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Spring Thing - frondelet
Spring Thing
For the third year in a row my brother and I watched the New York Mets play the Washington Nationals in spring training.  Though he lives just two hours away we don’t get together more often that 3 – 4 times a year, so the March baseball game – just brother and brother, no parents or spouses or kids -- has become an enjoyable ritual.

I live furthest from the ballpark, so I always leave first.  Then, after I’ve been on I-95 for half an hour or so he calls to tell me he is getting a late start.  He’s got teenage kids at home, and a pool and yard to maintain, and other responsibilities that delay his going anywhere.  So, he always calls.  “Dude, you’ve got my ticket,” I say.  “Now I feel guilty,” he says.

Turns out we get to the park within 10 minutes of each other, snaking down a two lane road with several thousand other fans and a few unfortunate civilians stuck in our traffic jam.  My brother hits the concession stand and I fill out a scorecard (a decades-old habit that makes me pay attention to the ballgame).  We find our seats which are immediately behind those of two brothers, a couple decades our seniors, sporting Red Sox and Celtics caps and conversing in a musical Boston brogue.

A warm spring afternoon at the ballpark is the perfect place for brothers to reconnect.  The lazy mandala of the game provides a focus without overpowering the equally lazy conversation, about our families, our friends, past and future games, and every so often the baseball game before us.  I note the progress of the players on the diamond on my scorecard, we slather sunscreen on our pasty knees, my brother worries that he left his ball glove home.  “You won’t see a ball here behind the screen” I tell him, though he has a worrisome propensity for diving for fouls in the stands.  We trade barbs with the guys in front of us, and the section consults on the scoring of an intricate rundown play (5-2-3-2-3, we conclude).  A foul ball does pop over the screen at us, bounces off the walkway and into the hands of one of the Bostonians directly in front.  My own brother looks stricken.  “Next year,” I assure him.

After the game my brother wants to find the restaurant we ate at last year, a hole-in-wall family seafood place which we stumbled upon miles from the ballpark.  Neither of us can remember where it’s located, so we spend an hour driving in odd circles, getting turned away at military gates and trying to coordinate by cell phone, before we give up and settle on a waterfront eatery at the port.

Dinner conversation is more serious.  We’ve both turned the midlife corner where opportunities don’t shine, and burdens weigh heavier on tired shoulders.  We discuss health problems, kids’ college plans, finances.  He wanders away to the railing of the restaurant patio – he’s smoking again.  Nothing is solved, but the commiseration feels good in itself.   We get into our cars to drive toward the sunset.

I hug my brother and tell him to look for next spring's baseball schedule.  “In twenty years,” I say, “I want to be those guys who sat in front of us.”

Maybe I’ll wear a Red Sox cap next year.

Current Mood: pensive pensive

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spiralshell From: spiralshell Date: March 19th, 2008 03:04 am (UTC) (Link)
I've never had a connection to baseball. I suppose my connection point with my brothers is camping -- not the day you get there because there's much to be done with setting up tents and all, and not the day you leave, because there's packing to do. But one of the days in between, in the quiet of an afternoon, sitting around, watching the light through the leaves, we talk and connect and just enjoy each other's presence. Lazy, and quiet, but awake, and present. We are 29, 32, and 34... still just trying to figure out up from down, careerwise, relationshipwise, lifewise.
Come nighttime, we enjoy the fire together, but eventually my dog and I retreat to our tent, and my brothers start the wild rupussing with their other friends, playing and dancing around the dying flames until dawn. That's when I get up, get the fire going again, and start the coffee.
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