I Am All That Is Left Of My Mother.

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It has become harder to write about my mom each Mother’s Day, when she is no longer here and there is nothing new to say. “Just start making stuff up,” Editor/Husband suggested. “Tell them about the time she taught you to throw the knuckleball.” That is the only baseball you will read about here today. The rest of this is true.

I am all that is left of my mother.

I was the only one. The one-and-only child, who was, if I’m being honest, something of an accident … coming late to a father who didn’t think children fit with his plans and a mother who was, I guess, good whichever way maternity went.

To my credit, I seem to have ingratiated myself into their lives, so I rarely felt like an afterthought.

Her.

Me.

Us.

My mom’s been gone 14 years now. Saying “been gone” makes it easier, doesn’t it? To say she’s been dead 14 years seems so cold. So final. She’s been gone – just out to do some shopping or spending time in her garden. It’s so much easier that way.

But, as the years go by, I find that my memories of her have become blurry, as most memories do with time. I remember fewer events that we shared. Instead, I simply feel her. The presence of her inside me.

If it’s late in the day and I’m feeling especially weary, I will look in the mirror and see her looking back at me. She carried a lot of hurt and pain. She earned her weariness. She looks back at me from the mirror when I’m weary from much more mundane things.

She would worry, I think, that I look tired and that I haven’t bothered to put on makeup for most of the past year. “A little makeup,” she would say, “would brighten you up and hide those dark circles.”

I inherited some of her good traits – but not her best ones. And, I inherited some of her bad traits – but not her worst ones.

I am an amalgam of not-the-best and not-the-worst of my mother.

I’m all that’s left of her.

Can I tell you about her? Continue reading

Patience, Time (… And Baseball)

“The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.” ~ Leo Tolstoy, War And Peace

It’s game day. Today, at 3 p.m., Virginia plays George Washington at nearby Disharoon Park in Charlottesville.

The Cavaliers are off to a wobbly 4-3 start. But, I’m not worried. They are a stacked team. They will be fine.

Today, at 7 a.m., I am having my coffee. I should be scouring the weather report, calculating temperature and wind speed to determine how many layers I will need to sit through an early March baseball game.

I should be scanning the rosters, recharging my camera, making sure the scorecard is ready to go.

These are little nothing chores. Things I rarely think about as I’m doing them. The routine of a baseball fan.

I should be doing all these things.

I am not.

Only a few fans can attend and they must be spread widely through the park.

Where I Am Not.

Instead, I’m sitting here wondering where the past year went.

One year. March to March. One big blurry uncomfortable inconsiderate wasted lost year. Continue reading

True Stuff …

Five things you don’t need to know about me, but I’m telling you anyway.

One. I Really Dislike Baseball Statistics.

Babe Ruth and Willie Mays didn’t need WAR stats to know they were the best in the game. Similarly, I don’t need WAR to tell me that Mookie Betts is one of baseball’s best players today and [insert name of someone who really annoyed you last season] isn’t.

If a sportswriter includes more numbers than actual words in their story, I’m out. Out.

Sure, I’ll take the basics … batting averages, home runs, ERAs, stolen bases, errors.

But, beyond that? You can call them “advanced metrics” but really they’re just a mess of numbers hiding behind a mess of letters …

OPS, OPS+, P/GS, IR-A%, BQR, LIPS, wRC+

Who needs all that?

This …

3/11/2020, UMass-Lowell at Virginia.

This Is All I Need. 

Baseball is a team sport. Individual statistics are like artificial preservatives, unnecessary and probably not good for you.

Two. Fantasy Sports Are Stupid.

I like making declarative sentences like this, because people who play fantasy sports get all agitated and blustery whenever someone tells them their pretend sport is stupid.

Agitated and Blustery.

If you spend a week deciding who’s going to “play” in your pretend football game, you probably need to find another sport to watch.

Three. I Can’t Stream The Internet, But Even If I Could … Continue reading

Chapter Two: Pete The Girl

This may be the slowest serial ever. If you don’t remember Chapter One – which was months ago – you’ll find it here.

Photo by Michael Morse on Pexels.com

There is no such thing as an uncomplicated ballplayer.

He wasn’t sure how long it’d been. How long since his brain would flicker as he tried to recall a word, a name, a something else.

“Normal aging,” the doc said. “Nothing to worry about.” But that was years ago – 10, maybe more. It was just annoying then. A lost name here or there. It was more than that now.

He would be talking to someone he knew. Someone he knew he knew and suddenly his mind would go numb – the person would keep talking but he wouldn’t catch a word. Instead, he’d be consumed by the realization that he no longer knew the person’s name.

The name he knew he knew.

He would start through the alphabet, like thumbing the pages of an old phone book.

Allan. Bill. Cameron. Danny.

Danny? Is it Danny?

