Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Of Fathers, Sons, Baseball and Healing

That little boy in the picture is my 6 1/2-year old son Matthew; the photo was taken this past Saturday on the Bronx campus of Fordham University at an alumni baseball event. Matthew is an absolute baseball junkie. He eats, breathes, sleeps and lives baseball. His first words in the morning are very often "Dad, did the Red Sox win last night?" When I told him earlier in the week that we were going to a baseball-related event at the school on Saturday he immediately wanted to know if he could wear his uniform and bring his bat and glove.

Just the idea alone that I was back at Fordham is probably cause for a raised eyebrow or two. I called the school "home" for five years but since graduating in the late 70's I have not exactly been the Poster Boy For Universitas Fordhamensis Alumni and in fact it was probably the first time I have been back on the campus in a decade. Suffice it to say that certain university policies both during and after my time as a student have not always met with my approval.

That said, there's always been a rather big connection between my family and Fordham. My Dad came home from the war and after working for Pennsylvania Power & Light for a few years enrolled in the school and graduated in 1954. A large number of cousins on both sides of my family went there as well. And truth be told, I brought Matthew's two older sisters along on Saturday with the hope that 17-year old Courtney would take one look at the campus (which has always been beautiful) and say, "Dad, I think I might like to go to college here."

Matthew knows little about Fordham other than it's in the Bronx near the zoo and both his Daddy and his grandfather went there. He is completely unaware of my rather tumultuous relationship with my own father while I was in college or the myriad of medical malfunctions my body was going through at the time (Doctor to me during my post-lottery military physical - "Son, don't worry about the draft. It would cost the Army too much to fix you up."). The surgical scars on my knee are visible but as you probably know from your own personal experiences, it's the invisible scars that often are more painful and take longer to heal.

So there Matthew and I were on Saturday - on the same field where my Dad and I, his only son, once walked around. "Want to have a catch, Dad?" I often wonder how many times I asked my Dad that question as a kid and now here was the spitting image of that man - albeit a miniature version - standing there asking the same question of me. I called my wife and told her that she wouldn't believe the range of emotions rushing through me while Matthew and I were working on his circle change (how many 6-year olds have a circle change?). And as he and I stood there on an exquisitely beautiful autumn Saturday afternoon playing catch ("Let's use a hard ball, Dad."), Fordham almost felt like home again.

Thanks, Matthew. Your grandfather would be so proud of you. I know that I am.

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