Today is Someday
Two out and the count is 1-0.
Keith Foulke winds and draws his hand back, the ball clutched between his precisely spread fingers, and in the final nanosecond between windup and delivery his wrist catches as if pulled back by rubber bands, finally snapping forward to send the ball careening toward the plate.
Two days ago, as I was trying unsuccessfully to nap before Game 3 started, the phone rang. It was my mother. She and my father were at the hospital with my grandfather...again. For the second time in as many months, the people in the assisted living community where he now lives had violated his DNR and put him on a ventilator, rushing him to the ICU at Lowell General with heart failure.
Keith Foulke, snapping the wrist, sends the most important, fateful pitch he has ever created toward Edgar Renteria at the plate.
My grandfather's heart has at least one and probably two leaky valves. To correct the problem, he would need open heart surgery, which he wouldn't survive even if he wanted it. In fact, he doesn't even want CPR. And yet for the second time in as many months, there he is in the hospital, unwillingly alive.
Renteria's left leg cocks as he awaits the floating Foulkian missile.
I visited my grandfather this afternoon. He was sitting up in bed, delicately scooping fruit pieces out of a plastic cup from the hospital cafeteria, a plastic oxygen tube under his nose. His right hand, ever since his stroke in 1997, might as well be made of wood. And yet there is a kind of delicate care in each of his movements now that the simplest of motor skills is no longer unconscious, and it lends him an unassuming dignity.
The ball arcs up, and then down.
Croaky-voiced from the respirator tube so rudely shoved through his trachea, my grandfather talked with me in between bites of watermelon, honeydew and grapes about the Red Sox while the wall-mounted hospital TV played the Channel 7 news, filled with images of Red Sox in the batting cages.
He said his favorite modern player is Johnny Damon, although he doesn't quite get the beard. He thinks Francona is a very pleasant man.
Renteria jumps at the pitch, but his bat connects with the ball just high, sending it spiking back onto the grass in front of home plate, and directly back at Foulke.
My grandfather said his favorite all-time player was Ted Williams, and that he remembers seeing him hit a home run at Fenway Park once, and remembers everyone standing up but staying quiet, watching the ball intently to make sure it left the park.
My grandfather said he still doesn't understand why his son had to do what he did with Ted's body. It's clear Ted had his wishes, and it doesn't make sense for John Henry Williams to do what he did. My grandfather doesn't understand why people do things that don't make any sense.
Foulke snags the bounding ball in his glove, stuffing his other hand in immediately after it as if to make absolutely positive it's there. Still holding it, he runs a few steps toward first base, seeming for a moment almost afraid to remove the ball again and let it fly out of his hands, if only for a second, but out of his control, precious vessel that it is.
Finally, a few yards away on the green grass of the infield at Busch Stadium, Keith Foulke tosses it softly, underhanded, to Doug Mientkiewicz at first base. Renteria has barely bothered running.
My grandfather said to me he thought they were set up to do it this time. He said he would be watching from his room in the regular ward tonight once they moved him from ICU. As we were talking, nurses entered to detach him from his various tubes and hoses in preparation for transport. The machines beeped in protest, as if sensing the absence of my grandfather's body at the other end of their synthetic tentacles. My grandfather put down his fruit salad, and the nurse put his Boston Herald in the "Patient's Belongings" bag along with aloe vera lotion and lip balm. My grandfather let the nurses hands pry at him with great calm.
Mientkiewicz, holding his glove out, catches the ball with his foot on the base, and he and Foulke immediately leap into the air, as eight stifling decades in a lonely city by the chilly Atlantic melt into a riot of joy.
My grandfather is 83 years old. He was born three years after the Red Sox last won the World Series. Two days ago, he should have died. If paramedics called to his apartment had followed his instructions, he would have. But for the second time in as many months, they revived him anyway. They sent him to the emergency room in the belly of a wailing ambulance and stuck him full of tubes again. Hours later, the tubes would come out, he would be sitting up in bed, talking, not precisely happy, not really fighting it, either, eating fruit salad very carefully and talking with his eldest granddaughter about the time he saw Teddy Ballgame hit a home run.
Ted, he said, would always tell you what he thought, and he didn't care who was listening. He was a grandiose man. He was a great man. He did what he had to do to serve his country and to play baseball.
My grandfather is 83 years old. Tonight the Boston Red Sox, standing on the dark side of the moon as it passed through the only lunar eclipse to hover over the World Series, the Red Sox made Ted Williams smile, wherever he is. And they made an 83-year-old man who did what he had to do to serve his country and his family smile in his hospital room while Jason Varitek stormed the mound, leaping with open-mouthed glee into the arms of his pitcher, while their teammates ran toward them, bearing an accompanying mob of ghosts with them to the celebration.
My grandfather is 83 years old. He might have died two days ago, just one day before the Red Sox did the unthinkable. Somehow, the fates that have smiled on us all in this miraculous year did not pass him over, either. He was given another day, and the man who taught the man who taught me to love the Red Sox has seen them find the Promised Land before he shuts his eyes.
Dear God, thank you.
P.S. If you lack a blog and have a WS story you'd like to share with the masses, please email me at [email protected], and I will post your message (provided it's appropriate, of course, but feel free to bombard me with messages that say simply "FUCK YEAH!" too, if you want).