Monday, September 7, 2015

Season to Season

Season to Season

One of the things that really sucks about death is that it's sudden. It's like being called home after playtime is up. You would be told you had to stop playing because dinner was ready. Playtime just happens to be up forever for the deceased person, and there's no home cooking to look forward to. Instead, that person is forever on the sidelines; a spectator who can no longer comment on the game. It's like baseball in a way. We all take turns batting, pitching, catching, fielding, umpiring, and we all have strikes. Sure, we only get three strikes in baseball, but we have multiple strikes in real life. And much like baseball, we have seasons. Some seasons are better than others. Some teams have long-running winning, or losing streaks. Some people are better at the game than others. And then at some point it's time to retire, and pass to the next generation what we've learned. We then become commentators, and hope that others will learn from us.

What the hell do I know? I haven't watched baseball since I was twelve. But, the good thing about baseball is that it never goes away. It'll always be there every spring. For every child that has ever been born, lived, or died since baseball was invented, it will always come back.

I'll tell you what also comes back; jock itch. If you don't treat it right that stuff comes back to haunt you. Athlete’s feet too. Hell, why even bother having toes if they keep itching? Spray'em down, and pray the fungus among us leaves us.

Yet, I digress.

Death is also frustrating. We can't talk to that person anymore; despite what charlatans with crystal balls will tell you. You could spend seven-hundred dollars for a one hour session, and all the psychic will tell you is, “I see this person moving toward the light. The light is in a frame. A metal frame. It's a box. Could it be the light from the refrigerator? Did they die while eating leftovers?”

You'd have better luck calling the President with two tin cans and some string. We can talk to the ether, and maybe we'll get a our own way. When my Uncle Bob died five years ago, I wasn't able to properly say good-bye. He was no saint, but he was still my uncle. I genuinely felt guilty that I wasn't told he was on his deathbed. Had I known I would have flown back early to see him. I'm macho enough to admit that I cried about it. Not heavy sobs, a really manly cry; the sort that Stallone would have done. You know, like the crying he does at the end of Rambo: First Blood.

And then, one night, I was trying to sleep, and couldn't. It was a year after my Uncle had passed away, and I was thinking about him. I closed my eyes, and I could picture him smiling. He was sitting in his tan vinyl chair in his dinning room, where he'd sit and watch TV. And I could hear him whistle the theme from The Good, The Bad, and Ugly. The two things my uncle loved most were Star Wars, and Clint Eastwood movies. He frequently whistled themes from both. I took this as a good sign. It was like my mourning had freed my conscience. Before I left for California, he told me, “Don't forget your Uncle Bob.” I certainly haven't. With a spate of new Star Wars movies coming out, I'm thinking of him more often. That being said, I don't expect a Jedi ghost version of him to show up any time soon.

Death stops young people from growing old. It stops old people from getting older. And while it isn't fair, it is equal. We all hope the umpires at a baseball game are fair. We hope they make the right call. If they don't, we yell at them. We even see the team manager get in on the action. In the end, the umpires are just doing their job, and keeping everyone in line. You can't hold that against them. You can't hold it against death either. It's not a good thing, or a bad thing, it just is what it is. Again, it's not fair, but it's equal. It's equal because we all have to go through it at some time. Playtime ends eventually. How it ends is a combination of circumstance and chance.

What prompted these thoughts of mortality was the death of a young man. A friend of mine from the Bay Area lost her husband. It was an unexpected death. He was on his way home from work, and then experienced a traffic collision. He died soon after. There was no lingering illness. There was no wrinkled old man waiting to get the call from God's switchboard. Instead, he was just a young guy with a career and a family. He had been in the armed services. He was in law enforcement. And above all, he was a husband and father. Then, in a matter of minutes, he was no more. No more physically, but memories of him remain. 

While Ben himself wasn't a spiritual person, his spirit does linger. No, not with those crystal ball people. If one of them shows up I'll fly out there to lay the smackdown on them. His spirit lingers in the memories of those that knew him. While I believe that people have souls, I can't prove it. But I can show you proof of how much people loved him.

Ben once resuscitated a woman who'd suffered a heart attack. He was able to successfully keep her alive until the ambulance arrived. That woman is still alive today. He stood by his wife when she had cancer, and various surgeries. He was there when his daughter was born. He was also there when mutual friends suffered a burglary. He was there to give practical solutions to them, and counsel.

Is it fair that a young man dies, and then leaves behind a wife and child? Of course not. He didn't choose for that to happen, it just happened. It isn't fair that a man who was active in life is taken out of the game before he had a chance to retire. Ideally, Ben would have lived to be a wrinkled old man. He would have seen his daughter grow up.  He would have walked her down the isle, after he realized his future son/daugher-in-law was ok. He would have retired from his government job, and settled down with Kethry. They would have had grandkids and cats to keep them company. Instead, they were together for about twelve years of marriage. We should all be so lucky to find someone that stays with us that long.; I sure haven't. But it doesn't stop me, or others, from trying.

Another strange thing about death is that it doesn't feel real at first. It feels like this is all some sort of alternative nightmare reality. You expect to wake up, and find out it was just a nightmare. The reality of it doesn't sink in right away. It takes maybe a few days, or a few weeks. But eventually, it does sink in to your psyche. It's demoralizing, for a while. You'll have your memories of that person, but you won't be able to share new experiences with them.

Yes, we will have loses. Yes, people will die on us; that's nothing new. It's just as much a war out there as it is a game. The question is this, “Do you have what it takes to finish the game?” Are you going to quit before playtime is up, or do you finish the game? You're not going to be good at everything in life. You won't master the game. The game is life, and no one ever masters it. The best you can do is play it. It's a better tribute to a person to keep on playing than it is to give up.

Not all seasons are good. Are you as good as your last game, or your last season? The answer is, “No.” You're as good as your next game, and the game after that, and the game after that. You're as good as you keep trying. You're not as good when you stop trying. Maybe you're as good at the choices you make in life? Maybe you're as good as you try to be? I don't know the answer to that. But the point is that you keep trying. You're not going to win all the time. You won't regret losing. You'll regret not stepping up to the plate. Real losing is not when you don't win; it's when you don't even try to win. Believe me, I know. I've been on both sides of that fence. Nothing reminds us of lost opportunities more than death. So we should endeavor to have as few as possible.

Alright, so Ben didn't play baseball. He played Mech Warrior Online, and real-life swordplay. You'll have to excuse me for not using robots and swords in this essay; the latter of which I highly approve. Baseball came to mind, and so baseball it is. Baseball with robots and swords, no doubt. Ben would have enjoyed that!
Yet, I digress.

Here I am, a man of questionable athletic ability, and I'm writing about life and baseball.

Why am I talking about baseball?

It happens every spring.

Spring happens every year. You can't shut it off. You can't shut time off, and so it keeps flowing forward. Ben's story ended, but it isn't entirely over. He has a daughter that will hear his story. He has a widow that will carry on that story. He has friends that will share those stories with other people. In a way Ben's story will continue because it will continue to be told. The seasons will change. He died at the end of summer. But that will give way to fall. Fall will give way to winter. Before any of us knows it, we'll be back in spring, and then summer. A year will have passed, and we'll still have our memories. No matter how many seasons pass we will continue to have our memories of Ben, and everyone else we've lost. The stories will continue long after we have gone as well. We will continue to play, and finish the game.

I'm sorry I wasn't able to properly say “good-bye” to Ben. I'm also sorry that I didn't get to know him as well as I would have liked. I hope this essay is some source of comfort to us all.

Copyright Riley Joyce 2015.