The children have been buzzing with eager excitement all day. It’s an early summer evening. We’re on the way to see the Columbus Clippers play baseball. We stop at Meijer to get a two-liter for the kids to wash down a meal from the Dollar Menu so we would have the will-power to resist the expensive hot-dogs and five-dollar ball-park Cokes.
By the time we were able to get the family all to the park we were a little late. I don’t like being late. I like to get my money’s worth. I wanted to be there to see the players warm up. I wanted to see the opening ceremonies and sing the National Anthem. I wanted to see the team take the field. I wanted to be there for the opening pitch. I wanted to get the best seats possible. We would need to hurry.
We park the van as close as we can to the stadium. You can see it in the distance. Daniel is about three. “Daniel, take my hand, son.” We stride through the crowded parking lot between cars toward the ball park.
You can smell the grilled onions and hear the vendors barking and the crescendo of the organ.
I don’t really care much about the Clippers or baseball. I just want to make a memory with the family and I am in a hurry to do it. I like sports, but it’s not an addiction. I love the game of baseball, but it’s not an obsession. I don’t get tickets often and I want to be there on time. I just know this is an evening that we will remember for a long time—if we can just get to our seats.
I have an odd personality quirk. I just hate the feeling of missing out on things. If there is action I don’t want to hear about it from the next room. I don’t want to read about it next week. I want to be right in the middle of it. When a big cheer comes up from the crowd I don’t want to be out in the parking lot wondering what happened.
“Here, Dan, hold on to my hand. Let’s walk a little faster.”
“Dad, I have to go back. I forgot my glove.”
“Don’t worry about it son. We’re not going to play, we’re just going to watch.”
“But, Dad, I want to catch a foul ball.”
We go back for the glove.
“OK. Let’s go. Give me your hand.”
A roar goes up from within.
“Did the game start, Dad.”
“Yes, I think so.”
“Do you think somebody else will get the good seats?”
“Not if we hurry. Can you walk just a little faster?”
“Will I get to catch a fly ball?”
“Maybe, if we get in there before the game’s over.”
“Do they have bathrooms in there?”
“Sure. Do you see that long line of men over there? They’re waiting to use the bathroom. Do you need…”
“Well, you better hurry.”
Suddenly a loud crack sounds behind me. Simultaneously a lurch against my hand. Then a sickening silence. A child getting ready to wail in pain. Then the wailing begins and Danny his holding his face and jogging up and down in pain. I have pulled my little boy with a red ball cap and a shock of sun-bleached hair jutting out into the side-view mirror of a parked car. The impact is so hard. It loosens the mirror. I pull his hands away from his face. No blood, but a bright read crescent under his eye on his right cheek.
He smiles up at me through tears and says, “We better hurry, Dad. We don’t want to miss the game.”
Sometimes I get in such a hurry that the memory I make is not the one I hoped for. Danny starts college this fall.
“Danny, have you ever had peanuts at the ball park? They tatste better there than anywhere else in the world. You’re never gonna’ forget this.”
May 10, 2010