Thursday, February 21, 2013

Conversations

Not long ago, in search of some document or publication or other, you came by accident across a sheaf of correspondence between you and your big sister, written when you were living in Mexico City, trying among other things to wean yourself away from a career in television that you'd found not to your expectations or liking.

You were hard at a novel, which you were growing more and more devoted to, happy to be away from Los Angeles, happy to experience the enormous energy of Mexico City, which seemed to you then to have even greater potential for eccentricities and discovery than your areas of operation in California.

This energy seemed to resonate through your written conversations with your sister.  You'd always felt close to her.  Even though she was seven years older, you'd reached the point of a hearty sense of peer respect.

This caused you to recall your letters to your mother and hers to you during the time, filled on your part with descriptions of places and people you'd thought to be of interest to her.  Her letters to you had to do with motherly concerns for a son away from home.  Eat well.  Drink only bottled water.  Make sure the milk is pasteurized.

You did not correspond directly with your father, nor he with you, yet you felt a deep abiding love for him and were aware of his concerns for you.  Before, during, and after your long venture into Mexico, the communication between you and Jake was most often non-verbal, or with you making some sort of Greek chorus description of a problem that perplexed you, a project that excited you, or your confiding some broken dream that needed repair.

Jake's responses were supportive but the substance was invariably his presence rather than some long platitude.  "Just because you're getting good, try not to stop growing."  "Be whatever you want, but give it more than you thought you had."  You could almost see them coming, then came the good part.  He'd sit with you, watching you.  He'd touch you.  He'd offer you a cigar.  He'd say, "Let's go to a ball game."

Baseball was his favorite.  For years, Sunday double headers at the now vanished Gilmore Field, home of the Hollywood Stars of the then Pacific Coast League.  Sometimes, he'd appear to whisk you across town to Forty-second and Avalon, and Wrigley Field, a replica of the Chicago Cubs home field in south central L.A., home of the rival to the Hollywood Stars, the L.A. Angels.  They weren't the Stars, but it was baseball, and it was time with him.

"What's a ball game without a hot dog?"

"Time for peanuts, right?"  And he's let out a shrill whistle to the peanut vendor, ten, fifteen rows down, and suddenly you'd see the sack of peanuts flashing through the air, headed right at you.

Sometimes, you'd be aware of him wanting to say something or ask you something.  "You think this is all about baseball, all these years?"

No, you didn't think that.

Later, well into his eighties, and shortly after a successful surgery to remove a small tumor, he drove to Santa Barbara to visit.  "Made a decision,"  he said.  "Radiation.  One, maybe two shots,  Just to make sure.  Wanted you to know."

"Do you really need it?"

He smiled.  "Who knows. Gotta figure Maybe yes, maybe no.  The way I look at it, I beat the cancer.  Was Stage 4.  All gone. That's like the dealer is showing twenty and I had seventeen, so I had to take a hit.  So maybe I'm on a roll.  Why quit now? "

The radiation created more problems than it solved.  For the next five years, our ball games were on TV; he had to stick pretty close to home.

In many ways, you were having a conversation with him when, after your own run-in with cancer, you shook off chemotherapy.

There are many ways to be with people if you care about them.

Post a Comment