Mrs. Lincoln

Reporter: “Aside from that Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?”

 

Mrs. Lincoln paused, ran a shaky hand through her hair, took a deep breath, then after a long pause:

 

“Well, I’ve seen better, but I was entertained. And that’s the bottom line. Unfortunately, tonight’s events have marred my ability to give a through and deserved assessment.”

 

Reporter: “Thank you for your time, Mrs. Lincoln. My sincere condolences.  On behalf of the entire nation, our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family at this challenging time.”

If You Need Anything…

“If you need anything, just let me know…”

He never turned down the opportunity to say this to a family member, friend, or acquaintance in need – which was surprisingly more often than he cared to admit.

“Let me know if I can do anything.”

He would often say that, too.

Though the passing of a loved one was the most common use of the aforementioned phrases, opportunities presented themselves in all walks of life. He sometimes slipped and said it when it wasn’t even necessary or relevant. It had become that much of a habit.

But each time he muttered it, there was an underlying, dark little secret: he had no desire to do anything for anyone. Therefore, there was never any follow through. Like a social media slacktivist. And it was probably only a matter of time before he was exposed for being the fraud that he was. All it would take was one person to accept his offer. And then what?

Until then, he would continue to enjoy the satisfaction of offering a goodwill gesture that he knew had a low percentage chance of being agreed upon. The minimum output on his part made this a low risk, high reward situation.  How often does anyone actually take someone up on this offer?

Perhaps he should quit while he was ahead. But sure enough, the next time the opportunity presented itself, the words fell right out of his mouth:

“If you need anything, just let me know.”

And once again, he would get away with it, knowing deep down that the law of averages would eventually work against him.

It was his biggest fear.

But sometimes, you just want to make others feel good.

There is no greater feeling.

Perfume

She had long suspected that he was fucking someone on the side. But she was too tired and too complacent– to do anything about it.

But he wasn’t entirely to blame.

She was the one who urged her husband to seek greener pastures. As far as carnal pleasures were concerned.

But she was now becoming increasingly aware of how reckless and damaging her actions were. And there was no turning back.

Truth be told, she never actually thought he would go through with it, but now that she suspected he had, there was no turning back. So why not leave him?

Because he was a good father. And because she was determined to do whatever she could to keep the family together…no matter how unhappy she was with their marriage. She wholeheartedly believed in staying together for the kids. At all costs. And if him finding sex on the side meant he would no longer pester her for sex (or, any physical intimacy for that matter), then she could lay that baby to rest once and for all.

“If you still need sex, then you can find it with someone else,” she blurted out after he not-so-subtly hinted at the fact that that they hadn’t had sex in two months. It wasn’t something that she had given any pre-meditated thought to. But once she said, she didn’t regret it.

“You can’t be serious,” he said, clearly hurt. In fact, it was as though she had just told him to go fuck himself.

And, of course he knew exactly how long it had been. As far as she knew, it just as easily of been two days, two weeks, or two months and it wouldn’t have made a difference in her mind.

“If sex is what you want, then I’m telling you can still go find it!”

“This isn’t only about sex!”

“Of course it is.”

And then he began to cry.

“Stop,” she barked.

“I just don’t understand…”

“There is nothing to understand.”
“You mean to tell me if I hooked up with somebody, you wouldn’t leave me over it.”

“No, I wouldn’t.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“I don’t necessarily want to know about it. Three rules: Don’t ask, don’t tell. As long as you don’t fall in love. And just as long it isn’t somebody we both already know.”

“What about you?”

“What about me?”
“Are you going to find it elsewhere, too?”

“No. That is the whole point. I. DON’T. LIKE. SEX.”

The truth of the matter was, she didn’t like sex…with him. Maybe with another person, it would be different. Something she desired. Then again, couldn’t even remember the last time she had the desire to masturbate – something she used to do on a semi-frequent basis.

“If you decide to do this,” she went on to say, “Here are the rules:  never with anyone we both know and don’t fall in love. And don’t ask, don’t tell.”

Though he said nothing in response, she could tell that he was at least thinking about it. So she decided to quit while she was ahead and retreat to her bedroom filled with an overwhelming sense of relief.  Even if he ultimately didn’t find someone else, perhaps the hunt itself would be enough to keep him distracted enough to keep him off her back.

Weeks passed and nothing seemed to suggest that he had succeeded. He still hinted at sex here and there, but the frequency certainly seemed tempered.

But it wasn’t long before he stopped asking all altogether.

What did it all mean? Did he simply give up? Or, did he somehow manage to find someone else?

She did notice that he came home late from time to time, but then again, it wasn’t unusual for him to head out at night to get work done after the kids had gone to bed, as he preferred the distractions of a public setting, rather than quiet solitude. This especially was the case when he was working under deadline, but to her knowledge, he hadn’t had a write-for-hire gig in quite some time.

Since she went to bed hours before she, she didn’t even always know when he went out. Or, when he even came home for that matter, as they slept in separate rooms.

Was he really going out to write? Or, was she living in denial?

She finally asked him about and he admitted that he was poking around on new material, while actively seeking freelance work. He was hesitant to admit this because she had recently expressed frustration with his constant need to write. She didn’t understand why his teaching job wasn’t enough. And though he claimed it didn’t interfere with his parenting obligations, she disagreed. She would never deny that he was a good father, there was no question that his writing ambitions often left him distracted. And aloof. And the more time had passed, the more resentful she had become.

“I didn’t sign up for this,” she had said.

He claimed that she did the moment she decided to marry a writer.

And though he had a point, she refused to acknowledge it. And neither one brought it up again They had since reached an impasse, becoming more and more like the disinterested roommates they now were, with neither one realizing how much their relationship had eroded until it was too late.

Despite her edict for him to find someone else to fuck, she never saw anything suspicious. Nor, did she think he was capable of going through with it – even if he tried. No because he wasn’t attractive – she objectively knew he was, even though she no longer subjectively found herself attracted to him. She just didn’t believe he had the confidence to go through it. Or, if he tried, he was likely to fall flat on his face.

A few months passed without any obvious signs that he followed through with her edict – unless she counted the fact that he had flat out stopped asking for sex at this point. Had he simply given up? Did he find someone else? Or, did he give up on that, too? Had he even tried at all?

A few weeks later, she finally got her answer. While gathering laundry, she found her smoking gun: a vanilla scent on the clothes he wore the day before. The next morning, she detected a slight trace of the same scent on him as he walked past her. She bit her tongue. She knew the deal, but was taken aback by a low simmer of unexpected jealousy.

Was it a one-time thing? Was it a regular occurrence and she simply never noticed it before? Did she really want to know?

A few days passed before she noticed the scent again.

