Farewell Legends

In one of the most surreal and remarkable farewells in Yankee history, leave it up to Derek Jeter to deliver the dramatic game-winning hit in the Yankees’ 6-5 triumph over the Baltimore Orioles, just minutes after the Yankees had blown a 3-run lead.  The air had that chewy sense of hope; here is always call for a miracle.

“It’s gonna happen, I told Donald.”

And in one swing of the bat, Jeter slapped his trademark single to right field and there was Jeter, jumping up and down as he rounded first base. This is what baseball can do to the soul: it has the ability to make you believe in spite of all other available evidence anything can happen. It’s the feeling I get now as my Danny Boy completes his little league career; anything can happen – it’s a remarkable farewell.

My son, Daniel, has been playing little league baseball for the Port Washington Legends travel baseball team since he was 9 years old.  Just like that, his years of little league baseball have ended and we are off to the “Bigger Boy“ league.  As I write, we are completing an almost week long competition at Cooperstown Dreams Park.  A competition where we played against some pretty amazing teams.  My boy suffered a devastating radius and ulna fracture on June 9th after a fall off playground equipment.  We really were not sure if he would be able to play on these fields when we sat in the hospital as the Doctors non- surgically put his bones back together.  Just like Jeter in his remarkable farewell there was that chewy sense of hope, that Danny would be back to playing at his best.

The week began on Saturday, teams assembled for the opening ceremony and the procession of the athletes.  There were parachute jumpers that dropped from the sky and landed in Little Majors Stadium.  Alphabetically, each team entered the stadium to the cheers of family and friends.  It truly was an amazing procession to see.  The teams dressed in their Cooperstown uniforms of either blue or red and carried their team banner.  The National Anthem was sung by none other than Donald Alexander!  Yes you got that right, my husband tried out for the job to sing to over 6000 fans and he won!  What a great way to start the week.  The boys truly loved seeing their coach in center field belting out our nations song.

There was so many great memories made in the days following.  This was truly a Disney World for 12/13 year old baseball players.  The experience of this tournament will provide the players and their families with many treasured memories that will last a lifetime. For my Danny Boy not only did he play but he killed TWO homers over the fence in Cooperstown Dream Park and had a few inning back on the mound!  In addition Danny was lucky enough to have over TWENTY FIVE family members travel to the fields to watch him play.  Nothing beats seeing my Marvelous Marvullo’s (and Himmler’s) on the field all wearing ALEXANDER 77 shirts that my sister had made up, on my birthday chanting “give it a ride Danny give it a ride’”  My Gennusa peeps proudly wearing the Alexander shirts  as that was the number their Father wore when he played baseball.  Aunt Lisa drove to Long Island to watch Danny Boy play in his intermural playoff game on June 9th.  She got the call to please go get Christian we were in an ambulance Danny had broken his arm.  Aunt Lisa was there in Cooperstown to hug me as he hit a homer on my birthday, his triumphant return to the game he so adores.  Who can beat hugging my Godfather Uncle Anthony as my son rocked a homer over the center field fence or watching my Aunt Annie see my boy play for the first time.  I am the luckiest woman on earth to have the family I had there this week and I will not soon forget what you all did for me.  In dramatic fashion the Legends lost their last game in a 6-6 bottom of the 6th nail biter.  When the game was over the kids were super emotional as were the parents and coaches.  For many it’s the end of the road for the Legends team as we have known it for all these years.  Danny could not stop the tears from flowing down his face.  He kept hugging me as I pressed to find out why he could not stop the tears.  Finally he looked at me and said “It’s been a long spring for me and I finally made it back and now it’s all over.  I am not sure Mommy if I will ever have this much fun again ever in my life.”  A couple of other boys came over to console him and I knew this thing, this Legends thing was the real deal and how lucky were we to be a part of this whole thing from the start.

It’s been a remarkable farewell for my Danny Boy and all of our Legends family.

