Graceball

 

IMG_8900Cleaning off the shelves in my father’s study reminded me of the things he loves to read about — history and baseball. The older I’ve grown, the more I’ve loved reading about those things as well.

I’ve always loved reading about baseball. Not modern baseball, but the old days. Like the deadball days in The Glory of their Times by Lawrence Ritter, one of my favorite baseball books ever. Or the Brooklyn Dodgers. Or the Negro Leagues, both awful and beautiful.

So I grabbed a book on my dad’s bookshelf called The Teammates by David Halberstam. It’s a story about the enduring friendship between four ballplayers: Ted Williams, Bobby Doerr, Dom DiMaggio, and Johnny Pesky.

Ted Williams was one of my father’s heroes. An unlikely hero, in my mind, because he was a hero with baggage. He was foul-mouthed and arrogant. Loud. He wasn’t gracious, wouldn’t tip his cap to the crowd, even in his last game, at his last at-bat, where he nailed his last home run.

John Updike, in Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu, said about Ted Williams, “Gods do not answer letters.”

But Ted Williams could hit the ball.  Lou Boudreau came up with the Williams Shift for a reason. Why Ted Williams, in that instance, didn’t follow Wee Willy Keeler’s motto — “Hit ’em where they ain’t” — is a mystery to me.

The Teammates softened my thoughts on Ted Williams. It showed a more human side to him.  One Ted Williams story lingers with me.  In the words of Bobby Doerr  —

“… and when lunch was over Ted turned to us and said he wanted to take and show his dad’s photography shop.  And so we went across the street from the hotel, and there was a building there, all the offices empty now, nothing there but an empty building. Then he began talking about his father, who had not been successful, was out of work a lot, and had been drinking a lot. And as he talked you could just see it roll out, this little kid in this terrible world, all the unhappiness, all the things which had never gone away, and which had been stored up for so long. It was clear that his dad had never been there for him.  And then when we came out he took us to this nearby corner, and he said, ‘This is where my mother made me march with the Salvation Army, and I would try and hide behind the bass drum.’ As he talked I could see it all, the little boy back then, the shame, and the pain, and the broken home, and how much he hated all of it. As we were walking around, and he was letting us into his childhood, I was thinking to myself, ‘This is where it all started.’ I’ll never forget that day when he took us around because all you could feel was the sadness of it. The sadness of that little boy, and the sense that it had weighed on him so heavily for so long.”

As I read that story i understood better how baseball is a game of grace. The very best players fail two-thirds of the time when they get up to bat. A batter is allowed three strikes. A pitcher is allowed four balls. A team three outs.

Baseball is not like the pure athleticism of a race, where the first one to finish wins. It’s a game of trying and trying again. Perseverance. Moving on past a failure. And another failure. And another failure. Grace.

The whole game is grace. There’s always another pitch, another at-bat, another game, another season.

It’s why the battle cry of the Red Sox — “Wait till next year” — rings true.

Hope is a cornerstone in baseball. It exists at every single base.

*****

Today my daughter Mary follows in my footsteps (and her aunt’s) by starting a job at the Baseball Hall of Fame.

When combined with the Daily Prompt: “Childhood”, and the fact that this post turned up when I did a draft folder search of that word, you can understand why I’m posting this today.

Originally written last October. Never posted till now.

Marion Sullivan

Marion Sullivan knew how to make a person feel special.

I can’t tell you exactly what it was that she did. It could have been the way she grabbed my hand and wouldn’t let it go until she had pulled me in to give me a kiss. It could have been the delighted smile she gave when she greeted me. It could have been the welcoming warmth the she exuded.

Marion thought everyone was special, but not in the broad brush way of today’s self-esteem movement. You know, you’re unique — just like everybody else. No, she thought I was special. She looked me in the eye. She let me know in no uncertain terms that it was me she was greeting, hugging, holding onto in that moment of social awkwardness when I try to flee the church because I can’t do the small talk.

I think she did that with everyone. What a special gift.

Marion wearing her birthday crown

Marion wearing her birthday crown

Marion was also one of the youngest people I know. At 90, she wasn’t too old or mature to wear a birthday crown. Or bat the balloons tied to her pew. Or raise her hand with answers for the children’s message. Benjamin Button had nothing on Marion Sullivan.

