Tuesday, July 13, 2004

On the way: Blogging From My First Hometown

With my father in the highly-regarded Barnes Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, I have taken this opportunity of my visit to get a hotel room in St. Charles, just across the Missouri River and about fifteen minutes from the hospital. Why did I do this instead of getting a hotel closer to Dad? Well, in a way, I'’m closer to Dad here.

I lived in St. Charles from the age of six months to seventh grade, when I finally moved to Texas. I played little league baseball and Boys’' Club football here. I learned to ride a bike and make a paper airplane here. I read The Lord of the Rings and watched Star Wars here. I attended elementary school, back when we still played bombardment (dodgeball) in P.E., and suffered through wearing a blazer and tie in the stupid sixth-grade choir here. I watched Reagan get elected President here, moving to Texas the very next day.

And my father, of course, had a role in all of these memories, especially the baseball and learning to ride a bike. Dad took the time to manage my first four baseball teams, and I am just loaded with memories of those years.

I sat at my father'’s bedside today (well, technically yesterday as it’s now past midnight). He'’s been moved from the ICU, and I think he'’ll live through this visit. That'’s the good part; the bad part is that it wasn'’t really my dad there today. Just a drugged, beaten, tired shell of a man. There were flashes of his old self, but not much. I hope there'’s more of that old self before I leave here. If not, I don'’t think he has the fight to hold on '‘til my next visit. His muscles have melted away, he struggled to adjust his pillow an inch, he stumbled on remembering words, he rarely breathed easily.

I treasure these moments with Dad, but I doubt these will be the memories that I’'ll later look back on and smile. Those will be the times much like my little league baseball days. After my visit today, instead of driving straight to the hotel, I wandered over to Blanchette Park. I looked at the hill where Dad used to take me sledding in the winter and the pool where he took me for swimming lessons. Then I watched a couple of innings of kids playing baseball. Moments in games I'’d played on those very same fields flashed from the old movie projector in my mind. Dad was there, at least in my heart.

Field of Dreams said it best: “Hey, Dad, you want to have a catch?”


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