My mom has Alzheimer’s. Her characteristically unsolicited and honest tongue (“I made you an electrolysis appointment” when I didn’t ask for one) – is now complimentary and docile (“I love your shirt!” about this one that I regretted wearing?). Surprisingly, I miss her lack of filter; it kept me on my toes. I play mom, her favorite, Neil Sedaka. In Oh! Carol, Sedaka talks about Carol, who treats him cruel and makes him feel like a fool. “Mom,” I say, “I think Neil needs therapy” – to which she responds, “that Carol is a tramp.” For a brief second, she’s back.
I was washing dishes, solving work, parenting, and other issues in my mind when my son told me he saw two flies zipping around our apartment. No room in my brain to tackle another problem. So, I went with my instinct.
“Flies live for 24 hours, they will be dead by this time tomorrow.” I said with authority when I had none.
Turns out, had I done my research, I would have found out that flies live for 28 days. Google notes that the average person thinks a fly lives for only about 24 hours. Must be yet another flaw in the education system.
Thinking these two flies were living their last minutes, I believed I would find their carcasses somewhere in the apartment. Instead, in the next few days, the number of flies tripled; the sextuplet zoomed around my place as if they paid the mortgage. Pest Control, we have a problem.
I like to see myself as a progressive citizen and mom. So, I wanted to get rid of this problem on my own — without fly paper which is inhumane, gross, and not PETA approved. First stop: indoor plug in zapper — this is how it works: flies are attracted to the light, and, instead of going to a disco or some kind of party, they are greeted with a fatal buzz of a lifetime. Safe for the environment and kills flies instantly. A quick death. Sounded easy, and I believed the product’s marketing that this will get rid of all my flies. We plugged in 2 zappers, one in the kitchen, one in the bathroom, and caught only a few critters.
Flies: 1; Me: 0.
Our next purchase was a fly trap, a plastic looking apple with holes on top filled with apple cider vinegar. Flies, attracted to the scent, dive to their death. One took a fatal swim.
What was worse, I knew what the flies were living on: my apartment — licking the empty red wine bottle in the recycling bin, eating the crumbs near the toaster that I can never fully clean, and pooping on my walls. I was embarrassed to be me and went straight to my unhappy place: fly-infested home means I am a terrible mother and homemaker.
And, now with Covid, my world could see my place and judge. My husband, son and I were all working and learning (a loose term) remotely. Colleagues, classmates, and teachers could see pests flying in the background. And, a virtual background could not hide my shooing away flies. How many times could I say I have a smudge on my computer screen?
I had one more option: a lot of construction was going on in our building. Maybe that was the cause of the fly infestation or something was attracting flies, like a dead animal or uncovered garbage. This meant I had to go to my super and confess my fly problem. I felt like I was seeing my doctor for something really embarrassing, like the time when I was young and stuck a locket up my nose and had to answer the question, what happened? I found out that I was the only one who reported a fly invasion. After a thorough search, nothing was causing the flies to come in. So, it’s me.
I could not sleep. I could not concentrate. They kept multiplying. Besides treating my kitchen like The Fly Restaurant, pretty sure the flies were getting it on at my place, aka The Fly Motel. I was unwittingly hosting an all-service fly world. When I saw about ten on the ceiling looking like raisins on a whiteboard, I felt they were mocking me. Enough. PETA, go ahead, put me on a most wanted list. I did not care what it took — I was getting rid of these invaders. Besides, if I am true to myself, I am not that enlightened. Sometimes, I don’t recycle.
The next day I sent my husband to the hardware store to get “ a lot” of fly paper and called an exterminator. My husband came back with the store’s last four rolls. So, I wasn’t the only person in my progressive neighborhood who used cruel and unusual punishment. I felt like I had a license to kill with any method. We hung up the rolls in my less than 900 square foot apartment: entryway, kitchen, bathroom, and living room. Flies filled up the death streamers. Ha Ha.
The exterminator sprayed the windows and cabinets with fly poison. The spray made the flies so woozy that I could smash them with a dish towel. I was a fly killing machine. Sweet revenge.
And, yet, some flies escaped the zapper, fly paper, and poison. That is when I discovered the large electric bug zapper, a battery operated mini-tennis racquet with electrified metal strings. I was made for this weapon. As soon as I held the zapper, my instinct kicked in. I know what Thor feels like.
I am not that good in tennis, but with the zapper, I developed a forehand that would scare Serena Williams. No fly could get away from me — swoosh, and I zapped it to its death. Fifteen to love. Or, when the fly was on the cabinet, I could place the zapper over the fly, trap it, and electrocute it to its death. Often, I pressed the button that electrified the fly long after the fly was no more. Zzzzzzzzzzzz. Could the zapper be a gateway to homicide? I was getting there.