My children delighted in seeing her.

69 1/2 years married to the same man. I love that they included that 1/2 year in the obituary. Like with babies when we measure their age in months or younger children who are always sure to include the half. Because the half is important.

Marion’s obituary may not list a bunch of accomplishments, educational degrees, and the like. But I daresay, she was a Mother Teresa, doing small things with great love. Greene was blessed to have her. I was blessed to know her.

I’m going to miss her.

Chachkis

Cleaning out the draft folder — Today’s Daily Prompt: Fork.

I typed in “fork” to search the draft folder and this came up — originally written in August 2014. I don’t know why I never posted it.

*****

“What are those things?” my father had asked when we were cleaning out Stewart’s apartment.

I suppose, what with some of the gray March days we had in Pittsburgh, it was hard to tell what the little plastic toys were and why Stewart would have them.  Three little solar-powered toys — a devil holding a fork and a knife, a flying pig, and flower in a pot — stood on his window ledge.

The flower was readily identifiable for my father.  These things are staples in nursing homes these days.  Nearly every window ledge at the home where my mother lives has two or three of them, each flapping its leaves up and down and wagging its head back and forth.

Once we showed my father how they worked he was tickled by them, so tickled, in fact, that he brought them home and we sat them on a bench in his sun room.  He points them out on a regular basis, laughing, because I think that’s the response they were meant to evoke.DSC02194

Every morning when I’m there, I come downstairs before the sun has risen.  The house faces west, with a hill rising up behind it, making sunrises almost impossible to see from any room in the house. I sit in the sun-room, staring at the backsides of the chachkis, who are motionless for the longest time.

The sky slowly brightens until finally the little devil begins waving his fork and knife. Later the flower waggles, and, much later, the pig flies.  Flying pigs must require an inordinate amount of solar energy.

The more I watch them, the more I think I need to be like them.  I’m there, early in the morning, reading and praying and thinking, absorbing some mighty powerful energy from the Son, and the Father, and the Holy Ghost.

I shouldn’t leave unchanged. I should take a note from the chachki notebook.

They take the solar energy and translate it into action.

Shouldn’t I take the energy from my early morning activities and translate it into action too?

Christ has no body on earth but yours,
no hands but yours,
no feet but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which Christ’s compassion for the world is to look out;
yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good;
and yours are the hands with which He is to bless us now.

St. Teresa of Avila

Amen.

And amen.

Countless Blessings

Countless Blessings
A Thanksgiving Day reflection

O taste and see that the turkey is good
Stuffed with bread and celery and onion
Roasted for hours in an oven
Until the pop-up timer
Lifts its red head
Signalling readiness
From death unto new life
Carved
For our nourishment

O taste and see that the potatoes are mashed
Creamy
With just a lump or two
To remind us they are real —
As real as the good earth
Whence they came —
As real as the butter
Melted into them —
As real as this day of Thanksgiving

O taste and see that the gravy is rich
Made with the old old recipe
Passed from mother to daughter to daughter to son
Danish
Delicious
Unhealthy
But good

O taste and see the abundance of food
Brought in pyrex and stoneware
Wrapped in foil
Hidden in a box
Brussel sprouts and sweet potatoes
Cranberry sauce and relish
Pumpkin bread
Pies
Half moon cookies
And one full moon
To remind us of the harvest moon
Low and bright in the sky

O taste and see that the conversation is good
Sweet with laughter
Salty with tears
Hopes
Dreams
Remembrances
Gratitude

O taste and see that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8)

Thanksgiving 2015

Thanksgiving 2015

*****

Draft folder, be gone! Today’s Daily Prompt was “Countless” — so I searched the draft folder and found this poem written for Thanksgiving 2015.

I am so blessed. This poem focuses on the blessings of a single day and a single meal.

I wonder why I never posted it, but I think the grief from my mother’s death was too fresh at the time.

Years of Forgiveness (a journey of bad hair days)

Today’s Daily Prompt is “Phase” — and I thought, Phases of what? The moon? Growing up?