The name would usually come to him. But, not always. It made him wonder – is this how it ends, everything just goes blank?

His hands trembled a little now, too. And, when they did he would lace and squeeze his fingers together or hold his wrist tight with his other hand, or rub his palms as though washing them with air. Little things that no one would notice and that would slow the tremors that came more often now.

She noticed.

Pam. Patti. Polly. Penny.

Peach.

Maybe it was because Peach was a little girl, so when she stood next to her grandfather her eyes were closer to his hands than to his eyes. Or, maybe it was because she wasn’t trying not to notice, which was what her mother and the others would do.

They’d pretend not to see, but Peach didn’t.

“Grampa, why’s your hand shaking?”

Dammit.

He paused for a moment just to make sure. Pam, Patti, Polly, Penny …

“I don’t know, Peach.”

She smiled, turned, and ran up the stairs. She clattered around and quickly ran back down. She was holding her grandfather’s baseball glove – now her glove – with a ball shoved into its worn pocket. Continue reading

My Dad, Decisions, And A Dog Named Lady

This story will eventually spin around to a dog named Lady. So, you’ll definitely want to stick around for that.

But, this story is, more importantly, about my dad.

They say you won’t understand your parents until you are a parent yourself. This has always placed me at a disadvantage.

But, I’ve realized a few things since they’ve been gone.

My mom taught me “things.” The skilled how-to-do “things.” My dad, in a weird way he probably didn’t realize, taught me how to figure things out for myself.

I’m always interested to hear other people’s “father stories.”

“My dad taught me to bike … “

“… to fish …”

“ … to drive a car …”

“… to throw a baseball …”

And, to be honest, it always makes me a little jealous.

My dad didn’t teach me any of those things. But, I think my dad gave me space to figure things like that out for myself.

When I wanted a bike, like all the neighborhood kids already had, he said, “When you show me you know how to ride a bike, I will get you a bike.”

This took more than practice. This required me to cajole my friends and barter with them into loaning me their bikes, five minutes here, 10 minutes there, so I could practice. I’m sure I bent a few handlebars and dinged up a few frames when I wiped out. But, I figured it out, and one night after my dad got home from work, a friend – I’m pretty sure it was Pam, the girl down the block – loaned me her bike and I rode it to my house so my dad could see that I had learned to ride a bike.

That weekend, I had my bike.

And, it was purple with a flowered banana seat and it was exactly — exactly — the bike I dreamed of.

So, my dad didn’t teach me how to ride a bike. Not exactly. Or, did he?

My dad also gave me space to make decisions on my own, and here’s the story I want to tell. Continue reading

The Thing About Wednesdays …

© The Baseball Bloggess

Does every day seem like Wednesday to you?

It never feels like the beginning of the week any more. Or, the end.

It just feels like some nebulous place that is neither here nor there.

It seems, as Wednesdays actually are, as far away from the weekend as you can get.  Far away from nights out, restaurants, concerts, day hikes, farmers’ markets. Baseball.

Just one big endless Wednesday.

I have so few routines that haven’t been upended in some way in the past two months.

I rarely check the clock anymore, and I am often surprised when I do.

“It’s 9:30? How did it get to be 9:30?”

“Two o’clock already? I guess I forgot to have lunch.”

Some would say this is a good thing. That being untied to a clock or calendar is a reprieve from the demands of artificial time.

But, I like being tied. I like being needed. I like having something to do. Somewhere to be.

Something.

 

I miss this.

According to a new Gallup poll, 59 percent of Americans reported that they worried “a lot” back in March when this mess unfurled. Just 47 percent now.

In that poll, 72 percent of Americans reported being happy “a lot of the day yesterday.”  That’s a five-percent increase from late March.

Am I happier?

Well, it’s 10 a.m. and I’m still in my pajamas, still enjoying my morning coffee. Continue reading

Everyone Knew Her As Babe

Dear Mom,

If you were still around, I wonder what you’d think about how things are today. I bet you’d be sitting at the kitchen table with that bemused look on your face that seemed to say, “How did I end up surrounded by so many idiots?” You wouldn’t roll your eyes. You wouldn’t say a word. You’d just have a look. That look. That look of bemused and deep, utter disappointment. You’d take another sip of coffee and not say a word.

You wouldn’t believe the mess we’re in these days, Mom. I’m rationing flour like it’s gold dust. I overbought eggs – just in case those are in short supply next. I rarely leave my house and when I do I have to wear a mask.

I know how you worry, Mom. But, really, don’t.  I promise you, the cats are ok.

I miss you. I love you.

My Mom was named Julie. Well, technically, Julie Ann. But, pretty much everyone called her Babe.

Babe

A lot of her friends probably didn’t even know what her real name was. To them, she was just Babe.