A few days later, she detected it on him at breakfast. This time, she couldn’t bite her any longer.

“Could you try to cover it up next time?”

“What?” he asked, cluelessly putting a spoonful of cereal into his mouth.

“You know what.”

“I really don’t.”

“The perfume.”

He jaw dropped as though he had just seen a ghost.

“Oh, well, I can explain…”

“Okay. Then explain,” she said, her jealousy and anger growing in equal measure.

“Strip club.”

She believed him. And though disgusted, she was secretly relieved. Though, not happy with the fact that he probably wasted God knows how much money.

I guess she preferred it this way. And she reminded herself that at least he wasn’t pestering her for sex anymore. And then she realized something…she kind of missed it.

And though she believed him, she couldn’t help but feel her simmering jealousy turning into a low boil. And her doubt growing like a tumor.

Several months went by without further incident. She assumed he was doing a better job of hiding the evidence. She considered checking his phone, but refused to allow herself to resort to that.

And then came along her husband’s holiday party,

She couldn’t help but notice that he was extra chatty with a colleague that she knew fairly well. They had hung out in a larger group in the past a few times here and there. And though he had given her reason to suspect anything, she was discovering that jealousy could morph into paranoia.

She continued to watch from afar, looking for signs of something there – a discreet touch, a flirtatious gaze. Something that would suggest something was happening. But beyond talking, nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Perhaps she was just being paranoid. Besides, she honestly didn’t think he would have the guts to make a move. And if he somehow did anyway, then he would be in direct violation of their agreement: not to fuck somebody they both knew.

And then it dawned on her, followed by an overwhelming sense of sadness: if she had fallen for him then that would mean that she somehow unearthed the man she had fallen in love with a long time ago that she thought was gone forever. Not the annoying sad sack who moped around all day, acting like his life was so deprived. She would much prefer that he filled the void with his vanilla-scented stripper.

The night wore on, but she eventually, she got answer.While passing her by in the hallway on the way toward the bathroom.

A familiar scent.

And a friendly hello.

 

 

 

For Emily

“Tell Emily I love her.”

Her husband’s dying words. His death bed epitaph to Amy, his wife of 25 years.

On the heels of not saying a single word for over two weeks, two days after being placed under hospice care.

It would be another two weeks before he passed, so she certainly didn’t expect those to be his final words.

But in the end, that’s exactly what they were.

Though James rarely expressed romantic sentiments, she certainly never doubted that he loved her as much as she loved him. She could at least take solace in that. Yet, here he was confessing his love to someone she didn’t even know. And it hurt more than she cared to admit. Perhaps had he confessed this to her at some point, it would have lessened the sting, rather than leaving her in a cloud of mystery.  Had her never confessed his love to someone else, it wouldn’t never would have bothered her that he never told her that he loved her. If she didn’t expect it when he was healthy, she certainly wouldn’t have expected when he was too far gone – too ravaged by aggressive cancer combined with failed chemo to express statements of love. But Emily changed all of that.

At least, she had no regrets on her end. In the two weeks he lay in a coma state, she made told him she loved him countless times. And though he didn’t respond, she was hopeful that it still reached him deep inside his heart and soul. Though she wasn’t 100%  certain, she was pretty sure he squeezed her hand in response one of the times. Perhaps it was wishful thinking. A meaningless reflex. But she refused to believe that.

She kept reminding herself that all that really mattered most at this point was making sure he remained as comfortable as he could under hospice care. And that all the arrangements were taken care of. Their two grown children – Lucy and Michael – had that all covered, leaving her with the primary task was to stay by his side every moment of his remaining time on earth. An early finish line that took her and the kids by surprise.

She was grateful that she at least told them that he had loved them shortly before his coma. That gave her some solace, at least. She was also grateful that they didn’t hear him profess his love for Emily. She wondered if she would tell them later.

If there was one silver lining to his unexpected illness, it was that it finally put to rest a longstanding feud with Michael. If only had it been that easy when the final curtain wasn’t already closing. Funny (on second thought, it wans’t funny at all) how death has a way of way of repairing old wounds, if only to leave a behind much deeper suffering in its awake.

The past no longer mattered.  Or, so she thought.

She tried to regain her focus and stop worrying about something she had no control over. But no matter how hard she tried to fight it, she couldn’t get it back.

Only one thought continued to plague her:

Who the hell was Emily?

A constant loop.

She considered the possibility that his proclamation was a drug-induced, quasi-coma hallucination. But he had said it at a time when he seemed more coherent and alert than at any other point under hospice care.

She had so many questions that she wondered if she would ever have answers to. Was Emily someone from his past? Or, present? She kept coming back to the theory that he was confused. If by some miracle he awoke from his coma, would she ask him about it? Or, would she let it go? Her grief was deep enough. Why deepen it?  Then again, if she didn’t ask, would it haunt her for years to come? After his inevitable passing, would she look for evidence? Or, would she feel too guilty snooping through his stuff for clues posthumously? Then again, he was the one who brought her up in the first place. He didn’t have to mention her at all if he wanted to keep it a secret. Then again, it wasn’t like his judgment was sound.

She tried reminding herself once again that time wasn’t on her side. So why waste it dwelling on something that really didn’t matter right now?

Because it did matter.

Emily mattered.

Her husband wanted it known that it was Emily who was loved. Not her.

Five days later, he passed. She was by his side, along with their children. She was holding his hand when he took his final breath. It was the best anyone could hope for when they pass.

As Amy stared at his now lifeless body, her brain refused to process the fact that he was gone forever. Even though she knew he was.

Her children hugged her, then left the room to give her one last moment alone with her first and only love.

The funeral came two days later. As expected, it was a great turnout. Nothing competes with Italian weddings and funerals. In fact, it rivaled the 500 guests at their wedding. Had it been up to her, it would have been capped at 250. But when his mother demanded to pay to keep the Italian tradition alive, what choice did she have? At a funeral, there are no invites. The generous turnout was a welcome distraction from her grief,  but also overwhelming at times. And there were several strangers she did no recognize.

Was one of them Emily?

Would she even want to know?

She suddenly found herself becoming angry. Why couldn’t he take it to his grave? He was so close to doing just that! Maybe it would have been different if she told him who it was. But to just drop a line like that without any explanation was torture.

She tried to focus on her grief, but all she could think about was Emily. And there was nothing she could do about it.

And then he was buried. Along with all his secrets.

One secret in particular.

A few weeks into the new “normal”, Amy realized that the ghost of Emily wasn’t going away any time soon. Though she avoided it at first, she soon began the inevitable task of snooping: through his computer, e-mail, drawers, etc. And though she felt guilty for snooping through his stuff, she figured he had it coming to him. And she was angry. Particularly angry that he covered his tracks so well.

