Learning to Fear

For whatever reason, it happens frequently that I tell stories revealing that I was not this person as a child, and how timid and scared I really was. 

Today it occurred to me, that’s not entirely true. 

I was timid and terrified. But when I believed I was invisible, as children often do, I was fearless. I have vivid memories of myself mostly ages 8-12, mostly alone, but feeling excitement and no fear. 

  • I was never afraid to jump in Uncle Fred’s car going to Long Island without knowing when I’d be back.
  • I was never afraid to climb a tree all the way to the top,  or to walk on the edge of a mountain cliff. 
  • I was never afraid to walk into the woods alone, and keep walking.  
  • I was never afraid to jump in the back of Uncle Beach’s pickup knowing he would drive like the wind over every bump and hill he could find.
  • I was never afraid to approach a dog bigger than me. 
  • I was never afraid to walk uptown to the library and check out a pile of books so big I’d have to put some back because I couldn’t carry them all.   
  • I was never afraid to peddle my bike down a steep hill never hitting the brakes, or to sled down a hill so steep I couldn’t see the bottom. 
  • I was never afraid to climb an abandoned railroad trestle and sit on the edge swinging my legs, or to swing on the playground as high as my legs would propel me.  

It really is quite simple in retrospect. I was timid and terrified of people.  I was never afraid of things that hadn’t hurt me. 



“There is one simple thing wrong with you–you think you have plenty of time.”
Carlos Castaneda

May you rest in peace, Jean Maltese, my friend. I always thought I’d see you again.

Musical Notes of My Summers

“Love is the most important thing in the world, but baseball is pretty good, too.”  

Yogi Berra

My relationship with baseball began on a hot summer day in the cool, dark living room of my grandparent’s home in upstate New York.

When I walked through the room and Gramp patted the seat beside him on the couch, I sat. I can still feel his warmth beside me, I feel my body lean towards his mass that depressed the cushions so much more than my tiny frame. My breath exhaled as rare feelings of peace and safety settled in.  I would have sat right there forever, watching the paint peel, to feel all that.

Luckily for me he was watching the television across the room where the Mighty, Mighty Mets had resurrected the love of baseball in an old man whose heart had been broken by the Dodgers.  From Channel 9 in New York City an announcer I can’t name, but whose voice I can still hear, would exuberantly tell us what was happening on the small screen far across the room.

I was an introverted, terrified kid, the oldest of five children, I was rarely alone and always wanting to be. I escaped whenever possible and could be found in the woods, up a tree, or wading in a brook.  I was probably an unrecognized tomboy.  I was forced to wash dishes when I would have preferred to mow the grass, but I don’t know that I was aware of gender roles.  My grandfather let me mow his grass, trim his hedges and water his garden.  Because I wanted to, he let me be more than a girl. And he invited me to learn a boy’s game before I was old enough to know what a rare gift that was.

The closest a girl in 1966 upstate NY got to sports was kickball in the street, and only if she was seen as an asset due to very long legs. I didn’t question the rule and was not encouraged to bend it.  I never touched a baseball, or any related equipment.  I wasn’t even curious.  For this I have no explanation. I never touched a baseball, but I learned its life story.

To this day I can conjure the scenes in my head, the small gray and black figures running around the gray field on the television screen. It was easier to be mesmerized by the raw game back then without the distraction of uniform colors, or the easily read names and numbers on jersey backs. Gramp may have felt differently, but my childish mind was fascinated with every play without regard for the competition.  I hear Gramp’s voice explaining plays that he thought I was seeing on the screen.  I would never let him know I missed something. And week after week, year after year, I slowly learned the game of baseball. From home-runs at age 9 to the suicide squeeze much later, I was a fascinated pupil and my grandfather’s delight in teaching me became a bonus on top of experiencing the game I came to love every moment of.

For hours on end it was just me and Gramp and Nolan Ryan and Tug McGraw and Jerry Koosman and Tom Seaver.   It was special. It still is, and it is still a deep-seated feeling of peace and nostalgia that comes with the sound of a baseball game, any baseball game. Gramp’s deep steady voice, often pausing to let the base runner slide into home, or listen to the announcer talking a ball out of the park, was the greatest treasure of my childhood. The sounds of a baseball hitting a bat, a glove, were the musical notes of my summers.

Sometimes, on a hot summer day when I hear the sounds of a baseball game, I can imagine the small screen of little men and smell peppermint Chiclets chewing gum. I can feel a warm breeze blowing through the open windows and hear the Blue-jays screeching in the maple tree out back.  I can hear Gramp’s voice softly call, “that’s outta here.”  And I smile as my little girl heart swells with the priceless gift of the ever combined love for the man and the game.

Arranging deck chairs on the Titanic

I’ve gone down wrong roads, full speed ahead. I’ve invested a lot of myself and my assets into bits, large and small, of my life; in every facet of my life.

I dive, I dive deep, and I arrange the pebbles on the ocean floor by size and color with no regard for the time it takes or the never-ending ascents for air.

Often I finish and find it no longer holds meaning or relevance, or it could never be exactly what I’d hoped and pictured, or someone I trusted destroyed all my efforts with a submarine backhoe.

