I've told you before, but my father likes to watch the very expensive MLB channel my beautiful wife is kind enough to force me to buy for him.
I know baseball is our national sport, but I personally don't understand its appeal. How can a game that lasts so long and passes so slow be so popular? However, that's not a fault in the game. That's a fault in me. You see, I was born missing the sports gene.
My guess to why my father spends so much of his elderly life watching baseball is that it slows down time for him. Now that the finish line to his life is fast approaching, he's looking for anything to slow it down, and baseball fits that bill.
I'll join him in front of the TV sometimes, and that's where I was when my beautiful wife came back into the house after a trip to the mailbox. She handed my father a letter from his brother who lives in another state. Once a year, my father travels to the part of the country where he grew up to visit his brothers and sisters and their families-the ones who are still alive, that is. He stays for about a week. I'll usually travel with him, trying to keep him out of trouble.
One memorable trip in particular, his brother rented out the party room at a restaurant. Family from all over traveled into town to attend the mini-family reunion. Deep into the festivities, well, accidents happen. My father excused himself. After some time, he came back, wanting to leave.
"How come?" I asked.
"Let's go," he said.
We made our way around the room saying our goodbyes. No one wanted us to go, but my father insisted he was tired. On the drive home, I asked him what was wrong.
He was reluctant to say, but finally admitted that when he was in the bathroom, the stall was taken, and, well, nature did what nature does.
"And don't worry about your jacket," he told me. "I'll pay for the cleaning."
"What cleaning?" I asked him.
"Well, I had to take off my underwear. I didn't know what to do, so I put it in the pocket of your jacket."
I was going to ask him why he didn't just throw them away in the bathroom's trash, but decided it would be better to let the conversation drift.
You see, I hadn't brought a jacket.
As my wife walked away, my father handed me the letter.
"Read it to me," he said, not taking his eyes off the television set.
"You want me to wait for the next commercial?" I asked him.
"Naw," he said. "I'm listening."
So I began to read the letter from his brother. It wasn't a collection of insults and jokes like the kind my brother and I write to each other. My father and his brother are from another generation who were taught to be polite.
The letter asked my father how he was, how his family was-wishing us the best-and asked him if he planned on visiting this year. With the pandemic, last year's trip was cancelled, and it's not like they have that many years to squander. He encouraged my father to make the trip, assuring him that everybody there had already gotten their Covid vaccines, so he would have nothing to worry about.
"Are you listening?" I stopped and asked when it seemed he wasn't.
"I'm listening," he said, so I continued.
His brother talked about how they were all looking forward to my father visiting, how they were disappointed that he couldn't make the trip last year, and the meals they were planning on preparing. He said it would probably be better for them not to have any large gatherings, but they would have a good time nonetheless.
"We'll all be wearing masks so you'll feel comfortable," he ended the letter with, but I think he meant that THEY would be more comfortable if WE wore masks.
"That was a very nice letter," I told my father, folding the letter up and putting it back in the envelope.
My father grunted in agreement.
I handed the letter back to him, and he placed it on the TV tray next to his chair, just as my wife was bringing him a freshly baked cinnamon roll.
"You always feed me too much," he griped, but he didn't turn it down.
"Can I have one?" I asked, but I knew what her answer would be.
"You have to watch your sugar intake," she told me.
It's not fair, but, then, life isn't fair. It's not fair that my father survived serving his country and his best friend didn't. It's not fair that while my father was away at war, his baby sister died when she was only an infant. It's not fair that my father outlived my mother, who was ten years younger than he was. And it's not fair that my father's body is outlasting his brain. No, life isn't fair, so I guess I can bravely live without the occasional cinnamon roll.
"Are you going to visit your family this summer, pop?" I asked him.
"I don't know," he told me.
"I haven't heard from my brother yet," he told me.