He could find no evidence of anybody named Emily. Not in his e-mail. Nor, his social media account. Nor, in his phone.

But then it dawned on her. What if Emily was from before they knew one another? A childhood crush? Someone he took to a high school dance? Someone he transported back to the present through the fog of his clouded, drug-addled mind that was reaching the finish line of life?

Just when she gave up on ever finding an answer, she found a possible clue: a small, wrapped present tucked deep inside his sock drawer. Was this the smoking gun she had been looking for? Should she even open it? What would opening it prove? And what good would not opening it do?

She decided to sleep on it for a night. What harm could that do? Keeping it wrapped felt like a part of him was still alive. A gift from beyond the grave.

But intended for whom?

She was pretty sure she knew the answer. But would there be any proof?

She decided to sleep on it and placed it next to her nightstand before she went to sleep. The next morning, she opened it. It was a simple gold bracelet. Though there was nothing unusual about the bracelet itself, she knew right away that it was never intended for her: she was allergic to gold. He knew that.

And she wished she had never opened it.

But it got her no closer to solving the mystery.

Who was Emily?

Several weeks passed. And no further evidence surfaced.

She finally gave up. That fact that there was someone else was a reality she had to learn to accept. Not that it really mattered. It was all in the past now. And the past was the only place where he could remain, despite everything feeling very much in the past. No apologies or reconciliation required, let alone possible.

Nothing would bring him back to life.  No matter what, he was dead. Dead, dead, dead. Knowing the truth wasn’t going to change that fact. And he was just as dead to Emily as she was to her.

But wait! Did Emily even know? It was quite possible she didn’t. He saw no evidence of missed calls or texts on his phone. Wouldn’t she have tried contacting him? Was it possible he had some hidden form of communication that she wasn’t privy to? A burner phone? Should she hire a private investigator? Then again, why put herself through that? Because she feared she would otherwise never find closure. And would never grieve properly. Until she finally solved this mystery.

She wondered if she should solicit her kids to help? Did she really want to drag them into this? She decided to keep it to herself. For his sake. And for the sake of their children.

A few more weeks passed. And then an unexpected knock at her door. She looked through the peephole at a woman no older than 20. Probably another damn solicitor. But when noticed a car was parked in her driveway, she realized that solicitors don’t usually park in your driveway. Did this person have the wrong house?

Though she considered ignoring the stranger until she went away, she realized she didn’t have a choice. The knocking continued.

“Hello, may I help you?” Amy asked.

“I know you don’t know who I am,” the girl said. “But I know who you are.”

“I’m sorry?”
“My name is Emily Ford…”

Amy’s brain struggled to process any of this.

“You don’t know me, but I know your husband—”

“How dare you…” Amy said, feeling the urge to strangle somebody for the first time in her life.

“I’m sorry,” Emily said.  “I could leave. I didn’t mean to—”

“How did you expect someone to act when their deceased husband’s mistress shows up on their doorstep?”

“Wait. Is that what you think I am?”

“Please…”

“I’m his daughter. He was in college.”

Amy felt the anger awash away, as confusion and relief settled in.

“Come on in…” Amy said.

Emily entered.

“Have a seat.”

Emily sits down on the couch. An hour later, Amy finally knew the whole truth: Emily was the product of a college one-night stand. Several years before she and Jim had ever met. He was fully prepared to be a father. However, the mother preferred to raise the child on her own. She even refused child support. They worked out a deal that he could send letters and presents for birthdays and Christmas, but that there would be no other contact. Once she was 18, she would be allowed to pursue a relationship with her father if she so chose.

She turned 18 last week. And now, here she was, in her father’s living room.

“He never met you in person?” Amy asked, still in shock.

She shook her head.

“I found out about his passing through a Facebook post. I realize that me coming here was a risk. And I understand and am sorry if you are upset.”

“No. I’m so happy you came.”

She truly was.

“Hang on a moment. There’s something he would have wanted you to have.”

Amy retrieved the bracelet, which she now realized was probably intended as a birthday gift. Or, perhaps graduation gift.

“It was wrapped. Clearly intended for you.”

“How do you know it was for me?”

“I’m allergic to gold.”

Emily put in on. Held it against her wrist and smiled.

“It’s lovely.”

“Your father was a great man.”

“I know.”

The two women sat there, staring at the bracelet that in that moment, brought her husband – and Emily’s father – back to life. If only for that moment.

It was exactly how he would have wanted it.

 

 

The Righteous Brother

When I was in middle school, my father nicknamed me “the righteous brother”.

It was not a compliment.

Nor was he comparing my singing skill to one-half of the famous singing duo of “Unchained Melody” fame. And it was certainly not a way to earn any street cred. It was in direct reference to my annoying and judgmental tendency to preach morality to my two younger sisters. I was also a tattletale. Though I prided myself back then on my high horse of morality, I would be amiss to say that I didn’t have an ulterior motive: getting my little sisters in trouble.

However, my attempts at getting my sisters in trouble more often than not backfired. Therefore, I was teased for being the annoying, prudish brother who had to learn to lighten up. Getting teased by my peers was one thing, But my own family?

Of course, being a “righteous brother” had its benefits: by the time I got to high school, I didn’t have a curfew like other classmates because I was always home early enough not to warrant one (fewer friends = less time for late-night hijinks). In truth, my straight-laced “righteous” behavior had less to do with morality and more to do with being afraid of getting in trouble.

To put it simply, I was a wuss.

My cowardice emerged at a very early age. There is even photographic evidence to prove it.

EXHIBIT A: I was just short of turning one and I’m being held in the arms of a clown at my hometown Memorial Day parade. There was no turning back.

EXHIBIT B: This same look of fear is duplicated over several photos taken on the lap of Santa and the Easter Bunny. Santa is scary enough. The Easter Bunny’s soul-piercing black eyes and inanimate expression is even more frightening. Most kids grow out of this by the time they are five or six. I was still showing fear well beyond that. On a semi-related note, the fact I still believed in Santa at the age of 12 did little to help my cause.

EXHIBIT C: I am just shy of three. My hands are held tightly over my ears as tears stream down my face. The source of such abject terror? … a kite, flown by my dad in the parking lot of the church behind our house. I was scared of the flapping sound it made in the wind.

EXHIBIT D: I firmly believed that fireworks could put a hole in the sky.

EXHIBIT E: I was convinced that Sesame Street characters lived in the vents of our car.

As I got older, my phobias increased, extending to lighting matches, bees, basements, and routine blood tests (of which even the smallest amount has caused me to pass out).