Then I remembered this piece that has sat in my draft folder for months. It’s the phases of hairstyles — my hairstyles. Enjoy.

*****

Helen asked me, “At what age do women cut their hair short? Everyone your age seems to have short hair.”

Well, no, that’s not exactly true.  I listed off a few women who had longish hair, and remembered women I had taken care of in the nursing home years ago who still hair-pinned their long thin hair into tiny buns.

But she’s right. Most of us have given up on long beautiful hair.

In the fall I had decided to try to grow my hair out. Again.

“I just want to be able to tuck it behind my ears,” I told the woman who cuts my hair.

She stood behind me and we both looked in the mirror as she ran her fingers through my hair and tried to imagine it tucked back.

“Okay,” she finally said, and she trimmed a little here and a little there before sending me on my way.

I hadn’t waited until I was 40 or 50 to get my first short haircut, though. I was little when I got my first pixie cut.

“Can I get a short haircut?” I asked my mother. She grimaced, but she agreed.

I'm the one in the 4-H sweatshirt

I’m the one in the 4-H sweatshirt (1969)

The downside of short hair for a little girl is that people think you’re a boy.

Within a few years I was trying to grow it out again, and swept it over low over my eyes to hide my high forehead.

Chic (not)

Chic (not) (1971)

In high school my hair went up and down like the moods of a teenage girl.

A college friend asked me to model for him my freshman year. It took hours to blow dry and curl my hair. Even then, we used a hat to hide my hair’s wayward ways.

My brief stint as a model (I was pretty terrible)

My brief stint as a model (1978)

I spent more time on my hair that day than I did on my wedding day.

Dad, me, Mom -- 1982

Dad, me, Mom — 1982

I permed it once — that was a disaster.

(1985)

(1985)

The bowl cut —

(1988)

(1988)

I grew it really long for a while —

(1996?)

(1996?)

And then chopped it all off.

(2000)

(2003)

 

There was a time I asked for a hairstyle like Princess Diana and came out looking like my hair had been cut with a weed whacker. I cried and cried.

There have been times I was too busy to get a haircut and I chopped it off myself.  Once I asked Bud to straighten it up because I knew I had cut it unevenly, and then the hairdresser that I finally went to said, “It’s a good thing you guys stopped.”

January 2, 2016

January 2, 2016

This last time that I tried to grow it out this last time may have been the last.

One day, after a swim meet, I went to the mall, found a haircutting place, and said, “Cut it all off.”

I took a selfie when it was done.

IMG_8214

January 9, 2016

And then had Laurel further trim it when I got home.

The thing I’ve learned about hair is that it always grows back.

And it’s very forgiving.

God gave me untamable hair so that I could understand about second chances, and third chances, and forty-seventh chances.

Keep trying, He whispers in my ear. You’ll figure things out.

And forgive them, He whispers, too. Not about my hair, but about people who repeatedly hurt me.

Pentecost

 

“Here is the law,”
God said to Moses,
“written on tablets of stone.
Build a tabernacle
that I may dwell in your midst.” 1

And they did.

And He did.

“Here is my Holy Spirit,”
God said to the gathered disciples.
“You yourselves
are now my tabernacle.” 2

“You are my letter of recommendation
written to the world –
not on tablets of stone
but on human hearts.” 3

How shall we then live?

*****

1 – Exodus 25 -40
2 – Acts 2
3 – 2 Corinthians 3

*****

Today is Pentecost, fifty days after Passover.

It coincides with the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, the giving of the Torah.

 

 

Breath of the Earth/Breath of God

O breath of God –

You exhaled
Out
of Your infiniteness
Your holiness
Your bounty
Your might

We inhaled
breathing in
so deeply
that we coughed
and laughed
and sputtered to life

O breath of God —
mist
is but
an exhalation
of the earth
the respiration of a planet
set in motion
by You

Looking down on the valley

*****

 

According to the Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon, the Hebrew word for mist, אֵד (‘ed), can mean “exhalation of the ground.”

It is only found two places in the Bible: Genesis 2:6 and Job 36:27. In the first, mist comes up from the ground, and in the second, tiny droplets of vapor come from the clouds.

The thought of mist being an exhalation is something I find fascinating.