There are a ton of emotions going through me. So many things to be feeling as we usher in the end of our 12U season.  Maybe what’s getting me sadder than ever is this is the end of Little League.  In the past as each season ended I would say “yay!”  Well, sort of “yay!”  I’d say no more rushing around to baseball games three to four days a week.  No rushing around to and from practice.  No deciding between a friend’s Bar Mitzvah or a double header.  No more freezing cold nights huddled in blankets on cold metal stands.  No more blazing hot afternoon games melting in the hot Long Island sun.  You see, every time a season ends, I get a little sad.  I enjoy the fresh air, watching our sons play and cheering as loud as I can for the boys I have grown to truly love.  But this feels different. To me, it feels like when you see your son and his friends choose colleges.  They are in the process of choosing where they will go next and all we have known for the last 6 plus years is gone just like that! So as we have said this fond farewell, here are just some of the few things I will miss about this moment in time.

I’ll miss the sunflower seeds next to Illyse’s lawn chair and seeing what ice cream choice Alisa made for today’s game.  I’ll miss endless coffee with Julie and in depth conversations with Deb. I’ll miss Charlie’s endless energy and sitting on the sideline chatting with Sarah and Jen.   I’ll miss watching the famous Daniel McVeigh hugs that Irene is so lucky to have and watching Kara smile when she sees her boy on the field.   Have you ever really looked at Kara when she watches him?  Her smile says so much for the pride she has in her little man.  I’ll miss the coaches meetings with my fellow first ladies sharing wine and laughter each time.  Wishing I had more seasons with the Koch family but quickly enjoying our chats each game.  I mean, who’s not gonna miss sitting with Marina’s mom and seeing her cry tears of joy when she watches her beloved Christopher on the field. I think it’s safe to say we will all miss Pam’s parents-our number one fans!  I truly will miss dinners with Mike, group texts and daily conversation.  Mike has given so many years to our kids both through the grade coordinator for the intermural league and for the lead manager of our beloved Legends.    Joe, Donald, Steve and Mike together have put so much time into our boys’ lives; time that these men could be attending business meetings, working overtime or be out golfing or fishing.  They chose to give of their time for our boys, and for that I will be eternally grateful.   There is something so special about the way baseball stitches families together.  As much as we try to connect with our own families and loved ones, it can be hard to find common ground.  You see, that is just another thing I love about our national pastime.  I’ve come to believe that it’s not whether the team wins or loses that counts, it’s how you share the game.  I wouldn’t have wanted to share these games with anyone other than my Legends family.

Recently Donald and I went to the Yankees v. Mets game in the Bronx, sharing the game with 50,000 + baseball fans. A different kind of baseball family.  There were the typical sights and sounds we all have been accustomed to that day.  The sound of the machine checking your ticket in.  The D train rumbling above.  There were the hustlers, the bustlers, the bored cops.  The constant up ramps and the huge green field.  The hot dogs and bad expensive warm beer.  The cat calls. Siddown. Shaddup. Fuheddaboudit.  While there is always the allure of the big leagues, I have to say that these years of playing Legends baseball have been some of the best years of my life.  I look fondly on those memories and each day, knowing they receive new life with every new 8U tryout.

This is what Legends baseball is to me.

I never meant to fall in love with baseball, but I did.  I learned to realize that it does what all good things should do: it creates the possibility of joy.

 

“This is the last pure place where Americans dream. This is the last great arena, the last green arena, where everybody can learn lessons of life.”
– A. Bartlett Giamatti, former Commissioner of Major League Baseball

Little Miss Anxiety

Next Sunday on my 42nd birthday it will be exactly 14.5 years that I lost my mother unexpectedly at the ripe ole age of 50.  Janice left this earth on my “half birthday” February 20th 2003.   I was 27 and she was ONLY FIFTY. I was her oldest child and she was my ONLY Mother.  In recent weeks I have been struggling with my on again off again friend Miss. Anxiety.  Do you know her?  She is really not nice of a person more like a destructive and hurtful bitch that exhibits queen-bee like behavior and likes to invade my mind every so often.  You know mental health issues are still stigmatized, so it can be awkward to open up about them.  I don’t find anything awkward in talking about it.  I find that sometimes talking about anxiety can help or it can give me even more anxiety. Next thing you know the evil partners of overthinking and anxiety become my BFF’s.  My anxious brain is hypervigilant and if these situations burned calories, I’d be a skinny bitch or almost dead.