Being the Gemini that I am (and me, too!) there are a few scattered moments where the righteous brother demonstrated signs of unrighteousness. Granted, it was often accidental. Some could write volumes about such rebellious behavior. I just need a few pages. Although these instances are far and few between, it is my hope that sharing them could perhaps earn the slightest modicum of street cred (of which the first step is to probably avoid using such pompous words as “modicum”):

 

Tearing it Up

Lying to cover up a crime is the oldest trick in the book. And it usually begins in childhood. I learned this lesson in the first grade after intentionally stomping all over a classmate’s steno notebook when nobody was looking. I didn’t even know whose notebook it was, yet, for forces beyond my control, I noticed it on the floor and felt compelled to destroy it.

Mutilate it.

Tear it to shreds.

Once the crime was uncovered, the teacher pulled each of us into the hallway one by one in an attempt at coaxing a confession out of them. I feigned ignorance. And though I was relieved to have gotten away with it, the guilt was tearing me up.

This is my confession.

 

Playing in the Street

When I was five, I told my two-year-old sister to stand in the middle of the street. It wasn’t a matter of not knowing any better… nor was it a matter of me attempting to kill her (I think I made sure no cars were coming).

My motivation was to get her in trouble. Instead, all it managed was to get me in trouble. Within seconds after she entered the street, my parents burst out the front door and scooped up my sister out of harm’s way.

I received my first grounding: one week without friends, which was not that difficult for somebody with no friends.

 

Hoser

It was a dog day of summer. I was playing in the front yard with a hose, keeping cool, when I spotted our neighbor, ‘Mr. K’, driving down the street. I was suddenly overcome with the impulse to aim the house at his car and directly through the driver side window. It was a direct shot to the face.

I had absolutely zero motive. He was the kindest neighbor you could ever ask for.   Yet, here I was, spraying him through in the face with a hose while he operated a moving vehicle.

Upon impact, he slammed on his brakes and rightfully started scolding me.

“What in the hell did you do that for?!” he said, wiping the water off his face with a handkerchief.

I stood there helplessly mute, dripping hose still in hand.

My mother ran out to see what was going on. She apologized, took me inside, and sent me to my room to think about what I had done.

There wasn’t enough time in the world to make sense of what I had done. But, at least I was sorry. When I later apologized, Mr. K simply smiled and said:

“Apology accepted.”

 

JELL-O

On a similar note, I once decided to fling a spoonful of Jell-O and Cool Whip at my cousin Jimmy’s face. Unprovoked.

 

“Do me, Baby!”

Struggling to gain acceptance from my peers, I decided to tell classmates that my sister’s animatronic Cricket doll said “Do me, baby.” I was in fourth grade. And I did not even know what “do me” means.

Cricket was a female contemporary of Teddy Ruxpin – robotic dolls that play cassette tapes inserted into their ass. As the tapes play, their eyes and mouths are programmed to move along with it. Neither one of them – or anything of their ilk – say “Do me, baby.”

This led to my first and only time that I was punished in school. And it resulted in me getting a stern warning from the cigar-chomping principal.

I also had to write a note for my parents that said: “Today in school, I told my classmates that my sister’s Cricket doll said “’Do me, baby.’” It will not happen again. And I am sorry.”

I kept my promise.

 

High Ball Wrestling

When I was little, I frequently goaded my cousin Tony into wrestling matches at holiday functions at my grandparents’ house. To paint a better picture of this matchup: I was a skinny, weak toothpick and Tony was…husky. Without fail, Tony would agree to wrestle, only to then promptly pummel me. Like clockwork, I would scream for help, at which point Tony would get scolded. The frequency that this scenario played itself out was on par with Charlie Brown, Lucy, and a football. I promised not cry for help, yet sure enough, I did.

Every time.

One time, around the age of 10, I found a new way to get Tony into trouble. This time, it would involve booze. While standing at the drink table, I convinced Tony to let me make him a high ball “just like Grandpa.”  My cousins and I enjoyed “Jr. Highballs” (Squirt and cherry juice), but this time, I added a generous splash of whiskey to Tony’s drink (not mine).

When we were caught, everyone immediately blamed Tony. But eventually, I confessed.

 

Take this Gift and Shove It

When I was seven, I opened up a Christmas gift from my Godmother Jo-Jo. Upon seeing that it was a boring sweater – rather than a toy – I shoved the box containing the sweater immediately onto the floor to demonstrate my disapproval.

 

Hot Popcorn

One way to really piss your parents off is to place a pan of freshly popped popcorn onto their brand new, white Formica countertop.

 

Blowing Chunks

When I was little, I had a track record of puking where one shouldn’t. Take, for example,  the time the time I entered my parents’ bedroom to inform them that I had to puke, only to proceed to puke right on their floor in front of their bed. (Some of which splashed onto the bedspread). I was 10.  And it was a longer walk to their room than it was the bathroom.

Another time, I made into the bathroom on time, but chose to puke into the sink, rather than the toilet, which was directly behind it.

 

No Horseplaying

 

I once accidentally slammed a bedroom door on my baby sister’s index finger. It flattened like a pancake. My parents took her straight to the ER. Fortunately, the bones of children that young are so malleable, they will inflate right back to its normal shape.

 

Sucker Slap

Everybody has a breaking point. And even though I found turning the other cheek to be a convenient way to cope with my bullies, one day I finally decided that I had enough with one in particular. After years of putting up with it, the time had finally come to take a stance – which sadly only consisted of a half-assed, weak slap (or, more specifically, a mild graze) across my bully’s cheek while he was chomping on his bologna sandwich in the cafeteria.

His immediate reaction was to laugh, then continue eating his sandwich as though nothing had happened. The bullying didn’t let up. In fact, it was about to become worse.

 

 

 

 

Snack Size

Seeing Stars

I’ve never been in a fight before. But I have been pushed, shoved, knocked down, dunked under water, tied to a tree, and shoved into dogshit). And then one time, punched in the face.

I was minding my own business, sipping on an Appletini when some asshole approached me from the other side of the patio fencing.

“Hey, bro,” he began. “Give me a sip of that.”

“Sorry, man,” I politely refused.

Without a word, he cold-cocked me right in the eye.

And I was down for the count!

Next thing I knew, I woke up, lying on the ground and surrounded by my wife and friends, a couple of police officers, and a pair of paramedics. When I finally came to, I could still see stars, along with a couple of paramedics staring down at me, and my wife.

Despite the throbbing sensation in my eye, I never felt manlier than I did in that moment. I survived a real punch! And that takes guts.

Last, but not least, the suspect was quickly apprehended by police.

 

Got a Light?

While trudging through a snow-covered parking lot in downtown Detroit after leaving a bar, my friend Patrick and I were approached by a half a dozen or so individuals that we pretended not to feel threatened by.

