner that read something like "19 years and we're not going to take it anymore."

Thus, when the 1986 team reached the Super Bowl, there was boundless joy. And when my friend and I, through a lottery, obtained two tickets to California to attend that year's extravaganza, it was like, well, winning the lottery.

The game took place on January 25, 1987, the Giants won and all was right in the world. Except for one small matter. January 24, 1987 was my son's sixth birthday. And I was not home for the celebration. Even now, twenty eight years later, I am reminded that I voluntarily chose to be 3000 miles from home on that day.

So, I get that milestones in one's life, even if not particularly important to me or my wife, do have far greater meaning to much of the population. Thus, Saturday, June 6, 2015 was circled in my calendar with a big exclamation mark. It was the evening my niece was getting married. And the California Angels were in town to play the hapless Yankees.

I love my niece. She is a great kid, not so much a kid anymore as she had just turned 31 earlier in 2015. She was bright, pretty, a young lawyer of some renown, and best of all she treated her uncle with the respect he (I) deserved. She was my one and only sister's only daughter, and she was very special. Except that she was interfering with my plans.

That Saturday's game had a 4PM start to accommodate the television gods. The Yankees had broken their 14 game losing streak two weeks earlier, and had now settled into the pattern of alternating wins and losses with a metronomic regularity. They were 12 games out of first place on June 6, and the stands were half empty. Those who came spent more time directing their venom at the home team than rooting for them.

But I had not missed a game, missed an inning, missed a pitch of the entire season. And pictures for the family were called for 3PM on that Saturday, with the ceremony to begin promptly at 5:30 PM. How could I tell my niece, my sister, that I would not be able to appear, thank you very much, because I was an absolute moron?

While milestones might not mean all that much to me, family does. I live and die each day by the joys and sorrows that attach to my children's lives. I have spent most of my marriage within arm's length of my wife. And my mom, dad and sister have been like idols for me. My dad passed away when he was 61, more than 35 years ago, and not a day goes by that I still don't miss him and wish he was here. My mom, who thankfully had another of her amazing recoveries from recent back problems and was still with us in body, if not mind, was someone who spoiled me from the first day of my life to the last coherent conversation I had with her. And my sister was a wondrous person, caring not only for herself and her crew, but for my family with equal depth and sincerity. She was generous with her time and of her spirit. I adored her, and all those in her family.

Could my idiotic mission, coupling myself for no good reason with the gang that couldn't hit straight, trump all that? Could I really let them know that I was giving my regrets, that I was certain that the day would be spectacular, that she should take a lot of pictures, and be sure to give me every detail, but my first allegiance was to be at my appointed round at the appointed time? Was I like the postman, only rain, sleet and snow was substituted with weddings, work and worldly worries?

I sought counsel from my wife and my children, whose understanding of the human condition I greatly respected. They were universal in their dismay at my even considering putting my self appointed obligation over my duty to honor and respect my niece. So much for my trusting in their judgment.

On June 4, 2015, still tortured by my indecision, I picked up the phone to call my sister and discuss what was going on in my head. After she initially laughed, thinking I was making a very bad joke, she told me to call my niece. If I was thinking of doing what I was thinking of doing, she said, I should at least have the courage to call my niece and explain it to her. If I couldn't do that, she told me, then I should just get dressed up early Saturday afternoon, show up at the predetermined hour at the appropriate venue, and make believe this conversation never took place.

And so on June 6, 2015, I broke my vow to myself to see every inning of every game of the 2015 Yankee season. The wedding was spectacular, my niece and her husband looked astounding, and I hoped that my sister could one day forget the call that had taken place two days earlier.

And oh, by the way, the Yankees played their best game in over a month that day, beating up on California 11 to 1.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That was an absolutely amazing piece. So heart felt and well written. And I'm not only happy you made it to our wedding but even happier your family (even in fiction) would not let you not attend. 😀 great piece, as always.