To my Dad, who I miss always and who entered this world with a wink and a sparkle on this very day...........
There were so many people at my dad’s wake that the funeral home had to call the police to direct traffic. Neighbors and friends came, all of St. Jude’s came, the suits and hardhats from the Edison Company came, and his favorite nurse from the oncology unit came. When Lou saw me, she asked to get a cut to the front of the line and as we moved forward she said, “You should know that your parents handled all of this with grace and a sense of humor that we don’t see very often.” Yes, those two had quite the fan club.
Just two years earlier, I sat in the bleachers in Wrigley Field for a spring game while Mom and Dad were at an appointment to find out if the melanoma that started behind Dad's eye had moved on to other places. The Cubs won a squeaker that day and going home I thought maybe Dad could squeak by too, but that was not to be. What came next was months of chemo, scans, experimental drugs and a prescription with unlimited refills written for Uncertainty. There was plenty of that when I arrived from the East Coast with my three year old in May to stay and help out until my husband came back to get us in July. Dad didn’t have much energy and so we spent afternoons in the family room watching the Cubs.
I can’t remember a time when I haven’t loved baseball, but the ordinary habit of watching the game when all around us seemed to be a brewing crisis made me want to scream. “The bullpen sure could use some help, huh, Kate?” he’d ask. How was it that he could calmly remark about the bullpen when it was obvious that nobody needed more help than him? But I would sit with him while my daughter napped and it was a relief when she woke up and saved me from pretending that Dad wasn’t getting worse, because looky here, the sun is shining, the Cubs are holding their lead and all is right with the world.
By Labor Day when we returned, Dad had decided to stop his treatment and spent most of his days in bed with the game on, and what was sad in May became heartbreak in September. With summer nearly over, so, too, was my father’s life while Harry Caray and Steve Stone provided play-by-play in the background.
Before the sun came up on the morning of September 15th, Dad moved on. He had always been an early riser so it was fitting that he would slip from this world while it was still asleep and very quiet. Later that day, Chicago defeated St. Louis 6-2 and Dad would have been so proud that we beat the Cardinals in their own house. The Cubs would end the season in 5th place that year and three weeks after his death, I gave birth to a son who shares my father’s name.
What would be my longest, saddest summer drew to a close with a departing gift from Dad. When it seemed that hope had taken a sabbatical that year, he turned to baseball to show us the way to another day, another chance, another turn in the batter's box. I never returned to Wrigley Field after his death, but I keep track of our team and will cheer for them until the end of my days. My mom carries on these many years later with the same grace and humor that the oncology unit saw long ago, while faith moves this family of theirs forward, one inning at a time.