“Hey!” one of them shouted to us.

We kept walking, hoping they would just leave us alone.

“Hey! You got a light?”

“Sure,” Patrick said.

We were both relieved that we were worried about nothing…despite the guilt for judging them too quickly.

Patrick reached into his pocket, only to be sucker-punched squarely in the jaw. He momentarily lost his balance, but somehow, stayed on his feet.  The perpetrators put up their dukes, seemingly prepared for a brawl. But they couldn’t have picked two gigger pussies. We had no interest in fighting back.

We simply turned our other cheeks and bee-lined it to the car, without further repercussions. What exactly was their motive? Clearly, they didn’t need a lighter. Was it a bet? Some sort of gang initiation? What would have happened if we retaliated? Fortunately, we never found out.

 

My Tarantino Moment

A few years ago, I was staying with a friend in a seedy part of the San Fernando Valley.  While loading up my rental car before heading to the airport, I turned around and spotted three Mexican men walking down the street in my direction.

I wouldn’t have thought much of it, other than the fact that one of them was brandishing an assault rifle. In broad daylight.

I froze in terror, not quite believing what I was seeing. Surely, this was a dream. But it wasn’t. Were they going hunting? I reminded myself I was in the middle of the San Fernando Valley.

As the men drew nearer, I realized that freezing in my tracks wasn’t my best option. I had to hide. But where? Did they even see me? And if they did, was my ass grass? And why was nobody else around?

I turned to head back to my friend’s apartment, however her building was gated and locked behind me. And she had already left for work. I pulled out my phone to dial 911, but I had no signal!

I was shit out of luck.

This was how it would all end.

I scrambled to hide behind a wall. I could still see the men from my hiding spot (which, looking back, didn’t exactly put me out of harm’s way). But they had passed by without incident. I waited until they disappeared out of sight. I then ran fast as lightning to my car and headed to the airport.

Perhaps these things happened all the time in the valley.

 

Free Porn

When I was 14, my family was visiting my cousin and her husband. In their basement was a shrine to Marilyn Monroe. Like any 14-year-old boy, my hormones were naturally raging, so I was especially drawn to a fully nude pic of her snow-white body sprawled out on red sheets in all her glory.

Realizing I was alone, I began snooping around a storage room and stumbled upon a large stack of Penthouse magazines. After much deliberation, I decided to stuff a copy down my pants (“Is that Penthouse in your pocket?”) to sneak home. I kept it  successfully hidden in my desk drawer for years. The only porno magazine I ever “owned.”

 

Dune Climber

 

On the very tip of Cape Cod lies the beautiful resort town of Provincetown – the “San Francisco” of the east coast. Several year ago, my first wife and I took a sunset stroll along the Cape Cod National Seashore on the edge of town.

After walking about a 1/4 mile away from the main beach, we noticed several makeshift tents perched on top of the dunes along the coast. My first thought was that it was perhaps homeless colony.

But upon closer examination, it was a colony of gay men. Dozens sunbathed outside their tents. And several more were fucking both inside and outside their tents. A mere 50 feet away or so. We tried our best to mind our business and continued walking.

The closer we got to the tip of the Cape, the more bizarre things became. Naked men surrounded us, passing us by in either direction, brazenly walking along the shore, strutting their junk for all to see.

Like a car accident, it was hard not to look – more than likely more so for my wife, than me, but honestly, who was keeping track? They seemed to be increasing in number. We approached an inlet pond, where dozens of naked men swam to and fro like giant Sea-Monkeys. Or, Mermen.

A gay man’s paradise.

I have never been much of an exhibitionist. However, something got into me. Not sure if it was the beautiful nature that surrounded us, or the swarm of naked men, but I was suddenly inspired to join in. After all, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. So I did. I removed my t-shirt and swimsuit, and joined the masses. My wife left her clothes on, opting to remain an outcast, as we pushed further toward the tip.

 

Holy Pilgrimage

I briefly dated a girl in college that I had met in the infancy of online dating. Being that I was an English major and she was an actress, we decided to see Shakespeare in Love on our first date, followed by a gourmet meal at … Big Boy. Half way through our meal, following my second run at the soup and salad bar, I came down with a horrible case of pink eye.

Taking a date to Big Boy, combined with a steady stream of ooze running out of your eye is never good. In fact, going to Big Boy on a date PERIOD is probably not the best idea. (This was not the last time, either. A year or so later, there was another Big Boy date involving diarrhea that I will spare the details of).

Despite the puss oozing out of my eye, we still made out afterward. In the parking lot of a church where once upon a time, the house where I spent the first three years of my life once stood. Just a few yards away was the spot where I cried over the sound my kite made flapping in the wind – one of my earliest memories.

 

 

Bringing My Mitt

I fell in love for the first time in the 8th grade. This time, despite my endless, unrequited crushes, it wasn’t with another human being. I fell hopelessly, endlessly, passionately, and head over heels with the great American pastime: baseball. Infatuation quickly morphed into a full-blown love affair, the flames of which have never extinguished.

More specifically, I fell in love with my hometown team: the Detroit Tigers – on the cusp of their lowest point in franchise history. How fitting.

Not only did I quickly develop a kinship with the boys of summer, but I gained both a refuge and a gateway into acceptance. Though I sucked at sports, I convinced myself that being a fan would somehow improve my social standing.

It didn’t. But baseball certainly made my life feel more complete.

Like the Tigers, I also endured a lot of losing during that time – a steady stream of rejections, epitomized by bullying, my dating life, and eventual writing life.

Like any good marriage, I have stuck with my #1 team for better or for worse, through sickness and through health, from April through October. Enduring off-seasons are like the equivalent of having a partner who must take leave for a long period of time, making the promised reunion all the most resonant. Absence truly does make the heart grow fonder, as evidenced with the arrival of every April, when I find myself loving the game even more than I did the previous season.

And just like I have never given up on my dream, I have remained devoted to my #1 team for better or for worse, through sickness and through health, from April through October. Enduring off-seasons are like the equivalent of having a partner who must take leave for a long period of time, making the promised reunion all the most resonant. Absence truly does make the heart grow fonder, as evidenced with the arrival of every April, when I find myself somehow loving the game even more than I did the previous season.

I was fueled with consistent optimism that both myself and my team would go all the way. Living life with eternal optimism certainly has its perks, but it also means enduring an endless parade of unmet expectations. And sacrificing the present in exchange for a brighter future.

My first exposure to the game actually took place several years before my passion soared into full-flight when my parents signed me up for recreational tee-ball. It didn’t take long before it was obvious that I would become a much better fan than I ever was going to be a player. The bullying from my opponents and my teammates didn’t help matters. Nor, did being afraid of the ball. Nor, did running to the wrong base (e.g. running from home to third … on a strikeout). Sure, I was only a beginner. But I was still running to third at the end of the season, too. At least I wasn’t running on strikeouts anymore.

