short story of baseball and family
| One of the things my father instilled in his sons was the love of baseball. Although I don't think any of my 4 siblings enjoyed it until we moved out of the house. Playing the sport was where would rather be than inside the house watching a game, it always seemed boring to me. The only thing that would keep my interest was my father's antics during the game...yelling at the TV like he was at the ballpark.
My parents were new to this country and were born and raised in Puerto Rico, dad's love of baseball was born in PR and came with him to the United States in 1957. He was the oldest of ten and only managed a first grade education but remains to be the most intelligent man that I have ever known. He got married when he was only 17, my mother was 22, by the time he was 25 he was a father of 5 children. In today's world this is almost unheard of anymore and earned more of my admiration for him. A proud man that never asked for a handout or assistance but through hard work and sacrifice carved a life for all of us with a strong sense of family. Dad worked 3 fulltime jobs but still found the time to teach his 4 sons the game of baseball.
In 1961 a new ballclub came to be, the New York Mets, and he became a devoted fan to the organization. I was born in 1964, so I dont have any memories the miracle Mets of 69. I did idolize some of the players that were still part of the team as I grew up such as Ed Kranepool, Tommie Agee, Cleon Jones and who could forget Tom "Terrific" Seaver. Being a Met fan was hard in those days, the team really wasnt a contender after 69 until 73.
Watching that World Series in the living room with my brothers alongside my dad was a priceless memory that I always will carry with me. Dad sacrificed so much in his life he really never smiled unless he was watching "his" Mets. I will never forget that World Series, the smile on his face, the excitement in all our eyes. It was also the last time all of us would be together watching a baseball game until the 2001 World Series.
We all grew up and went our own separate ways, my two oldest brothers joined the army, married and started thier own families. I joined the navy and gone through 2 marriages and was in the middle of my third in 2001. My sister was married for 11 years and just got divorced at that time as well. My third brother had just gotten married for the first time. I lived in Arizona as well as my third brother, my sister lived in Florida and my oldest brother in Colorado and the last brother in Georgia. After the kids were out of the house my parents retired and moved back to Puerto Rico. The seven of us had not been together at the same time since 1979. Passing phone calls on holidays and birthdays was the extent of our communication.
On 9/11 all of that would start to change.
In 1991 my oldest brother had contacted me with news that he had contracted the HIV virus, as shocking as this news was I was left speechless. I knew that he had contracted it through practicing unprotected sex and I also knew that he was a heterosexual. I just could not find the words to console him. He never really needed it however and just said that he would beat it. After living with it for ten years, I honestly thought that he had beaten it. I believe that my siblings felt the same.
In 1996 he would make yearly visits to Arizona and spend Christmas with my brother and myself. I developed an adult relationship/frienship with him during this time and in retrospect am glad we had this time together. 9-11 shocked us all since we were all raised in that area of the world. I started calling all the siblings and talked to all but my oldest brother. Finally he called me but with more news of his health.
My brother told me that night that he had been diagnosed with cancer. Once again I was in shock and could not find the words to console him outside of telling him that I loved him. He made me promise to keep this news among the siblings and not my parents until we had to tell them, reluctantly I agreed. After talking it over with my other siblings we decided to tell my dad and not my mother. Dad would have none of that and he told my mom.
With all that was going on, my attention was not on baseball although prior to this news I had been paying attention to Arizona's new expansion team the Diamondbacks who were playoff bound. During Halloween week I recieved a phone call from my oldest brother's wife, in tears she explained that my brother's health was deterioating and she felt he needed some family out there. I got the next flight out as well as the rest of my siblings and my parents.
He was having complications with the chemotherapy due to his HIV condition. When I looked at him he looked fine except for the hair loss. He stayed in the hospital for a few days and then he came home. We all sat and watched the playoffs just as we did when we were kids, dad with his antics and my two eldest brothers were arguing with my other brother and myself since we were pulling for the Diamondbacks and they were for the Yankees.
The playoffs of that year were some of the most exiting games ever played. With the Yankees in the series and New York in such disarray, it was a very emotional series to say the least. For me it was more emotional with my brother's health on the line. There was a moment that i caught, all of us in the living room watching the game, laughing, joking. I looked at my dad and he was smiling again like he did when we were kids, then I looked at my oldest brother. He didnt seem to be looking at the game but rather was taking in the scene of all of us sitting in the same room. He had my father's big grin on his face and I swear I saw a twinkle in his eye. I realized at that moment that this was the probably going to be the last time he would see us all together again. For the first time it hit me that he knew he wasnt going to be around much longer. I wanted him to have that moment and never interfered with any questions, I dont know if my other siblings ever caught that moment but I never bought it up to anyone before or since.
I stayed with him until he died in January and although my decision to stay with him, cost me a considerable amount of turmoil in my own life, I would do it again if given the chance. That short time that we were together as a family filled his heart with a warmth that I know he desired before his time was up. The baseball games that we watched took him back to a time when we were innocent and carefree and what was most needed in his mind at the time. I believe that it helped all of us with closure in the end, especially my dad.
I have tried to past on the love of baseball that my father passed to me to my sons but the game has changed so much that it has become quite a chore to keep the interest of children. That's a dam shame, but I live with the hope that they have a special place in thier heart with the memories of watching a game with thier dad and siblings as I do.