The sun was setting as I walked home from work tonight, in a sky so pale blue it was almost white. Faint traces of pink kissed the clouds which hung in the sky, sultry, and a bank of rich dark grey clouds loomed in the east. Laurel Street was being whipped by the wind and a coffee cup scudded across the street in full sail.
The window-cleaner had the radio on, a baseball game, and my thoughts turned to my father. He’s probably sitting at home, listening to that very game and eating something hot and home made, and I am going home to eat mahi mahi cold out of a box, to pick through vegetables listlessly and eventually give up. My father loves baseball, and the sound of the baseball game is intimately familiar to me, though I neither comprehend nor like the sport. But the announcer’s voice is soothing, and makes me think I am in my childhood home with feet tucked up onto the couch drinking cocoa, not walking solitary in the gathering dusk.
The game is the Red Sox.
My grandfather was an ardent Red Sox fan, even though they never took the pennant during his lifetime. My paternal grandparents were always rather abstract images to me–they lived in Florida, they smelled a little funny, and my grandmother told me to wash my hands before dinner one time when we lived on Chestnut Street. I think that might have been the only time they visited. It’s certainly the only time I remember. I was in middle school when my grandfather was dying, and I remember my father speaking, hushed, on the phone, and finally waking me up and saying “your grandfather has something to say to you,” and I took the phone, heavy with sleep, and a wispy old voice, a faint echo of my own, said “don’t let the man get you down.”
My grandmother died several years later, while I was in Ireland, and I remember reading my father’s email in the second story of an internet cafe in Kenmare and thinking “well that’s that then,” and when I got back to the cottage I sat by the waterfall for a while sipping tea and wondering what I would say to her if I saw her.
My grandparents were both in the military. My paternal grandfather was a spy. He worked for the CIA when it was called the OSS and later he worked for the NSA too, as well as the DIA. He was a big acronym man. Another family member, in the Coast Guard, threw their ashes out of his helicopter and into the Atlantic Ocean. I think he’s a cousin once removed.
When I got back from Ireland, my father showed me some photographs of his parents, and it was with shock that I saw pictures of my grandfather when he was younger, in Korea, and other places. We are mirror images, Melvin and I, and a friend in college once remarked, seeing his picture on my desk “when were you in Korea?” I have his watch, which he bought with his first Navy paycheque, although for some reason after over sixty years it stopped running on 5 April. I need to have it repaired, I suppose, but for now it sits next to my bed, waiting. I wore that watch every day for almost six years.
I remember when the Red Sox finally took the pennant, and my father said “I always felt like I should support them because they were my father’s team, and they’ve finally done it.” His eyes grew dark and he said “his whole life, my damn father rooted for the Red Sox, and they never won.”