I was always carrying my zapper or had it nearby. Serving dinner with one hand on the plate — the other on my bug killing racquet. My husband and kid knew to call me when they saw a fly. It was my job.
One fly hung on the top of the fly trap. I had my racquet in my hand. Do I let the fly swim to its death or zap it? Buzz. No more fly.
And, then there were none. I won.
I took down the fly paper and stowed the zapping tennis racquet in an easy-to-get-to cabinet. I made sure that I did not have to dig for the racquet should the flies come back.
To confirm that I am not the only one in the neighborhood that uses fly paper, I went to the hardware store to see if they were still sold out. They were not, fully stocked. Turns out, they were out of fly paper in the summer because of supply chain problems due to COVID. I bought a few more rolls. I am ready for the next infestation, and I will not hesitate next time. Lesson learned.
I feel fine. And, when this pandemic is over, I might take up tennis.
One zoom meeting away from a nervous breakdown, I realized I have to do something to reduce my stress. When am I going to school, now, mom? The West Coast skies are orangish, less Somewhere Over the Rainbow more Apocalypse Now. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, seemingly immortal, passes away.
I can hear the pundits screaming (or rather whispering) about what I should do: yoga, meditation, healthy diet, and a good night’s sleep. Makes sense, I know there are many studies that confirm those theories. But, as I write this, Mitch McConnell announced that he is going to ram through a hearing for a life-long supreme court judge that determines the future of our country. So, you know what? Stretching, thinking, eating broccoli, and not watching Stephen Colbert live is not going to cut it. I need much more.
How about this?
American Academy of Pediatrics changes its recommendation on how much television a teen can watch from limited to whatever.
Instead of sending checks, the federal government sends xanax.
It’s the law, you are not allowed to get out of bed before 10 am
Sweatpants are named the official apparel of the United States of America
The FDA declares: wine is a fruit.
You are allowed to scream out your window at all hours.
Trump voters are not allowed to vote by mail — they have to vote in a packed arena with unmasked coughing COVID-19 positive people.
Aaaaaaah, fantasizing about this while I eat a hamburger, sitting on the couch, watching television, gets me through the day. I know it probably won’t happen but it is easier than doing downward dog.
Thank You, President Trump!
I worry about my retired elderly parents having nothing to do. It is not good for their mental health to be home, bored and void of intellectual stimulation. Even when they agree on a movie, now that winter is at our doorstep, neither wants to venture outside. Broadway? My folks have seen Hadestown and To Kill A Mockingbird (and hopefully Betrayal before it closes). Married for 59 years and retired for over 10, they have exhausted all topics of conversation.
The question — what are you going to do today — makes me anxious as I fear the answer is nothing. I am out of suggestions.
But, now, thanks to you President Trump, my worries are gone! So appreciate you and your cronies openly creating a national security threat with a trail of texts, phone calls, and evidence that urged an impeachment inquiry. I haven’t seen my parents this happy and engaged in years. Oh, and I would be remiss not to give honorable mention to Nancy Pelosi and Adam Schiff for green lighting these proceedings.
My folks tell me they pop out of bed to prepare for their day of impeachment inquiry watching. They are talking to one another, evaluating testimony, using their brains — and I may have even heard them laughing. They plan their day and meal selection around the inquiry. What’s the appropriate food pairing with Lt Col Vindman’s testimony? Borscht, great choice, dad. Ambassador Sondland’s day of coming clean? Omelets.
No one was happier than me when Ambassador William Taylor testified that you know, I may have forgotten to tell you that there was another phone call, on an unsecured cell phone (priceless!) that my colleague David Holmes heard — he would be happy to talk to you. Do you want his email address? I knew what that meant. Another witness, possibly five hours. That’s a full day!
Sometimes, when I call to check in, mom and dad actually say “we have to go, the impeachment is back on.”
As a member of the sandwich generation, I also care for my thirteen-year old son and husband. We bond when we watch television shows together, but we often struggle to find a show we all can enjoy (we just binged Stranger Things and Lucifer). Challenge, no more! — we tape the inquiry for family viewing. My husband and I got our teenager to watch as we told him, take notes, this will be a topic for your college thesis either at SUNY Binghamton, or the New York campus of the University of Russia — depending on how these hearings go.
And, I am not worried about Thanksgiving conversation with family Trump supporters. The hearings provide fodder that Trump supporters and Democrats can discuss amicably. How will this play out in the theater? While I hope George Clooney produces the movie, my brother-in-law feels Clint Eastwood is the right person for the job. Our disagreement does not result in a family feud. We will still remain in each other’s contact list.
