Friday, April 28, 2006

My last semester of college was the fall of 1982. That sounds so long ago. Until the last few years it seemed like yesterday. Not anymore. Now it feels like an eternity ago. I suppose that has to do with the life events of the last couple of years. I recall thinking at the turn of the millinimum I felt like I was about thirty years old when, in reality, I was forty-four. That was six years ago. Now I am fifty and I feel seventy. It is amazing what a mere six years can do.

But that is not the point.

After nine years of college (4 majors and countless minor's) I was finishing up with a flourish. I was within days of being done. I felt like I was finishing a marathon. I suppose I was in a sense. That was when the head of the psychology department sought me out and asked me if I would return for what was called the "Jam Term." That is a two week class where you receive full credits because you attend all day, five days each week. He wanted me to take a new class he was going to teach on "The Interpretation of Dreams." I did not have much tact in those days. I laughed. I hope it was not a disrecpectful laugh. I just found it hilarious that anyone would suggest that I spend one more day in a classroom after all of those days at Trinity. Not to mention all of those checks representing all of those dollars. I pretty much paid my own way through college. I worked full time in factories or stores. Whatever it took to be able to pay tuition. And I was married with a two year old little girl. No way I was sticking around one more day or writing one more check.

Now I kind of wish that I had.

It's just that I keep having these dreams. I cannot call it a re-occuring dream because it is always different. The "star" is always the same though. My dad. He's always very real and very involved in these dreams. He is just like he was in the good years before he passed away in June of 2000. Sometimes in the dream I realize that he is dead and should not be here and yet I am never really surprised. Sometimes I don't realize that he died and so it isn't that odd to see him. But always he looks just like he did in his older but healthier days. He is wearing his infamous red flannel shirt and blue jeans. He is tanned because he spent most of his time out doors on his boat or washing his car or cutting firewood for the coming winter. These dreams don't have any real common denominator other than his presence. There isn't any pent-up anger dying to get out or any huge confession. No tears or inordinate amounts of laughter. He is just ... there.

So I kind of wish that I had taken that class. I don't think I am a stupid guy. There is not a day that goes by that somebody does not ask my opinion about a subject or for counsel in a situation. So I must not be too dense. But I really don't get why I went over five years with virtually no dreams and then all of the sudden ... BAM. Dad is everywhere. I mean my mom has only been gone since September of 2004 and I am not dreaming about her. Sure, I miss her. But I had some great years to love on her before God called her number. Maybe that is what it is. Maybe I never got those years with my dad and I'm trying to subconsciously create them now. Hmmm. I really don't know. But here it is, about midnight, and time to stop writing and go to sleep. Tomorrow is Saturday. I have a wedding to perform for a wonderful friend. She is in her mid-sixties and has lost two husbands. And she is as giddy about marrying her third as any twenty year old is about marrying her first. I just love that. There is life in her. Wait. Let me retype that. There is LIFE in her. Sometimes all "caps" are called for.

I hope dad doesn't show up tonight. It is not that I don't love him or miss him. I do. Very much. I just haven't figured it out and I'm finding myself spending too much time on things that remind me of him. I was in a military surplus store this week. While there I stumbled upon their display of pins and patches. Several struck me immediately as things my father had saved. Relics from his time served in the army during WWII. I bought them. One is a "C.I.B." or "combat infantry badge." The other two are symbolic of the second armored division "Hell on Wheels" in which he served. I have one of his original dog-tags. My brother has the other. We did not seperate them from the same chain until dad finally died. That's the way it works for a soldier. Dog tags only get seperated at death. I've been wearing his lately. He sweat on that piece of steel while in Africa, Europe, and even in Germany itself. It pressed against his chest. Now it presses against mine. His warfare was of a physical nature. Mine is of a spiritual nature. Lot's of similarities. Little time to dwell on them.

I wonder if my dad is in my "great cloud of witnesses." If he is I hope he's wondering if maybe he can have one of my dog tags someday. The ones that identify me as a combatant in "the church militant." Right now he could have anything he wants. I am proud of him. And the missing of him intensifies with time rather than fades. I did not think it worked that way. But then ... I didn't take the class.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Tonight I scored one for the "visiting team." And the "visiting team" was not even the team that was visiting. Allow me to explain.

I am a genius. Yes, an evil genius. But a genius none the less.

I attended my first ball game tonight at the new Busch Stadium in St. Louis. The hometeam, the team I hate second most in life (after the M-M-M-Mets. Sorry. I have trouble even saying their name.) the St. Louis Cardinals, were playing the Pittsburgh Pirates. I could care less about the Pirates. But they were, after all, playing the Cardinals. I had to cheer for them by default. I was obligated. Still, my hate for the Cardinals is a relatively good natured hate. I don't want their plane to crash or their players to contract diseases. I just want them to lose baseball games. I want them to live happy lives. Most of them seem, from a spectator's viewpoint, to be good guys. I wish them no ill will. Most of my very best friends cheer for them. And I generally want my friends to be happy. I just ... well ... I just want their baseball team to lose. And I want it really badly.

On the other hand I want my baseball team to win. My first team is the Chicago Cubs. My other team is the Chicago White Sox. It has always been that way for me. Until recently I could cheer for them both with equal fervor. Nobody challanged my right to do so and nobody cared. But now that we have inter-league play they battle each other every year. And so I had to make a decision. It was an easy one. I am, first and foremost, without apology or exception ... a Chicago Cubs fan. If the Cubs and the Sox play each other I wear blue. At all other times I love them both with passion. I grew up attending baseball games at old Comiskey Park. My dad would not even consider driving to Wrigley Field. It was/is on the "other" side of the city. The north side. And as every south sider knows, the north side streets are virtually unnavigable. So when dad took me to a ballgame it was to see the White Sox. They are the very first team I ever saw in person. But the Cubs were on TV and I absolutely fell in love with them. I can still tell you the entire batting order and uniform numbers from the 1969 Cubs. That was a particularly painful year.

I don't want to talk about it.

And then last year happened. I predicted it in April. My honest friends will tell you that is true. The White Sox won the World Series. They did it in amazing fashion. I was delirious. I still am. Cardinal fans think I cheated because I cheered for the Sox rather than crying for the Cubs. Coming from a cow-town they have no idea what it's like to have two teams to cheer for. So their opinions, well, their opinions don't count. They are uninformed. Still, they are my friends. I love them and I am obligated to torment them.

That brings us to tonight. I was sitting in my seat with one of my best friends next to me. Our wives were present. As we all sat and chatted on this cold April night I noticed something that was new to me. One of the electronic scoreboards in this new stadium was flashing personal messages. And then it flashed the news that if I dialed a particular number on my cell phone I could type in a text message and it would appear on this board for a mere $2.99 at which time about 35,000 Cardinal fans would see it. And I knew that I had many Cardinal fan friends in the stadium. I knew what I must do. It was one of those things that just sings it's way into your head. It was a given. I excused myself to go to the hot dog stand or the rest room ... can't remember which because I did both. But what I really did was brilliant. We geniuses do brillant things that usually go unnoticed. But this time I struck gold. I sent a text message to that electronic board that said, "Go White Sox!" My bank account shrunk by $2.99. It was possibly the best $2.99 I have ever spent. I made my way back to my seat. It took about thirty minutes and then there it was. In all of its glory. I stayed quiet. About the third time it rotated through either my wife or my friends saw it and called my attention to it. I laughed. I cheered. I admitted nothing. And then my phone started ringing. Three sets of friends all called me from other locations in the stadium accusing me of doing this dastardly deed. I stuck with my time tested motto... "deny, deny, deny." They all bought it. Hook line and sinker. It was not until my wife and I were getting into our Explorer to drive home that I confessed. First I admitted my act of baseball terrorism to her and then to my friends by phone. Oh my! I could actually hear them gnash their teeth across the cell towers and through our skinny little antenna's. It was wonderful! My only regret is that the game ended before I could send my next text message. It was simply going to say, "October. White Sox VS. Cardinals. Sox in 4." As a famous St. Louis sportscaster used to say, "Ya gotta love it!"

Oh, if you happen to look at the pictures at the top of this blog you'll see my sign waaaay across the stadium. You can't read it due to the distance but trust me ... it was perfect! You'll also see the pin I wore on my chest tonight. It is my own personal Cardinal's logo for 2006. And can you believe that I actually bought it in the Cardinal's gift shop!? Like I said ... Ya gotta love it!