A woman reflects on the meaning of life through baseball.
It is Monday morning in my humble apartment. I can only assume, as my eyes adjust to the sunlight dancing across the wall, that it is also Monday morning on the other side- on the outside of these walls. I stretch slowly, allowing the light little entrances into my body and soul. I cannot fathom how we allow days to become a part of us so simply. Youthful naivety abandons no one, I suppose. I have merely to awaken and already I am absorbed in what can only be referred to by madmen and thieves as life, as an undertaking of epic journeys in any direction. I loosely refer to these sorts of miracles as “infield hits.” It takes a little more to get yourself anywhere, but at least you made an effort.
Baseball seems to dominate my thoughts, even in wet December. I often find my eyes gazing to the empty television, to the cold black pixilated blanket that hides itself away in places I have often tried to puzzle out. There is something about this death, this closing chapter of the game, that springs hope eternal in my heart. There will be a day when baseball will stir its bats and gloves again. The bases will be trampled. My black box will scream for hours about stats and percentages and hard-earned luck. I will sit here, cold beer in hand, and yell and scream and observe what has come to fascinate and mother me, in its own simple rules. I am a captive of a microcosm of life. It is apparent to my friends that I am a captive of a microcosm of what I firmly believe to be life. Madman I may be, but thief I am not. I will never steal this joy from deep within my heart. I owe it to more than myself to see these games as though they are the universal truth of God.
I remember very little of my childhood, now. It seems that age and time conspire to rip away that which we have committed to memory indefinitely. This is merciful, though we regret its power. I have said words before concerning how we are conditioned to always know our pain. I cannot see how you could come to understand mine, but if memory can serve to destroy then it can serve to teach. That is my wish, that our sins can be made our truth and our enemies our friends. It can only be wrong to have unseen life-long bedfellows if they are not given to make peace with us, and shelter our wounded hearts.
What I most warmly recall is the Wednesday afternoons my sister and my dear grandfather would pass away in front of the television. Every week, without fail, he would appear, chuckling, at the door, some newly discovered book of the game under one arm, a couple of Cokes or a bag of popcorn in the other. In the summer, he would often bring along cotton candy; he said it reminded him of distant days when he would sit outside the stadium a mile from his home and listen, simply listen to baseball.
His family could not afford to buy him a real seat, but there was always a dollar or two somewhere in some warm pocket that would present itself and gaily lead him to a concession stand. He could have his heart’s desire there, flush with pleasure beneath all those smiling vendors, simple people happy to share in a boy’s true love. I don’t think they realized he was more excited for the game than the food.
Time and again, through many dollar bills and smiling vendors he would choose that pale, cloud-like cotton candy. He explained to my sister on more than one occasion that he liked the feeling of such a delicacy, how it looked so beautiful yet melted away to nothing seconds after his lips closed gratefully around it. It reminded him of the game, I suppose. It was fleeting and at first glance belied little meaning—but when you considered the taste and texture and what it brought to a young boy’s afternoon, it was a priceless pillow diamond.
He would speak of these days often, I remember: warm, sunlit afternoons spent leaning against protective arches, a cordless radio painting the picture while the fans behind him provided the truth, the feeling. My grandfather was in love with baseball, had always been. I knew from the way that he breathed after these stories that a love of such creatures who dine on the soul is always richly rewarded.
For he and my sister, it was the television. Too far away was any ballpark, too expensive for their pockets were the finest seats. “After all,” grandfather would cluck in earnest, “with television, you always know what’s going on, unless you don’t want to. And no one will block the view.” My sister would nod deeply, arms around herself as if wrapped in his wisdom and skill. I have to admit he was always right, though I never saw him turn the channel when the beloved team was down. With a twinkle in his eye and the occasional moistening of his lips, his senses would attach themselves to the transmitted game. He only spoke to bemoan a player’s weaknesses or applaud a strong throw from the outfield. My sister, older then than I, absorbed his knowledge, memorized his books of statistics. Her eyes developed his twinkle.
I knew as I looked on from the kitchen that there was something gut-wrenchingly beautiful transpiring in that living room. The two observers would roar and clutch hands in joy at the sign of a ball clearing the fence, would pout and grip at their hair if that ball came off a bat of the opposing offense. The sounds of their jubilation and rampant disgust often overpowered the engaging voices of unseen TV personalities entrusted to communicate knowledge through witty repartee and nostalgic remarks. Crackles of line drives and roars of fan-filled stadiums enriched their world and snuck stealthily into mine.
I could see these two genetic connections—my sister, my grandfather—but could not yet understand that every moment they shared together was a gift, every breath passing through their quivering lungs a powerful thing that provided their souls’ eternal salvation. I could not understand baseball, but I could understand love. And this was it—this was something that could never truly die. Each day, each year, each passing month baseball was alive and well; and yet it died before each new day dawned, and birthed itself again, a phoenix whose golden wings uplift the poor in tireless, loving repeat and doom relentlessly such things as callow souls.
Perhaps the power of this weekly ritual was why I would never come to understand my sister’s death, or why my Grandfather lived on through many opening days until he closed his eyes and left the living room to dusty memories of diamonds and green fields of broken love. He moved to Texas, and I would be surprised now to hear that he has managed to survive.
The coldest lesson I have ever learned I learned through the love of baseball, a love that was never my own. There is no phoenix residing in the hearts of men, no rebirthing for our tired souls. The game lives on despite the world that revolves and digs itself in around it, despite the fact that I have long since forgotten to forgive my grandfather my sister’s passing. He promised her eternal life—he gave her nine innings and true love. The phoenix rose again, but she could not follow and was lost like box scores from rainy April losses in San Francisco. I will always watch these games for signs of her. I will let her love continue on inside me until I too am extinguished, and then to whom it shall wander I will never know.