So, President Trump keep intimidating witnesses via tweets! Democrats vote for impeachment, this needs to get to a televised Senate trial. The New York winter forecast is cold and snowy, these proceedings have to last until March.
“Do you have anything you would like to say to Oscar?” my husband asks.
“He knows how I feel. To be respectful for the near dead, I am going to be quiet.”
This aquatic pet came into our family about three years ago. My husband bought him, and the two formed a brotherly bond in the pet store. Just two manly guys living in Brooklyn, Oscar thought on the ride home. Boy, was he surprised when he saw me sitting on the living room couch! When my spouse dropped him in his new home, his eyes bulged and he cocked his head at my significant other, who’s the bitch in the living room?
He made his intentions clear on our first night together. My son and husband go to bed before me. So, I get to hang in the living room, alone. Aaaah. Tap, tap, tap. What’s that noise? Is there someone at the front door? Nope. Oscar who is about the size of a bag of coffee is sucking up the pebbles on the bottom of the tank, rolling them in his mouth, and spitting them out against the glass. What kind of monster fish did my honey bring home? Is Oscar trying to break the glass so he can escape and murder me?
My enemy finds another way to menace me. I pee quite a lot during the night which means I have to pass the fish tank to get to the bathroom. Just as I am nearing Oscar’s home, I hear splash, and feel drops of water on my body. Oscar is diving to the bottom of the tank and propelling himself up with such force that water comes out of the tank making a puddle on the floor and sprinkling me in aquarium water. Is he trying to drown me in his own twisted fish way? Is he attempting to scare me to death? Going to the bathroom has become so frightening that many nights I “hold it in” until morning.
I ask both my boys, “Does Oscar splash you?” They say no.
The evidence is clear: Oscar is a misogynfish.
As my foe resides in the living room, he knows I am the first person to get up. In the morning, I am horrified to find the catfish, Oscar’s tank mate, splattered on the floor. Did Oscar push his tank mate out? Was he sending me a message? Did he watch the Godfather last night?
I decide to fight back. It’s on.
I keep washcloths near his tank. Protecting my legacy, I tell my husband that if anything should happen to me, suspect the fish. When I walk by the tank, I yell “I hate you.” We reach an understanding.
Then, a few weeks ago, Oscar does not look good. My husband, tries everything: changing the water, cleaning the filter, and googling Oscar ailments. Nothing works. The big water guy is not swimming anymore, just laying on the bottom of the tank, bobbing on the gravel.
Every morning, I hope I am going to see a dead fish. Upside down looking like death finally caught him, he turns over and swims like Mark Spitz when he sees me. He is hanging on just to irritate me. Hate and spite are very strong emotions and they are keeping him alive.
We have a fish tank to provide a sense of calm to the apartment; but, having an almost dead fish with labored breathing bouncing around the bottom of the tank is bringing the apartment down. No one sits in the living room. I propose euthanasia but my kid– who rules the house– wants Oscar to die naturally. With my open loathing of the fish, my motives are suspicious. I give my version of last rites, yelling at the tank, “Jesus, would you die already?”
Our second catfish nips at Oscar (karma is a bitch) which is not a good sign. When my kid sees this, he agrees, it is time.
We say our goodbyes and Oscar’s human buddy does the deed.
We replace Oscar with two small fish who are indifferent to me. The nights are lonely, and I miss the big guy.
For the sake of an informed meeting with a doctor, many write down a long list of questions to prepare for the appointment. I am not one of them. I have just one essential inquire that will answer my concerns. Whatever medication the doctor prescribes or procedure the medical professional recommends, I ask “can I have wine with that?”
Because I love that beautiful bottle of alcohol — red, white, or bubbly, I adore them all. After my alarm goes off, my first thought is what kind of fermented grape, in which glass, and in what room will I imbibe my good friend tonight? It is the wine version of Clue. Bonus bet, will I take my coat off first?
It’s not just the actual high I get from a drink that makes me come back for more. I also get a buzz romancing the wine — entering the store, pacing the narrow aisles, checking out the inventory. I feel loved; the bottles stand in attention hoping I’ll bring one of them home. Pick me! Pick me!
While I am no oenophile, I like to pretend I am. In this role, I engage the salesperson to see whom he will set me up with on a blind drink.
“Can I help you?”
“Yes, I am looking for a sweet white wine from upstate New York.” In this performance as wine connoisseur, I am also a supporter of my home state.
“We just got a lovely riesling from the Finger Lakes, has a hint of white peach, smooth finish, and floral aroma.”
Like I could ever taste just the dash of white peach. If you blindfolded me, I could not tell the difference between a California Chardonnay or an expired Mott’s apple juice. But, I do my best Eric(a) Asimov, “White peach adds such a wonderful bouquet.” And, I buy it.