Somehow, my failed tee-ball experiment managed to plant a seed deep within my subconscious, years before it would eventually blossom into full fandom, of which there are several different levels: fanatics, moderates, and bandwagon. Overall, I’d say I landed in the moderate category, with a sprinkling of superstitions that occasionally push me into the realm of fanatic. I can certainly never be accused of being a bandwagon fan, which is attested by my unwavering, optimistic devotion to my hometown team, no matter how bad they may be. And for most of my formative years, there was no shortage of bad.

I certainly wasn’t raised in an environment that was conducive to becoming a sports fan. My father gave two shits about sports. My mother watched baseball on TV every now and then, as I begged to watch reruns of Facts of Life or Diff’rent Strokes. Like many other kids, my father didn’t take me

to my first game. Instead, I was taken by my Grandma’s longtime boyfriend., Chuck At the time, my excitement was measured only by hot dogs, nachos, and Cracker Jack, as opposed to base hits, home runs, and stolen bases. Chuck had season tickets to old Tiger Stadium (lower-deck, third base side, a few rows back from the Tigers’ dugout – paradise for a “real” fan) and took me to several games each summer throughout my youth. Beyond that, I never tuned into games at home and never had any idea – or interest – in what their record was (which during that time, was a blessing). In fact, I barely paid attention to the score while watching it live.

But then came 8th grade.

That was when I made a conscious decision to become a devoted follower of the Tigers. The seed had finally taken root, making me a late-bloomer in both sports and puberty. Perhaps subconsciously, I figured if I liked sports, than my peers would like me. But that wasn’t the case. It was also 1990. The Tigers were so bad, I quickly learned that there was nothing cool about being a Tigers fan and therefore, with no friends to play with, I had more time to watch baseball on a regular basis.

There was no turning back. My theory was that I simply saw enough reruns of Facts of Life to last a lifetime. It was time for something new. It was time to become a man.

I remember that first Opening Day as a christened-fan. My school had a half-day. My mom prepared egg salad sandwiches, which I ate while I read the season preview in the Detroit News. With game time less than an hour away, my baseball journey was about to take full flight.

And there was certainly plenty of space left on the bandwagon, which was not only empty – but running on fumes. By the end of the decade, the The Tigers had amassed more losses than any other team. Things didn’t get much better at the turn of the century, either. Despite the losses, I continued cheering them on, taking jabs from family and friends for my blind devotion, and watching just about every game with the hope that things were finally going to turn around and that my allegiance would make things all the more sweeter if – when – they finally did win. And if you are an eternal optimist like myself… life was always a matter of when.

Despite the losing, nothing dampened my enthusiasm for my beloved team – the tell-tale sign of true love. Of course, I wanted them to win more than anything, but I knew that it was only a matter of time.

I just had to be patient – a skill that would later serve me very well in my writing endeavors. Through the years, my patience and optimism never waned, in the face of logic, reason, and Vegas odds.

Despite the endless losing, I became instantly obsessed with absorbing every detail and intricacy of the game: the sights, the smells, the sounds, the box scores, the standings, the endless parade of stats – in short, anything and everything about the American pastime, which was now my pastime, even though I still couldn’t play it worth a lick. It was during that summer that I also got my first big-boy glove, which I promptly oiled up (the warm, nostalgic smell is as vivid now as it was then) and placed under the tires of my parents’ black Dodge van in order to break it in. That fall, it became the subject of an essay I wrote in my 10th grade English class entitled “My Most Prized Possession.” An essay that simultaneously showcased my passion, overshadowed by delusions of grandeur:

“When I look at my mitt, I feel hope that someday, I will be the greatest baseball player ever. It seems to hold a bit of magic that allows me to feel like a real ballplayer.”

I optimistically concluded the essay with:

“One more thing. My mother told me when I entered high school that I would make the baseball team my senior year. I laughed at this comment. But as I look at my mitt, I wonder. And hope…”

Though I never made the baseball team, it was in this very class that my writing dream was born.

And although that seemingly magical glove was de-commissioned a long time ago, I still have it safely packed away in a box full of childhood memories. To this day, it still remains one of my most-prized possessions – a symbol of never giving up. It still smells of oil … from that long ago summer. As I sometimes do with my old security blanket, I often take it out for a dose of instant nostalgia.

Countless summer afternoons were spent adorning my prized glove on one hand and bouncing a tennis ball off of the orange brick of my house with the other, as I waited for the Detroit News to arrive so I could devour the sports section This was often the highlight of my day.

When I got bored of tossing a tennis ball against the wall, I would simply hop on my blue and yellow Huffy and take a bag filled with baseballs to my neighborhood park, proceeding to hit them one after another with my Louisville Slugger, before gathering them all up and doing it all over again from the opposite side of the field. It didn’t matter that I was doing it alone. I was enjoying every second of it.

At family gatherings, I would ask my countless cousins “Did you bring your mitt?” They usually didn’t. But of course, I did. And I never lost hope that someday, they would bring theirs. I still get teased about this till this day. When my grandmother passed away a few years ago, her funeral was held at the church just down the street from the house. On the grounds of a church was a baseball diamond. While standing in the parking lot with some of my cousins, overlooking the now weed-strewn field and mourning my grandmother’s passing, I asked – in a moment of levity – “Did anyone bring their mitt?” We all laughed. Some things never die. And for the record, I always keep my mitt in my trunk. Just in case.

During my junior year, I somehow found the confidence to try out for the JV team and put my mom’s prediction to the test. By that point, I had found a safe haven in band class. And though band did nothing to improve my athletic ability, it certainly boosted my confidence – socially, at least.  I knew I didn’t have a realistic shot, but I had recently taught myself how to throw a decent side-arm pitch, so, I figured what the hell?

In the end, I failed. Though coaches admire heart, most have no need for a pitcher with zero velocity in combination with the uncanny ability of being able to consistently toss a meatball over the heart of the plate. My years of “training” did little to help – other than preparing me to lose. At least the coach thanked me for trying out. I took that for what it was worth. The fact that the baseball coach acknowledged my existence was a victory in itself. And thus ended my high school athletic career. One thing was clear: I was always going to be a much better fan than I ever was a player. But I could live with that.

Three summers later, I formed a co-ed softball team through my church. The only thing more unlikely than becoming a manager of a sports team would have been becoming a gym teacher. Yet, there I was. In charge of a team that I assembled out of nothing.

It was time to get serious.

