“Baseball breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall all alone.” – A. Bartlett Giamatti
Boy, am I being called to put my money where my mouth is. Big league love is large enough to embrace the failures as well as the successes; those are my own words. On the eve of my site launch, I’m here in my kitchen, cooking dinner while listening to the ballgame on the radio. Let’s just say I lost my appetite; it was a crushing loss.
Devastating crossed my mind, but that is too strong a word. Losing a ballgame, even in a horrible way for a huge fan, is what I would refer to a ‘first world problem’. Earthquakes are devastating. War is devastating. There are much bigger issues in the world than a ballgame.
At the same time, I feel exceedingly sad. Something I love with all my heart is about to end. The way it’s going down isn’t pretty. I get very excited when we win, but I normally don’t get too ruffled when we lose. Tonight was another story. The way it went down broke my heart.
Up to this point, the words above were written on the evening of September 24, 2015, twelve hours before my dad was killed in a devastating, and I mean devastating, car accident. The inexplicable sadness I felt the night before his death didn’t make sense to me at the time; I felt strangely exhausted, depleted, and fell asleep on the couch, too tired to write the rest of the article. Looking back now, it feels like a foreshadowing, along with the article about Yogi’s death 2 days prior, the quote above about facing the fall alone, and my own words: “Something I love with all my heart is about to end.” The accident took place 9 days before the end of baseball season. However, baseball will be back in the spring. My dad won’t.
I was extremely close to my father. I treasured the text messages we would send back and forth during Giants games, exchanges that consisted of baseball banter, goofy humor, and mutual affection. We spoke on the phone the day before he died, and texted later that night during the lousy game I spoke of above. When the game ended and our messaging came to a close, my dad expressed his appreciation that at least we had gotten to enjoy the game together, and that we’d get ’em tomorrow. I saluted his positive attitude and told him that I loved him. We made plans to watch the epic Zito vs. Hudson pitching match-up on Saturday, not knowing that on Friday, everything would change.
These are the blows life deals us sometimes. Death is an equal opportunist; it comes for all of us as surely as summer turns to fall. However, just because one understands intellectually that ‘there is a time for every season under heaven’, it sure as hell doesn’t make it easier when a person you love with all your heart is gone is the blink of an eye. The theme of seasons ending was more pronounced, more poignant, than ever. The raw emotion I felt upon hearing about my father’s death has eased some since his passing, but I still remember exactly how I felt when I got the phone call with the news. All my famous bravado went out the window; I fell on the floor and started screaming, and all I could say was “Not my dad, not my dad… ” It was horrible.
We hear it all the time: “Life is short.” We never know how long we have on this earth, or how long we will have the people we love. The eerie thing was, I had a nagging feeling all year that my dad was not going to be around much longer. I tried to push those thoughts away, but they continued to produce in me a sense of urgency that I’m glad I heeded, because it drove me to do things I might have otherwise postponed. I put together an elaborate Giants scrapbook for my dad, containing all the photos, ticket stubs, newspaper articles and more from the 2010-2014 seasons and their 3 World Series wins. I’m especially thankful, since my website was still in the works on his birthday, that I printed out a copy of my first blog article “Growing up Giant” and gave it to him with his birthday present. Dad got teary-eyed and told me it was the best thing he had ever read. If I had waited to release this site before showing it to him, he never would have seen it.
I experienced a number of setbacks on my journey to share Big League Love with the public, but I had planned to finally unveil it the day my dad died — that is, until I got the call. Immediately after his death, I was flooded with a curious surge of creativity that inspired me to write his 4-page eulogy and deliver it at his funeral without breaking down. Yet once the memorial services were over, and the numbing effects of shock had worn off, all of that inspiration disappeared, and all of the motivation I had to share the site vanished. Staying in my shell seemed easier, and throwing in the towel would have been understandable. However, that would be doing a huge disservice to myself, and the time for playing small is over.
So here I am, nine months later, ready to give it another go. I feel incredibly nervous about putting myself out there and, as a true perfectionist, I could quite easily continue to tweak, critique and proofread my writing till kingdom come before I “feel like” sharing it. But nothing ventured, nothing gained. This is the big leagues baby.
So tonight, rather than listening to a crushing loss as I write, I decided to throw on Game 7 of the 2014 World Series. As I type this, Michael Morse is hitting the broken-bat single that drove in the go-ahead run in the 4th. The current score will now be the final score; Giants 3, Royals 2. It was a beautiful ballgame (for Giants fans, anyway). I didn’t chose to lose my dad, but I can chose what I surround myself with as I kick off this new chapter of my life. I feel my dad here with me in spirit, cheering me on.
Nothing really ever stays the same, except that which is constant in its change, like the seasons. I am forever a changed person because of this experience. Fall and winter were bleak and dreary this year, but I WILL see the summer again. That is the changeless me, the incorruptible, indestructible me. Some people call it the soul. This is how I know I will survive, and not just survive, but thrive. Not everyone understands this when I try to explain, and that’s okay. I’ve just experienced enough heartbreak in my life to know that something positive can always come from it, if we so choose. I know this as much as I know that the sun is going to rise tomorrow.
Make no mistake — I feel the loss of my father very deeply. Sometimes the pangs of loss and sadness catch me off guard and squeeze my heart so tightly that it’s hard to breathe. So what do I do? I keep breathing. I think about how lucky I was, because I truly won the Dad lottery. Seeking, and seeing, the blessing doesn’t make the pain disappear, but it does make it more bearable. This is the best way I know to fully live. A new season is beginning, and although I may not know where I’ll be tomorrow, I know who I am today.
Dad, you are forever in my heart. Thank you for showing me, not just in word but in deed, what truly matters in life. You have left a legacy of love and light that stretches far beyond anything you could have imagined. Everyone who knew you was a better person for having known you. I am so incredibly thankful that you were my dad. You were a shining example of the words below, and you passed this spirit on to me:
“In the midst of hate, I found there was, within me, an invincible love.
In the midst of tears, I found there was, within me, an invincible smile.
In the midst of chaos, I found there was, within me, an invincible calm.
I realized, through it all, that…
In the midst of of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.
And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there is something stronger–something better, pushing right back.”
– Albert Camus