How this conversation should really go. . . . .
“Can I help you?”
“I am having a real crappy day. What wine will get me to feel that I am not that mad at my husband?”
My mom who asked me, “what wine goes with penicillin?” (the answer is Rose, zesty and fruity so it has vitamin C too), shared with me the most important wine-buying information — alcohol content. That figure should be above 12.5 %. When I am honest with myself, that is the most important criteria I use in selecting a bottle.
What’s better than drinking and shopping for wine? Consuming those medicinal grapes with people who share the love of this liquid. I met a group of women who shared my love of the wine when I was in the final days of my pregnancy. I was taking a mandatory parent to be series; that night’s subject: breastfeeding taught by an earnest lactation consultation. We were a flock of tired, bitchy, and most important, close to nine months of sobriety, women. After pretty much the same question was re-asked, the lactation consultant seemed more like a White House press secretary than a breastfeeding guru. “Ladies, ladies, enough! Let’s move onto other questions.” The important inquiries were: how much wine could you safely drink before breastfeeding? When would you have to pump and dump? How much time needs to pass after you have a few before you can breastfeed? Can you drink while you breastfeed or is that like driving under the influence, a class A misdemeanor? It was a privilege to be in the same room as this gaggle of pregos. We went our separate ways after that night but I felt like they were my long lost separated at birth siblings.
Or, there’s my friend that has a glass of wine waiting for me when I am late to meet her at the bar. I take a sip before I say hello, sometimes. She is not offended, she gets me. Or, my pal who actually is a wine connoisseur. She took me to a wine tasting, and against my seemingly religious beliefs, I was required to spit out the sample of wine. For one wine in particular, she whispered “don’t spit that one out.”
There are times I wonder if maybe, just maybe, I have a “problem” or I am something that starts with an a and ends with c. (I cannot even say the word). I have heard that if you think you are “aromatic” then you probably are. I also read that it is safe for women to have five ounces of a wine daily. So, I measured. It’s a sip. Pretty scarey. Perhaps, I am an “antarctic”.
In my google search about how to know if you are “archaic”, I discovered that doctors know that patients take liberties in the answer to the question how much do you drink on a weekly basis. I want to have a drink with those people.
I get a lot of joy from drinking. So, I am okay with living in denial. And, I will have a big glass of wine with a high alcohol content in my hand.
Little league rule 101: if the pitcher hits two batters, he is relieved of his pitching duties.
Charlie was selected to be the team’s starting pitcher for the first game of the season. He earned it. He throws really hard, when he warms up, our parent coaches are constantly shaking their mitted hands in pain. But, Charlie is not too accurate.
While he did well in the first inning, he had gotten himself into a bit of a jam in the second inning – he hit a batter, and loaded the bases without getting any outs. After taking a deep breath, Charlie winds up and hurls. The baseball smacks the batter. We all know what this means, especially Charlie. He lowers his head and pulls his cap down, covering his face. The coach jogs to the mound, gets down to his level, takes the ball, and pats the brim of his cap. With his head down, Charlie slowly walks to the outfield.
“Hey, left field, you want to pitch?”
The left fielder is my kid.
My guy did not pitch a lot last season although he really wanted to. He did, however, show promise at the first practice. I could feel his surprise that he was called to the mound. Me? He trotted to his new position and took the ball from the coach.
There are many types of parents and relatives watching a little league game. I am the pacing, loud baseball-loving mom. I am a bit annoying to talk to while watching my kid play. In the middle of a an intense conversation, I will interrupt with a “ GOOD EYE” or “THAT’S ALL RIGHT WE WILL GET EM NEXT TIME”
I tend to sit alone sometimes. I am quite aware that it is hard to speak to someone who has baseball Tourette’s syndrome. Eighty-seven percent of the time, I want my only child to endure triumph and failure through challenging personal experiences. I know successful people are resilient; it is a quality I want my kid to possess. But, thirteen percent of the time, I want him to live in a land filled with bubble gum that whitens your teeth and vaccines that truly feel like a pinch. As he approaches the mound, I am thinking maybe we can go for fortitude in the next game, I don’t want him to be the goat of the first game of the season.
Especially, since, his team, the Fireballs are the reigning champions. Last year, the kids played in the Pony League for eight to nine year olds. Every other year, the last game of the season ended with lots of donuts and trophies for all who played. In the Pony League, every team played two playoff games. The two teams who had the most points scored and best win/loss record qualified for the championship game. Only winner and runner-up earned trophies. And, the winner’s trophy was much bigger than the runner up’s. Most kids would go home trophyless. You read that right, there would be tears, disappointment, but, still donuts.