YES I know most of the things going on in my head are irrational!  Yes, I am intellectually aware that I probably won’t die if my kids don’t know what’s for dinner tomorrow or that someone may come into my house and find dirty laundry on the bathroom floor.  If my kid had a fight with his friend I know it’s really not my problem but I take it to heart and examine it to death! Yet that awareness doesn’t change the fact that there are things outside of my control which make it nearly impossible not to have an emotional (and physical) reaction to stupid crap (and sometimes not so stupid crap).  The not so stupid crap these days seem to be all about Janice.  I lost my Mother so young, so beautiful so full of life.  And when dates approach, Miss. Anxiety shows her ugly face.  I suppose turning 42 next week reminds me that Janice had only 8 years left.  EIGHT years left…. In EIGHT plus years I want to be preparing for retirement.  I want to be watching my children graduate College and meet their spouses.  Dance at my sons weddings, join AARP and receive a senior discount at the local pizzeria.  I want to be a grandmother and celebrate my 50th wedding anniversary with the love of my life.  I want to travel and visit each baseball stadium in the USA a dream we talked about doing together.  All things she missed, all things that were ripped from her.  Will I make it past 50? Until I lost her I never considered limitations, only possibilities.

When a parent of an adult dies, there is an almost unspoken expectation that it will not hit you head on.  Question, is 27 years old an adult?  It sure did not feel like it at the time.  I think we are expected to understand as an adult that death is an expected part of life and we should handle these situations in an appropriate manor.  What the hell is appropriate?  What does that even mean?  That you should not be sad?  That you should be grateful they didn’t die when you were younger?  This loss does not diminish because you are this so called adult.  Society places such pressure for you to get over this loss and to get over the grief “in time.”  What the hell is a good time?  How long is it ok to grieve the loss of someone whom gave your life and took care of you for 27 years?  For me this loss happened in a 6 second phone call ~ Come quick Mommy can’t breathe and we just called 911 ~ it happened in a moment but the aftermath is still there 14.5 years later.  I doesn’t matter how old we are.

After Janice passed I was forced to take another look at her life and impact on my life.  I realized, perhaps for the first time, all she did for me as a child.  My Johnny was 11 months old when my Mother passed and I was able to appreciate the challenges she may have had with her own children.  Just the other day my potty training nephew Nicholas needed his Mothers help in the bathroom.  While my sister in law Suzanne was cleaning him she looked at my youngest son Christian and said “remember this when your mean to your Mommy, she did this for you a day not too long ago.”   I gained a new perspective on her life and her effect on mine.

My mom (and I) always attracted humans with unteachable charisma, in the days after her death, the gravity of her death was unexplainable. The house overflowed with people asking to ease the pain, mostly through our stomachs, cooking enough food to feed a moderately sized petting zoo.   Food is my family’s religion, and our kitchens are our sacred temples.  There are too many memories from that time in my life. Many of them are slipping from me. Others are so faint that only the rarest combination of triggers—snow, French onion soup (the last meal she cooked with my sister), a kitchen with baked goods everywhere—bring the embers back to life.

So as Miss. Anxiety is still here visiting my brain like a bad houseguest.   I am beginning to stand up straight after this latest spin as I call it.  Standing up because I now can see what started this spin in the first place.  Realizing that the love we shared and the relationship we had will not die.  That depth of love, that depth of caring, is everlasting.

Now if that bitch Miss. Anxiety would kick the bucket all will be right in the world.  My world.

 

“Nothing can bring you peace but yourself.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson