Ritual

I drove up to Boston, left my car at my friend’s house, then took the train in to North Station, then took the T to Kenmore. Met my buddy at Boston Beerworks, and we drank several pitchers of beer while we got caught up.

We do this two or three times a year. We tell each other what’s going on in our lives. Today after I’ve told him about my trip to the Dominican, and my job, and events in my personal life, he tells me a story about his father dying this past winter.

His father had Alzheimer’s and he was his Dad’s medical proxy. He gets a call saying his father is dying and he has to come right away. Its a snowy night and he tries to drive up the hill to get to the hospital, but his car keeps sliding down. He finally parks his car illegally, and walks up the hill through the blowing snow. He gets there and even though his Dad doesn’t understand him, he tells his father all the things he’s wanted to say, but has been unable to. He kisses him and tells him he loves him while he cries.

His Dad doesn’t die. He hangs on. But my friend routinely gets calls, you have to come see your dad, he’s really dying this time. He keeps hanging on. In the meantime, there is a nasty court case going on with his Dad’s ex-wife, who basically stole millions from him while he had Alzheimer’s, divorced him, and concocted a scheme to make it look like he had an affair so she could activate a bad boy clause in their prenup that would give her all his estate. A judge has ruled that she defrauded him, and is requiring her to pay back millions. She and her lawyer are stalling because if he dies before their appeal is heard, she gets to retain 1/6 of his estate. So his lawyer is telling my friend, he has to keep his Dad alive until the appeal is heard.

My friend gets a call from his father’s doctor saying he needs an emergency trach — right now –you have to decide. All these calls come at the worst times. He’s in his car on his way to a criminal case — he’s a lawyer himself. He pulls over, talks to the doctor, then calls another doctor because he’s required to get two opinions. One doctor is saying he needs it — he’s choking to death, the other is saying let him die. He decides to let him have it — as a comfort measure. Then it turns out, he doesn’t need it — its just a nasal tumor that they remove and he is back breathing okay.

The calls continue to come. He is always pulling over to the side of the road to have to make these decisions. He calls his sisters and says, “I can’t do this alone, you have to come see him, we have to decide together.” His sister’s come. His older sister walks in the room, sees their dad naked strapped down to the bed, with mitts on his hands because he is always scratching at himself, and makes the universal cut sign across the throat. “This ends now,” she says. They put him in hospice. He looks very peaceful, and dies within the week.

My friend ends up having to pick up his ashes at the funeral home and they are in a paper bag. So here we are having beers before a Red Sox game like we do every year and have for the thirty or more years we have known each other, and he’s telling me about how it feels to carry your father around in a paperbag. His father, just like mine, used to take him to Fenway Park ever year, as he now takes his own kids now.

Quite a story.

Around seven, we went over to the Park and took our seats. Right field box by the bullpen. The game started off well. Trot Nixon hit a three run homer into the bullpen right by us to give the Sox a 4-0 lead. But then things slowly unraveled. A bad throw by the third baseman, a poor scoop attempt by the first baseman. The slumping second baseman striking out again with runners in scoring position. A terrible reliever getting shallacked again. Then the final ending was brutal. Tied 6-6 in the ninth. The Red Sox brought in Curt Shilling, their injured ace, making his comeback as a reliever. Gary Sheffield, Yankee Villian #1, hits a double. Next A-Rod, Yankee Villian #2, parks it. 8-6. We got up and left.

There is a ritual to going to Fenway Park. I’ve been going for over forty years now. I find as I get older I enjoy the park less. It is overcrowded, the seats are uncomfortable. I resent paying $6 for a watered down beer. I don’t like getting caught in the human traffic when the game ends.

Still rituals are important — they tell us who we are, where we came from, where we are going. It was good to see my friend, even when the home teams gets beat so badly in the end. When the Red Sox win, I feel a little happier, when they lose I feel a little bluer. When they lose like they did, I feel beaten down. Still I tell myself, it’s just a game. It doesn’t mean anything really. It’s just a game.

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