As much as we love our little fireballs, nary a mom or dad thought the team would be the champions. So much so, many parents made plans to go away the weekend of the big game. We were not terrible, but, you know the team that comes from behind? We were the other team. While we lost the first game 3 to 2 (as usual, we held the other team scoreless until the bottom of the last inning), we won the second game, 15 to 1 having won the lottery in being chosen to play the worst team in the league. Unfireballish, we won the championship game in a nail-biting 2 to 0 victory.
My little guy breaths in deep. And, I hear him say:
This Is AWESOME.
While he hits the first batter, he strikes out the side.
I would like to tell you that that was the moment he became the ace pitcher of the team, but, alas, this is baseball, the metaphor for life. In the next game, he got three easy outs and bonus we scored five runs so my kid was protecting a lead. I was so happy. The sun was shining, it was going to be a great day. But, I forgot there are seven innings in a little league game (or two hour limit, whatever comes first).
In the next inning, he walked the first two batters. The next batter got a hit and a run scored. Still, no outs, and a man on first and second. A few more walks and an error (that really hurt) and now bases are loaded and no outs. Batter up. My nine year old pitches and the batter hits a long fly ball that passes third base just where I am standing. I can see my kid watching the ball and I feel his praying that the ball go foul. It does not. It drops in front of me barely in fair territory. Worse yet, the ball rolls and rolls and rolls. Our left fielder is now chasing the ball and not gaining any ground. My husband/videographer presses stop on the record button of his phone. This is not a video we are going to play at Thanksgiving for the grandparents. Meanwhile, the base runners dash around the bases. And, when the batter comes home, the whole team greets him. Loud cheers, baseball caps flying in the air. My guy puts his head down, the coach sends him to the outfield. I fight all I have not to run on the field, pick him up, and take him home. It was a long car ride home. I would like to say that we used this as a learning lesson but we all felt so heartsick. We lost the game and my little leaguer felt like he let his team down.
This team feels like his April to June brothers as most of the team has been together for four seasons. My guy started this league when he was in kindergarten. These kids knew nothing about the rules of baseball. A ball gets hit and the whole team, even some members of the opposing team, run after it. The outfielder missed the fly ball because he was busy picking his nose. The second baseman runs off the field because he had to go the bathroom. Parents trying to give some form of encouragement, like screaming good eye when the batter does not swing at a ball ten feet over the batter’s head.
The core of this team stayed together over the years and we watched them grow into big boys and pretty decent players. Now, they are hitting the ball, making defensive plays, and arguing with the umpire. They developed a love for the game, one player eats dinner wearing his helmet.
Throughout the years, it was fun to watch the families, too. Pregnant one season, chasing a kid the next. The fedora wearing grandfather sitting in his fold up chair, not saying a peep until someone asks what’s the score. Some parents getting a little too competitive: stopping the game to bring out the baseball looseleaf rule book, and arguing the rules to the volunteer umpire, a high school senior.
When we got home, our baseball player announced that he was no longer going to pitch. While we did our best to tell him stories of great resilience (did you know Michael Jordan did not make the junior varsity team?), we knew that this experience could potentially crush his desire to play this sport, and we did not want that outcome.
Next morning, it was time for another game. It did not help that it was raining but not hard enough to cancel the game. My kid who is normally pretty happy and hyper was somber matching the weather.
The coach sent Paul to pitch and my guy trotted off to left field. Our pitcher was doing well, got two outs. But, his luck changed. He loaded the bases, and he was shaking his foot. The coach went to the mound, checked the foot, and took him out of the game. As the two walked off the field, the coach turned towards the outfield and signaled that my guy should take the mound.
Anybody have xanax? Is there a cardiologist in the house?
I was so proud of him that he did not refuse to take the ball, and, like in the first game, he trotted to the mound. But, I still needed a schedule IV narcotic. Like he was starring in his own G rated feel good movie, he struck out the next batter. And, lucky for us, the skies opened up and the game was canceled.
What happened to our team? We found out that Charlie was holding the ball wrong and he became quite the Nolan Ryan junior. We made it to the championship game, but lost 5 to 3. In tears, the coach thanked the team for playing so well and added that he felt like he had 10 sons. Me too.
Eight years from now when my little guy asks, what should I write my college essay on, I know these experiences will be at the top of my idea list. I am hopeful that after this season, I will be a little calmer watching him next year. Even so, it is a real joy to watch my kid play in times of errors and hits.
We were happy to get the last Tuesday slot; we did not know this was the worst time to go.
