There is a difference between crying over spilt milk and grief. Or maybe not. There are some things about which we should cry and others, not so much.
Having baseball tickets stolen might seem like the loss of a material thing or the chance to hang out in the elite company of those spectating the gladiators. It would be sacrilege to say that it is on par with being told that you cannot come into the church for worship. But what unholy transgression was it?
My son Sid and I had planned a trip to see the Minnesota Twins play the Detroit Tigers. It was to be our first outing of the year to the home field. It was a trip to do what fathers do with their sons, some of my mother friends do with their children, a gift that some of these mothers and fathers are passing along to their sons and daughters and a place where so many stories of the love between them have been told, written and lived.
It also was a spot, in that gray-skied Saturday afternoon where many of our friends waited in seats adjacent to the ones we had for the game. They were there for the same loves that get entangled in watching and playing that game and for the love of our friend Mel, who knows all of those loves and people well.
But Sid and I did not make it to the game. In the moments before we boarded the train to the ball park, the tickets went missing.
I reached to my back pocket to feel the void where the envelope holding the tickets should have been. The pocket felt as empty as the gap left by a missing tooth and as crazy as a lost child: the lost slice of childhood that I planed to share with Sid that day.
At first, I told myself that I must have let them slip from my pocket. We ran from the train platform, tracing our steps back to the car, the Mexican fast food restaurant where we ate—a place much cheaper than the extra meal we might eat from the ball park concession stands. I looked hard, back and forth, in the car, on the ground, in the restaurant, in the eyes of passers by: something that would tell me it was okay, place them in my hand and make everything okay.
As I looked, though, the image of a man on the train platform kept appearing in my mind, a man who lingered too close as we swiped the pay strip on the fare box, the image of the man who, I am quite sure, lifted the tickets from my pocket moments before we would be on our way.
After those moments of the frantic, Sid and I got home and were quiet in the living room. I tried my best to hide my sadness, but not so much as to fake something happy, fake a substitute that would not have even worked when he was younger.
He did look sad on the sofa. I asked him how he was doing, and he said he was pretty sad. "And this one was for Mel's birthday, too--wasn't it?" I told him yes, the man who took his not-quite-two-year-old self to the second baseball game he could even notice. He cried a little. I tried not to show much of my sadness, tears, frustration or anger; and how do you show grief over something like this?
We are sorry to have missed the chance to share baseball with each other, with you and everyone else who was there for the happiness of baseball. While the money it cost us to participate in that day is significant in these days, but even at the greatest cost, it doesn't describe that what was missed was more than just a fun event, recreation or a chance to get out. I don't know how many people will understand or how to describe the loss--even to a lot of people who know baseball.
I think I can only have other people describe it. They know, somehow, maybe from watching the two of us, seeing the game not through our eyes but through our sharing with each other and with anyone willing to get close enough. Those who love us like seeing us together--seeing us in ways that are accentuated by baseball.
I am not sure which parts of what was defiled and violated are sacred. I know that it is more than a violation of our personal space. More than my friendships. More than spoiling a game. I just know that I feared such a catastrophe as much as I feared missing an important flight to an important event: like I had missed a relative's wedding.
It is not a wedding. It is just a game. Just a birthday. Just a day out. Just another day filled with hazards. But it is that day that remembers the first time I walked into the Bowie Bay Sox stadium with Sid in my arms, then settling in our seats, his eyes fixated on the animated diamond with more attentiveness and fascination that I thought was possible for a pre-toddler and my eyes welling with more tears than are allowed in baseball.
I would not experience the kind of emotion I felt at the ball park until the first day we sat together, the two of us in church. These are things that can define what fathers can do with their sons, friends with their friends, love with love and joy with joy. (See “Crying at the Cathedrals.”)
For a moment, that is what was taken from us. For a moment. We will recapture it another day.