Thursday, August 20, 2009

Time Well Spent

I bought the tickets over a month ago, so my recent oral surgery and the threat of rain were not going to keep us from making the trip down the river to Cincinnati.

Most of my readers know that my father had pretty extensive surgery on March 3rd and spent two months in St. Mary's Medical Center and Health South Rehabilitation Hospital recovering and rehabbing. He continued with outpatient physical therapy until the middle of July, and he progressed from a wheelchair, to a walker, to getting around on a cane. Through all of the rehab, he has continued to be the 24/7 caregiver for my Alzheimer's afflicted mother. Dad was due a day off and I was looking forward to treating him to something he had done for me many times during my childhood - a trip to a Cincinnati Reds baseball game.

Dad has logged a lot more "recliner time" this year than any time I can remember. In doing so, he has watched a lot more television, including most all of the Reds games telecast on Fox Sports Ohio. A couple of months ago, I heard him say, "I've never been in that new stadium. I'd like to take in a game there sometime." However, considering his inability to get around like he use to, he allowed that he would probably not be physically able to do so. I knew that if I could get him to go, I could get him in the stadium. So, in looking ahead at the schedule, I saw that today would be the last non Sunday day game of the season. Night games would be nearly impossible, due to Mom's condition and her anxiety at bedtime if she is not home or if Dad is not there. So, I went ahead and purchased a couple of tickets for today's game.

Then came the challenge of getting him to agree to go. Fortunately, my nephew, Josh, is off on Thursdays and he graciously agreed to stay with Mom during the day. With the assurance that we would surely be able to get home before dark, Dad reluctantly agreed to go along. I am glad he did.

Once in the ballpark, I could almost see the memories rolling out, as he reminisced about previous games he had taken me and Bruce and Carl to. He talked to those around us about how he had never been in this ball park before, but shared fond memories of old Crosley Field and Riverfront Stadium. I reminded him that the first game he had ever taken us to was between Manager Fred Hutchinson's Redlegs and the St. Louis Cardinals in 1962. Just seeing Stan Musial play in person, was a great thrill for this eleven year old boy!

I had listened faithfully to the Reds on the radio, with play by play man, Waite Hoyt. But seeing my heroes in person, was absolutely special! My Reds heroes were guys like Eddie Kasko, Don Blasingame, Frank Robinson, Vada Pinson, Bob Purkey, and Jerry Lynch. It was the beginning of a love affair I would carry on for the next 47 years.

The next summer, he treated us to another trip to Crosley field. The opponents were the San Francisco Giants. The two Willies (Mays and McCovey) were there, as were Orlando Cepeda, and Juan Marichal. What memories! Today, the Reds closed out a three game series with the 2009 version of the Giants. Same team - very different players.

We had rain off and on, all the way down the AA Highway. We had rain off and on, all the way back. But the game came off without as much as a minute's rain delay. Dad refused to use his wheel chair or walker, so we moved slowly as he walked along, leaning on his cane with one hand and holding my arm with the other. But he made it to our seats with only one brief rest stop. He had a Big Red Smokey and large diet coke, and seemed to enjoy absorbing all the sights and sounds of Great American Ballpark.

I had my share of memories myself, and made some special new ones today.

The game? Oh yes. The game...

It was a game marked by good defense on both sides. Neither club's offense could put together the big inning. The Giants scored first on a bases loaded wild pitch from Aaron Harang, and the Reds countered with a line drive home run by Laynce Nix that just jumped out of the park. With the score knotted at one, the game went into extra innings.

In the middle of the 10th inning I could hold out no longer. The two bladder buster soft drinks I had consumed had done their work and I told Dad I would be right back. I was in the bathroom when Drew Stubbs (who was appearing in only his second big league game) hit the game winning, walk off homer. As I rushed back to the seats, Dad just grinned and said, "You missed it!"

I may have missed the dramatic long ball that sent the home crowd home happy, but I did not miss out on the tremendous blessing of me and my Dad attending one more Reds game together. He is 82, and I am a gray bearded grandfather, myself. But as Joe McKeever reminded me on Facebook this morning, "I'm still the kid".

I have lots of ministry work to do the rest of this week, and in the coming months. Pastors have plenty to keep them busy, but today was good for me - tender gums and all. I wouldn't have traded this day for anything.

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