My nine year old loves waterslides, sharks, and milky ways. His career goal is to be a marine biologist focusing on the study of tiger sharks. So, when a friend told me a place exists that has a waterslide that goes through a pool of sharks, I knew I had to go. And, you could (for a large fee) sign up for an excursion where you walk with the sharks in that pool. While I was excited to give this experience to my budding Jacques Cousteau, I had a problem. Having run out of the opening credits of Jaws, I do not share my child’s enthusiasm for sharks. Since that summer of Jaws mania, I have not even been able to lay in a bath with the water running — I have visions that a ferocious baby shark will dive out of the faucet and have me as soup.
As my husband does not have my affliction, he volunteered to go on the trip. Because of my galeophobia, I was on the tank’s rim as to whether I would join my boys. Do I use this as an opportunity to get over my fear? Or, do I pretend that being the photographer and cheerleader is just as good as sharing a potentially life-changing experience with my only kid? I decide not to decide and wait until we get to the resort to make the reservation.
“I would like to make a reservation for three, 2 adults and 1 child for the walk of the sharks. Before I sign up, is this excursion refundable should one change her mind?” I am told that this is a non refundable purchase. Great. I am tired from the flight. My kid gives me a look of you’re kidding, you’re not going? The husband tries not to show his disappointment, but he is doing a lousy job. Feeling peer pressure, I schedule the tour for Tuesday at 3:30. I have a few days until then, maybe, I will be lucky and the excursion will be canceled because of a hurricane. I am now hoping for a severe weather condition to ruin my expensive vacation, which of course does not happen.
On Tuesday at 3:15, we head to the shark tank and join the other tour goers. We get fitted for and squeeze into our wetsuits. The tour guide tells us how to step down into the tank without blowing our ears out. He confirms with the future shark walkers that no one is flying home that day as that could use you to get bubbles in your blood which could prove fatal. Why am I doing this again? He also points to the waving scuba divers in the tank who will guide us. We are warned not to pet the sharks and not to get upset if a sharks rubs against us. I won’t get upset; I’ll have a nervous breakdown. My kid is overjoyed with the possibility that a shark might touch him. Are we related? I cannot believe that soon not only will I voluntarily go into a tank of healthy sharks, but I will also take my world, my son and husband, with me on this adventure.
To try and relax, I ask what I thought would be an educational question that would calm me down.
“How do we know the sharks won’t eat us?”
“First, these sharks are scavengers. So, unless you are dead they won’t eat you.”
My sharkologist junior nods agreeing with our knowledgeable chaperon. Note to self, look alive!
“Second, they are fed on Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday morning.”
Ergo, they are at their hungriest right now, as I chose the last tour on Tuesday. I wish I knew that before I made the reservation. I would have scheduled the walk for the first tour on Wednesday. I don’t care how much these creatures ate on Monday, they have not eaten in over 24 hours. I know what I am like right before break fast on Yom Kippur.
We go to the ladder that will take us down into the tank. We decide to submerge in this order, husband, kid, and mom. Before we are completely in, a globe is put over our heads and snapped into our suits. We look like the Jetsons minus Judy and Astro. Balloons are attached to our suits so we are weighed down, and my little guy needs several balloons. He looks like a martian celebrating a birthday. Slowly, I step down into the tank and join my fellows. Watching sharks swim in arm’s length distance with my family in the background is a once in a lifetime experience. Hopefully. I look at my kid, I can feel his happiness even through the fish bowl globe I have on my head. A scuba diver hands him a shark tooth.
I realize, though, what a submerge of faith I took getting in the tank. If anything happened to my kid, like a shark going rogue (maybe one shark thinks he is tired of dead food, this kid looks delicious) or my kid’s oxygen tank exploding, there is nothing that I could do. And, my husband, as good as he is with setting up and programming a smart tv, he does not know much about scuba gear. We are sunk. I have to trust these two scuba divers who I never met or vetted with my most precious life member.
This feeling of helplessness passes for two reasons: the walk part is only twenty minutes, and I am kind of enjoying my self. The scuba divers signal time’s up, get out of the tank. My marine biologist gestures like an English chap you first, to my husband, me, and the rest of the shark walkers — as he wants to soak in every last second of this excursion.
As a parent, you take so many leaps of faith, small, medium, and large: putting your little one on a bus to camp, allowing your fifth grader to walk to school, and letting him sort of scuba dive with hungry creatures of the ocean. I surrender myself to the universe many times in a given day. It’s maddening. Some letting go moments you have to do and some you do to yourself. And, some work out well in the end.
On the hottest day of the summer of 1976, I fell in love. I was thirteen.