I bought a brand new glove, my first pair of cleats, my first cup, and my first non-wood bat. The glove has held up well over the years (despite the invisible hole responsible for all of my errors). The lack of contact of ball into glove is probably the reason why it has lasted so long. As far as the bat, it turned out to be an absolute lemon – taking me from suck to super suck.

Not that it would have really mattered which bat I used; the results would have more than likely been the same. But others attested to the fact that my bat sucked, proving I was even a loser at selecting a bat. Once I switched bats, I actually turned out to be a fairly consistent hitter – certainly, not in terms of power numbers, but I could at least get on base with a steady stream of singles. My above average speed certainly helped. My deficiency as a player was on the defensive side of things. I lacked the ability to judge fly balls. Hence why I was a natural fit for right field, where the balls were least likely to go – unless it was a left-handed hitter … or a crafty right-handed one who knew how to hit the opposite way once they realized I was a weak link (it usually didn’t take much time). Whenever a ball was hit my way, I would either: overrun it, or stop short of it, watching the ball drop right in front of me – or, more often than not, far away from me. My inability to judge even the most routine fly ball renders my decent speed completely useless.

Another hindrance to my speed is the fact that I’m still afraid of the ball … even after all of these years. This includes running out a grounder to first base. More often than not, I duck and/or throw my arms over my head as I approach first base, thus slowing down and thereby resulting in outs that should have been hits – once again, neutralizing my speed.

As far as my team itself, it was doomed from the start. Each week, I scrambled to find enough players to field a team – especially female ones. The females that were on my team had little to no interest in playing softball. And I didn’t exactly assemble a Murder’s Row of men. Suffice to say, I guided my team to three straight, pitiful losing seasons. And thanks to my Gold Glove talent, even my Grandmother paid an unfortunate price. It was bad enough my family came to watch such an awful mockery of the game. Making it worse was when the third baseman threw a ball to me, while I was stationed at first base during pre-game warm-ups. In usual fashion, the ball got past me, only to ricochet directly into my Grandma’s leg. What began as a major bruise later required minor surgery.

Three years later, I waved the white flag on my softball experiment, deservingly putting it – and myself – out of its collective misery.

Despite my failings on the field, I could always hang my hat on my one true position – being a mere spectator. Even my dad eventually came around to the fact that his son wasn’t going to follow in his footsteps of being an anti-sports fan. In 1993, he finally acknowledged this fact by taking his me to the holiest of holy days for a baseball fan: Opening Day in Detroit – an unofficial holiday. I remember that day so vividly – the rusted girders of the ballpark giving way to the vivid shades of green grass, the smell of hot dogs, mustard, and spilled beer, the sounds the crowd, the crack of the bat, the ball snapping into gloves, and a glimpse of my first boobies (a drunken fan seated behind us). It has become one of those memories that feels as immediate now as it did then – no matter how much time continues to pass by.

Every game I have gone to since – in some form or another – takes me back to that one, magical day.

We sat in the massive sun and booze-soaked centerfield bleacher section at old Tiger Stadium, which had originally opened in 1912 on the same day the Titanic sunk.

Any true Tigers fan knows that the bleachers – despite their distance from most of the action – were the place to be. As for the game itself, the Tigers beat the Oakland Athletics 20-4 and went on to have their only winning season in an almost a 20-year span (a short-lived success … the losing resumed the following year … and several years after that).

I’ll always remember Opening Days with my dad. The tradition lasted about six or seven years and I have gone to several other Opening Days since, but none of them have matched – nor, ever will – the memory of the first one. Coming in at a close second was the strike-shortened season of 1994 that wiped out the World Series, irate fans protested by littering the field with magnet schedules – most of which were flung from the bleacher section where we sat.

Another vivid baseball memory involved my entire family and took place at historic Fenway Park, which, like the now long-gone Tiger Stadium, opened its doors in 1912. The pitching match-up pitted two aces: Roger Clemens vs. Scott Erickson. There was just one problem: the game never happened. It was rained out. Despite the torrential downpour, I remained determined that the game would be played eventually, forcing my family to endure sitting in the pouring rain for over three hours before the game was finally called. I can still see the falling rain through the hazy lights of the hallowed ballpark. Seared into my memory more than any actual game would have been.

Though I could at least say that I had been inside hollowed Fenway, it just wasn’t the same as actually watching a game played there.

It wouldn’t be until June 2017 that I would finally enter the hallowed ballpark, in celebration of my 40th birthday. Also joining us at Fenway: my Detroit Tigers – at the tail end of a decade of dominance and on the heels of a re-build.

I was also fortunate enough to be at the last game at Tiger Stadium, as well as the first game at Comerica Park the following April. In many ways, the transition between the two stadiums represented, in my mind, the divide between childhood and adulthood. My past and future. And the promise of better days ahead.

I remember that last game so vividly. September 27, 1999. I attended with both my parents – the only game I remember going to with both of them. Though the team was enduring yet another losing season, the magical atmosphere was worthy of the World Series. A fitting end to the beloved, nearly century-old beloved ballpark, Sadly, like so many other structures in Detroit, the stadium would be left to rot.

The people I have attended games with over the years serve as a sort of timeline –  or snapshot – of my social life at the time. Friends and relationships have come and gone, just like the players on the team, or each passing season. One of the joys of the game is the social dimension that the sport provides – more so than other, far more fast-paced sports like football, basketball, or hockey, which demands constant attention. Baseball moves at a leisurely pace, allowing for conversation with friends and family in a way that the other sports simply can’t provide. At times – especially during losing seasons, or the doldrums of any long season, for that matter – the social aspect of the game easily trumps the competitive aspect. In essence, the various ebbs and flows of the sport become almost like a marker of one’s life. Intertwined with our memories are the players and highlights of the game over the years. They are the timeline to our lives.

Despite all of life’s changes, baseball has remained a constant, steady pulse in my life. The game remained constant. And sadly, so did the losing.

At times – especially during losing seasons, or the doldrums of any long season, for that matter – the social aspect of the game easily trumps the competitive aspect. In essence, the various ebbs and flows of the sport become almost like a marker of one’s life. Intertwined with our memories are the players and highlights of the game over the years.

It is only fitting that I would have a chance encounter with a Tigers Hall of Fame legend while waiting at the gate before my fateful flight to L.A. in pursuit of my Hollywood dream, that ultimately led to my memoir Love & Vodka: My Surreal Adventures in Ukraine.

While waiting at the gate, I spotted an elderly, white-haired man sitting in front of me that struck an uncanny resemblance to a certain Hall of Fame manager. I couldn’t believe my own eyes, so I approached the gate attendant:

“Is that Sparky Anderson?” I asked.

