Whisk brooms make me cry

There I said it. Whisk brooms make me cry. If ever I were to become a stage actress, and had to cry on demand, and really mean it, just have a whisk broom in the wings, and I could become mush in a minute. And, if “This Old Man, He Played One” was piped in, well, then, get out your flood insurance. I went to the hardware store the other day to buy paint thinner to clean out the brush that I had used to paint the steel door. On my search, I saw a whisk broom hanging. Immediately I saw my Dad, suited up in his Umpire uniform, sweeping home plate. Dad loved baseball. We listened to it religiously on American Forces Network savoring each play painted by the announcer’s voice. Whenever I hear the refrain of the classic “the Dodgers win the pennant, the Dodgers win the pennant” I am reminded of all of the plays we hung on to, imagined over the airwaves. These painted images in our minds were much more romantic than the actual games we DID get to see Stateside when he watched his beloved and oft reviled “Phillies”. So, without any sons to toss the ball to, although I do wonder now about what kind of tossing ability my Dad might have had, he did the next two best things, one, he umpired at the army base’s Little League games, and two, he found a companion in me to watch the games. I learned how to score games and to cheer and scorn the “team”. These days my husband can hear me cheering and booing the Mets in the same inning. We never went to a professional game. We couldn’t afford it. Years later when I finally did make it to a stadium to see a game, I was totally overwhelmed by the shared experience of 30,000 people all roaring and then the collective gasp of watching a player being tagged out sliding into second base on an attempted steal. I immediately felt the democracy of the game, the notion that a small boy from Brooklyn, who played stickball on the streets, who would eventually serve in WWII, Korea and Vietnam, could connect with others at that one instant in time. I could see how in the stands and on the field players and fans looked alike. I understood that Dad’s choosing of the military was almost an extension of his love for baseball: uniforms, rules, hits and misses, collective and shared experiences.  In his final days, as my Dad lay in his hospital bed, I singing “This Old Man, He Played One” quietly in his ear, my sister holding his hand, he was surrounded by his fellow veterans, who were passing around a photo album from one of their last outings, as if to remember games gone by.

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