That’s the day I went to a Yankee doubleheader with my father and sister. Although it was a regular season game on a nothing special day, my father had been noticeably excited about this game. He figured out that the opposing pitcher that day would be Mark Fidrych, nicknamed the Bird. Fidrych was the talk of baseball that year, a phenom. It was close to impossible to get a hit let alone a run off him. But, besides making pitches that fooled even the most skilled batters, Fidrych was best known for his antics on the mound. He talked to the baseball, got on his hands and knees to manicure the mound, and when an infielder made a great play, he immediately dashed over and personally congratulated him. He was nicknamed the Bird because one of his coaches thought that he ran just like Big Bird from Sesame Street. He kind of looked like Big Bird too: he was tall, lanky, and had bushy red hair. Before making a pitch, he talked to the baseball, begging it to avoid the batter’s bat. If he felt a baseball had a hit in it, he’d toss it out of the game and ask for a new one. “I want that ball to go back in the bag with all the other balls so they can tell him to behave,” he said. He hugged players after they made a great play. The crowds adored him.
When my father realized the Bird was going to be pitching when we were scheduled to be at the game, he counted the days. “Guess, where we’ll be seven days from now?” he’d ask. Everyday the countdown continued. While he generally kept the tickets in his wallet, this time he upgraded the ticket space to under the phone. So, every time the phone rang (which for my sister was right after she got off the phone) we would be reminded of that game. Finally, the big day arrived.
For several years, my father had been taking us to Yankee games. I don’t remember my first game, but this was the game I remember that fostered my love for baseball. I was born and bred to be a Yankee fan but ironically my love of baseball originates from an opposing pitcher from the Detroit Tigers.
There was a lot going on that day. It was Jacket Day; anyone under 14 got a plastic jacket. The jacket was like having your own personal sauna; it was made out of the cheapest plastic and had two vents in the back. As soon as you put your arm through the sleeve, you immediately started to sweat. The jacket was particularly suitable to wear at Halloween as a shield for eggs being hurled at you.
The Yankees were on their way to winning their division after a twelve year drought. Not surprisingly, 52,707 people came to the game, close to the capacity of 57,546.
As the game started, my dad educated us on the players, the positions, and the intricacies of the game. Unlike the other games, this time I listened. Something about this Bird guy piqued my interest.
The National Anthem was sung. The starting line-up was announced. I watched the Yankees run on the field. I along with the other 52,706 fans waited anxiously for the Bird’s appearance.
What would he be like? Would he look like a Bird? What would it be like to watch a legend in the making?
Unlike the other players who calmly jogged on to the field, he bolted to the pitcher’s mound. He was in his own private world. He got on his knees, patted the mound so it was just right, jumped up and down, and pointed to his teammates who made great plays. He looked funny and did things that other players simply did not do. He did not care what he looked like. And, he looked pretty weird. Despite the fact that the view from our cheap seats was not good, I could still see that stick of a man with a bushy mound of flapping red hair.
We watched the bird with utter amazement. You could feel how impossible it was to get a hit off him. His pitches zoomed by my Yankees. They were stumped. When they approached the plate, they looked like they were hoping to be walked. The Bird was simply invincible. All his weird movements were working. He did not allow the Yankees to score a run. He struck out five and allowed only nine hits.
The Yankees lost the first game 6-0. It wasn’t even close. The day was not a total disaster for the home team; the Yankees won the second game 6-5. It was a perfect baseball day. I saw a phenomenal pitcher and I got a free jacket.
And, that was the day I fell in love with baseball.
Since then, I have followed the Yankees religiously. Because the season is so long and games are played on a daily basis, I can always catch a glimpse of them: a quick flick on the remote control, taking a peek through a big window at a bar to get a score, or simply reading about the game the next day. And, they have become my friends in good and bad times. Doc Gooden pitched a no-hitter when I got stood up on a date. David Cone pitched a perfect game on my birthday after I had been in a bike accident that temporarily disfigured my face. (I still think he pitched that game for me). When there was an awkward silence with colleagues, bosses, and distant relatives, the talk of baseball helped me start a conversation.
And, my baseball knowledge helped me in my dating life. I got married to surprisingly, a Met fan; we joke that we have a mixed marriage. Our little guy, halluejah, is a Yankee fan. His first little league game starts on the same day as opening day 2016.
So, whatever happened to the Bird? Did he make it to the Hall of Fame? Win a World Series?
Sadly, no. I saw Fidrych pitch at his best, his first year in the majors. In fact, he won the Rookie of the Year Award. In the following season, however, after winning six of his first ten starts, he seriously injured his arm and virtually could no longer pitch. He pitched in three games in 1978, four in 1979 and retired in 1980. He owned a trucking asphalt and gravel company in Massachusetts while doing a little public relations work. He also had two seats at Comerica Stadium (that is where the Detroit Tigers play).
I cried when I found out that in 2009 he died tragically in an accident on his farm: he was 54.