She was Babe because she was the youngest in her family, but that didn’t stop me from, on occasion, suggesting to her that she was named after Babe Ruth – which didn’t go over well. Or, Babe the Blue Ox – which went over even worse.

(My mom had just one sibling, an older sister who everyone called Sis. Editor/Husband wonders what Sis was called in the years before my mom was born – before “Sis” officially became someone’s sister. I am guessing her pre-“Sis” nickname was “Child.” Creativity in nicknaming was not my family’s strong suit.)

Public Domain

Other Babe

My mom was born in the summer of 1929 – a good, but not great, year for Babe Ruth who, at age 34 in a not-great year, was still able to lead baseball with 46 home runs. He swatted his 500th career homer on August 11, just 24 days after my mom was born. These incidents were, as far as I know, unrelated. Continue reading

Chapter One: Smelly

© The Baseball Bloggess

Things are different in 2020. They will only get different’er … 

Smelly was small enough that he could turn himself sideways and wedge his shoulder between two of the gate’s metal bars. This allowed him to push his cheek so hard into one metal bar that his ear was almost – almost – inside the park.

This was how Smelly, the little neighborhood kid, listened to baseball.

Smelly? His name?

Smelly didn’t smell bad. Honest.

But, Smelly had the runniest nose in the neighborhood. He was constantly sniffling and snorting and wiping snot into the elbow of his shirt sleeves.

One day, on one of Smelly’s particularly snorty-snotty-runny-nose days, a no-good kid from another block said to him, “You’re a disgusting snothead.”

“I’m not a snothead,” Smelly replied. “I am smelling.” And, he took a long and deep and wet snotty-snorty inhale in the other kid’s direction. “And, I smell you.  And, you stink.”

From that point on, he became Smelly, which was, everyone agreed, a much better name than Snothead.

Smelly would always show up at Baltimore’s Camden Union ballpark on game day early. It was just six blocks away from Smelly’s house, he could run it in five minutes. (Unless he stopped for a bomb pop, which was worth the detour.)

With no fans allowed in, a game could start whenever both teams were ready. A two o’clock game could start at noon … or not until four. It all depended. It didn’t matter.

Daytime games saved the teams money; no need to turn on expensive lights. The game would be broadcast at night or whenever someone called it up on their “HV” Home Viewer. There were no announcers, just trails of information running continually at the bottom of the screen. No one cared that the games weren’t aired live. It didn’t matter.

It mattered to Smelly. Continue reading

Until Then, There Is Coffee

Sometimes I sit with my morning coffee and think …

This is it. This is the high point of my day.

It’s not that I don’t expect something better to happen in the hours ahead.

It’s not that I expect something worse.

I just take another sip and think …

Nothing. Nothing else is going to happen today.

This is both sort of sad, but also comforting.

At least the day had a high point. And, if nothing happens that means that nothing bad will happen.

That’s about as good as it gets these days.

This morning’s coffee, ordered special from a California roaster north of San Francisco where Editor/Husband and I spent our wedding day (long story), is smooth and rich and better than Starbucks or Peets or Dunkin’ Donuts, or whatever it is you can buy off the grocery shelf.

Two months ago, I would throw my coffee into my travel mug and rush out the door. I always like arriving early at my studio so when my first client of the day strolls in, I look settled … like I’ve been there for hours.

But, I didn’t savor the coffee. I had other things to do.

Now, with my studio closed, I pay very close attention to the coffee. What else do I have to do?

I’m sitting here, in my pajamas, drinking my coffee. I guess I’m looking pretty settled here. Bad hair day, sure. But, hey, whose isn’t?

On Monday mornings, I open the calendar on my computer and one-by-one delete each appointment for the week ahead. Delete. Delete. Delete.

I wonder how my clients are doing.

I wonder if they miss me.

I take another sip. Continue reading

Life In The Time Of Pandemic

A historian at one of the nearby universities wrote an article this week suggesting that we all keep diaries of this unprecedented time.

Write it all down.

Life In The Time Of Pandemic, I guess.

Where has he been? Pandemic 2020 is going to be the most documented event in the history of mankind. (Peoplekind.)

Where were you when the wash-your-hands edict came? When the don’t-touch-your-face came? When the toilet-paper-hysteria came? When the ban on gatherings of 1,000 … 500 … 50 … 10 came? When today came? I know. Twitter and Facebook and Instagram told me.

There seems to be an ever-increasing number of cat photos on my feeds. Just to break up the latest round of bad news, I guess. So, doing my part, here’s Zuzu …

(I am not gloating because extroverts are freaking out about this stay-at-home thing. But, I admit, there is a smug-but-not-gloating satisfaction. Now you know how it is for an introvert like me when I’m feeling pressured to go to one of your big parties. Different thing. Same gnawing discomfort.) Continue reading