“Yes, it is,” the attendant replied with a smile. I debated whether I should leave the old man alone, but couldn’t resist. I approached, struggling to keep my nerves under control.

“Mr. Anderson?”

“Yes?” he replied.

I offered my hand. He shook it.

“I am so happy to meet you. I am a big fan,” I said, before congratulating him on his recent induction into the Hall of Fame.

I thought for sure that he would brush me off, but instead we chatted for a few minutes about the Tigers and their upcoming season. I then offered him my pen and steno pad, which he signed on the first page: “To Bob. Thanks for being a great baseball fan. Sparky Anderson.”

I thanked him, before clumsily returning to my seat, where I waited to board. The next and last time I saw him, I was heading down the aisle in search of my seat. He was sitting in first class, already asleep.

Following came several more years of losing – including the rock bottom season in 2003, when the Tigers fell short of setting the all-time loss record by one game (53-119).

And then came 2006. Following years of torture, my beloved Tigers finally turned things around. They not only had their first winning season since 1993, but they somehow put together a dream season that catapulted them all the way to the World Series, where they proceeded to lose in six games. They have been competitive ever since. The bandwagon of which I was once the lone passenger of had begun to overflow.

Incidentally, the Tigers’ turnaround mirrors my own professional and personal turnaround in life in a myriad of ways. Just as the Tigers are no longer losers, I am no longer bullied, nor teased for being such a diehard fan, as I was during all the losing. My loyalty paid off and I am better equipped to handle whatever adversity both the team – and myself – might face down the road.

I often write while a Tigers game plays in the background, finding my own ebbs and flows running concurrently along with the game itself. And much like the Tigers, year after year passed with my writing career seemingly going nowhere. Sure, there may been the occasional winning streak amongst the losing, poking through the gray clouds of my writing life. But it was always fleeting.

Suddenly, once the Tigers figured out how to win, somehow, so did I, as a steady stream of publishing followed. But like the Tigers, I am still searching in vain for the grand prize.

But alas, as Robert Frost once said, “Nothing gold can stay.” Following a decade of dominance, the team is in deep re-building mode. The circle of life. But I remain a loyal fan.

The ebb and flow of both the game and life were further echoed in the dissolution of my first marriage, which paved the way for a new one, ultimately leading to the unexpected discovery that I was going to be father.

And in perfect synchronization, following years of losing in all its various forms, my one true moment of athletic glory finally arrived.

My daughter was due in late August, coinciding with the end of what had turned out to be a fantastic, turn-around season for my work’s recreational softball team.

We ended the season tied for first, which meant having to play a one-game play-off for the championship on a chilly, rain-soaked late summer night. The game was a doozy, going back and forth all game long. Of course, I was conditioned to accept that a loss was always lurking around the corner. I was especially thinking this as I headed to the plate with the bases loaded in our final at-bat, down by one with two outs. After years of folding under pressure, there was no greater choke opportunity than that very moment. The fate of our entire season was now entirely up to me. And if past history was any indication, I was setting my team up to lose, and lose big.

Moments certainly don’t get more pressurized than that. To compound matters, I wasn’t having my best game at the plate to begin with, and I wasn’t expecting it to change now.

But as I stood at the plate, I felt something shift within me. Perhaps it was seeing a glimpse of the new life that awaited me as a father. Perhaps I had simply willed myself to refuse to lose anymore. Perhaps it was all the feel-good sports movies I’d watched over the years. Whatever it was, I suddenly had the clarity I’d heard about, but never before experienced in sports.

The fear was gone.

And I knew exactly what I had to do.

Nothing was going to stop me.

I stepped into the pitch and swung, sending the ball sailing to right-center. The fielders who had come up shallow now had to sprint toward the backfield. The ball continued sailing through the night sky before arcing down and slamming down at the base of the fence. I had never come close to hitting a ball like this. I should point out that in this particular league, balls hit over the fence constitute outs. It would have been my luck to knock one out of the park and lose. But fate was on my side for once. And just like that, it was game over. We were champions.

Once upon a time, I was picked last in gym class.

And now, I was a champion.

If only my bullies could have seen me now. Then again, at that point, I could give two shits what they thought.

That was the real victory.

And even if my big hit didn’t really mean anything in the grand scheme of things, I will never forget the feeling on that cold, wet summer night. In that singular moment, it meant everything.

That same night, just hours after our thrilling victory, came another one. I became a father. And I’ve been winning ever since. Professionally, the game-winning hit, combined with the birth of my daughter, mirrored my arrival as a published writer.

In fact, her birth coincided with a 12-game winning streak late in the season that propelled the Tigers into the playoffs in 2011 for the first time since 2006. She’s been their good luck charm ever since. A year later, they were back in the World Series (only to lose again).

From the time she was born, my daughter has been immersed in Tigers baseball: from the pink pennant that was hung in her room before she was even born, to various onesies and other clothing items and toys bearing the old English ‘D”, it was no surprise that she quickly learned to associate that logo with daddy. She literally called it “Daddy” for the first two years of her life. She got a much earlier jump on the game than her father. In fact, she was indoctrinated with Tigers baseball before she was baptized into the Catholic faith that defines me nearly as much as my faith in the game of baseball. In fact, after seeing me play softball, she believed I played for the Tigers (she also believed that I am Grover from Sesame Street). If only I could have kept both of these illusions alive in her mind forever.

The following season, just following her first birthday, I took her to her first game. My legacy of baseball fandom was officially moving on to the next generation. Taking my child to a baseball game was a moment I had dreamt of for years. And now, the time had finally come. My parents were there, as well, making everything so very “circle of life.” The Tigers lost, but that didn’t matter. What mattered was, my little girl was experiencing her first baseball game – one of which I’m certain will be many. Of course, being only one-year-old meant she had no concept of what was happening on the field. However, I was strongly encouraged by the fact that she sat perfectly patient for nearly the entire game. Two years later, my son was born.  I look forward to all the games I will be taking them to in the future. I look forward to taking them to their first Opening Day. I am so grateful that I will have permanent baseball companions. I think of all players yet to don the old English D – and wonder who the future superstar my children will look up to.

Recently, my son played in his first t-ball game. As I watched him stationed at third base, kicking up gravel, I swelled with a deep pride that only a parent could feel. I couldn’t help but imagine him one day taking the field as a major leaguer. And I laughed when he stopped running just short of home plate to dig in the dirt.

Despite all the changes my life has faced, the one constant has been my love for baseball. That is one of the few things I know will never change. Sure, in any relationship, there are always going to be ups and downs. The relationships that thrive are the ones that realize that even when the ups are outnumbered, they are still far worth it. In fact, getting through the downs make the ups so much sweeter. Baseball is no different, which is why in the baseball diamond of life, I will always bring my mitt.