In writing this article, I started my research with the Bird. I went to the public library to find articles about that game. However, because I could not remember what the exact date of the game was and how to find it, I sought help from the twenty-year old looking librarian at the help desk.
“I haven’t done research in years. Would you know how I can find a story about a game when Mark Fidrych pitched?”
“I’d do anything for the Bird.”
I guess I wasn’t the only one affected by him.
PLAY BALL!!! And Go Yankees!!!
At an inconvenient time, I found out I was claustrophobic.
A few years ago, I noticed a small lump on the side of my face, had it checked out, and found out it was a lipoma. It sounds worse than what it really is, a fatty deposit. Most people get them in their legs or arms. I got one on my face. Because my new appendage was small and probably resting near a nerve, the doctor recommended that we leave it alone. His parting and foreshadowing words were if it gets bigger, come back.
Like a rolling lipoma gathering fat, the bump grew from do you have a pimple to did you have wisdom tooth surgery in just two years. I tried very hard to conceal it, growing my hair long and leaning to the right (as the lipoma was on the left side of my face). I had a constant look of what?, for nearly twenty-four months. As these tricks became too burdensome and I enjoy wearing my hair in a ponytail, I went back to the doctor.
“Oh, yeah, it got bigger,” he diagnosed as soon as he saw me.
To make sure this unwelcomed guest was not resting on my facial nerve, I had to get a magnetic resonance imaging test better known as a MRI. If it were resting on that nerve, then taking it out might cause facial paralysis.
While writing out the directions to the MRI center, the doctor casually asked me how I tolerated enclosed spaces. I did not think much about it, and wanting to sound tough, I said I was pretty good. How I later regretted not giving his question more thought.
At the imaging center, I met with Julia and Frank, the MRI technicians who I would later name in my will. Rubbing my hands together, I announced I was ready to go. Then, I got my first hint as to why the doctor inquired about my ability to handle small spaces — the MRI scanner looked like a coffin or crematorium for an overgrown peppermint stick. I lay down on the stretcher that would take me inside and got ready for my next instruction.
“We just have to do one more thing to do.”
Julia snapped a thick mask that had four vertical bars around my head, putting my head in extreme solitary confinement. I found myself involuntarily doing an impression of Hannibal Lecter. Looking over me, Julia put a device in my hand.
“That’s your panic button. Just press it when you want to get out of the tube.”
Why do I need a 911 buzzer for a sophisticated medical diagnostic tool? What was I doing with my head in a mask? Now I knew what it felt like to be the last Russian doll inside a matroyska doll.
“Did you say something?” Julia asked.
Like the calm before the storm of crazy, I re-mustered two words “not happening.”
Julia, my liberator, took off my mask. I popped up.
“Who can survive this? Astronauts?”
“We hear that a lot.”
“What can I do?”
“You could take a valium.”
Could? This should not be a choice. Like mints, there should be a bowl full of valium or a well-stocked bar in the waiting room.
So, here was my option, get the prescription and come back. I live in Brooklyn and the hospital was on the Upper East Side which is the same as going to Denver on some days. Even though my anxiety was pushing DSM-IV TR, I decided to give the MRI another try. I have endured childbirth, orthodox Yom Kippur services on an empty stomach, and Microeconomics Theory class at eight in the morning. I can do this!
Before I flipped out earlier, Julia was about to attach a mirror to my mask. This allows you to see out while you are in the death chamber, alleviating the claustrophobia. So, we tried this technique, but all I could see was a reflection of the bars. I thought I was watching myself starring in the lead role of the “Woman in the Iron Mask”. If Edgar Allan Poe were alive, he would have used this experience as inspiration for a poem. One good thing, I learned the panic button works.
“Maybe I can give it one more try?”
I think Julia felt really bad for me, maybe the fatty growth made me look sympathetic or maybe she lives in Brooklyn and has a disdain for the 4 train. She had one more trick up her sleeve. Saint Julia could hold my ankle during the procedure. Frank would be in the booth, monitoring the MRI, and he would let me know how much time I had left. I didn’t realize that part of a MRI technician’s job description is: hold ankles of claustrophobic patients.
I kept my eyes closed and focused on Julia’s warm hand holding my right ankle. Every now and then I heard banging which sounded like a group of toddlers were outside the tube banging it with silverware. Hard to believe this is an expensive piece of medical equipment. As scheduled, Frank’s voice, staticky and blurry would come in letting me know five minutes had expired and I was doing great! I was back in kindergarten.
Forty minutes later, I was done. I gave Julia and Frank an airport type hug and later wrote recommendations dripping in synonyms of awesome.
Even better, the lipoma was not near the facial nerve and I could have it taken out. I learned, however, another new fact about myself: anesthesia makes me nauseous.