And then I’m left feeling as though I’ve been arranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

I acknowledge the feeling of waste for the long paths to things that don’t remain; I rarely value the long trips down the right roads for the things that do. But far worse, what I never do is value the road.

It was never about the pebbles.
Or the deck chairs.

It was about the hope in the plan, the faith in the effort, the belief in your talents, the joy in the creation.

There is no destination.
The end is the end.
We have only the journey.

Rainy Days and Wrecks Don’t Always Get Me Down

Tonight I’m thinking of how the universe works for us.

I drove my brother around today to secure a medical card required for his CDL drivers license. As is often the case in this family, he somehow did not receive prior notice and today was the deadline.

It’s cold (it’s all relative you non-Floridians) and rainy. I’m totally garish in my orange slicker and plaid wellies and I took every opportunity to refill my Starbucks mothership travel cup with hot black tea. Mostly I drove and sat in parking lots reading on Kindle.

Needless to say, the day went poorly and it’s a 3-2 count, but he’s got an appointment at 5pm with the last chance doctor (#3).

As most natives know, driving in Florida rain is risky, very risky, but I’ve gone many years without mishap.

Until today at 4:45 when we are exactly 15 minutes from the doctor’s office. I stop in traffic and hear that familiar skidding noise that precedes wrenching sheet metal. I look to the right lane and traffic is flowing. I look in the mirror and see a windshield much too close, a split second before the bump.

Sam jumps out of the car, so I follow. Clearly the women behind us is very alarmed by this as we are on a 6 lane highway and abandoned our vehicle. She starts exclaiming, “Your car is not even hurt”. I look. It’s absolutely unscathed. Her bumper is now bearing the template of my trailer hitch.

Sam is still ranting when we all notice the next car in line behind us is suddenly flashing blue lights from it’s roof. I jump back into my vehicle and move into the left turn lane; the perpetrator follows suit.

As I walk back to the patrol car, the deputy is saying to Sam, “Where’s your shirt?” He’s wearing his uniform pants, but not the shirt. I’m thinking, “Our lucky day if we’ve any hope of renewing a CDL today.”

Yup, my brother is a professional driver, out of shape and confined to home, but drives heavy duty wreckers contracted to law enforcement in the county. For those not in the know, this involves constant contact with all road patrol law enforcement officers. Sam’s a friendly guy. Sam makes friends of everyone. Today it paid off.

The deputy ascertained there were no injuries and asked if we’d like to pursue an accident report. I declined. The perpetrator thought about it, but also declined as I was pointing out she had skidded into me, but without damage to me or mine, blah, blah….

We’re back on the road in 10 minutes. It’s a rainy day wreck miracle. I advise Sam to call the doctor’s office with news of our delay, as I speed off into traffic with one eye on the deputy I know is behind us.

We pull up at 5:01, things are going well. I’ve been reading for about 20 minutes when Sam comes out with a new medical card.

He’s downright jolly and relays the whole visit, ending with the doctor pointing out that his blood pressure was out of the approved range, but he would overlook it this time. Seeing as Sam had just been in a car wreck on his way in. Another rainy day wreck miracle.

Destiny Around the Bend

Sometimes I question whether I believe in fate and destiny. Maybe destiny is like a rainbow – we all have an opportunity curve and we alone determine where we land on it.  We can stay at the bottom, in the mud, or we can climb.  And even if we climb we may slide down the other side into the mud again.

Or maybe it’s like Piestawa Peak, that I climbed the other day.  I could stand at the bottom looking up, admiring the view. Or I could have such a curiosity about the view from the top that I took a step, and another, and another.   I climbed.  

In me there is something compelling that makes me climb that mountain, take off down that road, turn into that alley, go, go, go, somewhere new. I had to scramble up rocks, stretch to a high step, round corners and wait for gila monsters to slither away, back away from cacti.  But I climbed.

Destiny isn’t going to be handed us on a platter.  We have to take it,with both hands and all the will we have. And maybe we have to accept that we get almost to the top, but aren’t going to make it before the sun sets. Nearing the top we have to be very aware of the danger – we could so easily slip and fall to the ground. We could so easily misstep and be left alone and disabled, fearing the mountain lions at dusk. Destiny is where we are willing to go to find it, and how willing we are to protect our spot on the mountain.

God Bless, Texas

If I indulged in profanity I would have been muttering &$@? Louisiana all afternoon.

In the people friendly state of Florida, we have rest areas at very frequent intervals along the highway. Close enough to the highway that you peel in, jump out of the car and can pee in a matter of minutes.

The southern sensibilities of Louisiana seem to require that toilets be hidden in Welcome Centers or Tourist Information Centers that require you not only exit the highway, but travel up to a mile down a curving, tree lined drive to reach some plantation style structure in which the restrooms are housed. They do offer free coffee, but you should be disinclined to partake once you consider the trials and tribulations of peeing on the road in the state.

It seems that, save for their shining jewel of New Orleans, the entire state highway system is through or suspended by bridge over alligator habitat. You are warned to utilize Food and Gas at the last exit before a 20 mile bridge. But still …. no rest area.

As I crossed the state line I pulled into a BIG Welcome Center right on the side of the highway, with parking at the end of the path to the restrooms. I’m sure I yelled aloud, to no one near, GOD BLESS, TEXAS!

Previous Older Entries

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A Baseball Road Trip

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