“You can observe a lot by watchin’.”Yogi Berra
I was going through a tough time. In retrospect, it sounds like an insensitive thing to say. There are people who have no job and nowhere to stay for the night, and I was a physician who had a busy practice and good health to spare. Yet… I was going through an acrimonious divorce. I had three daughters who were understandably resentful that their lives had been turned upside down. I found out how expensive it was to pay for two homes; two phone bills; two and sometimes three of everything.
Most of all, I considered myself a failure. The privileged child who had found school and medicine so easy to grasp had to face the fact that personal talent does not assure success in life. How had I gotten myself in this situation?
The best life advice, at any time, is to get over today the best way you can. I understood this on a conscious level, but I kept thinking about my future. How do I make sure that this does not happen again? Is there something wrong with me? Will I ever be happy with a mate?
There should be a law that severely punishes anyone who starts dating soon after (or before) a divorce is final. It is highly advisable to be alone for a few months. Take care of yourself; do your own cooking; pay your own bills; understand that the world does not end if you lack intimacy for more than a week. Our society is not set up this way. Most people venture out into dating quickly, as if to convince themselves that the sooner that they can rectify past poor choices, the more successful they will be. As if time were a-wasting. Being a man who hates to ask for or follow directions, I started to see a few women.
Good people; all of them. There was nothing “wrong”” with any of them. It’s just that I kept getting this feeling that we were auditioning for each other. That they were not getting to see, or understand, who I was. And vice versa. With one exception. My nurse and office manager acted like herself, probably because we had known each other for years, and it would have looked deceitful had we tried to become an alternative soul after 6PM.
It is a horrible idea to date people that you work with. In Spanish there is a saying about not pooping on the same table that you eat. It is an even greater infraction to become intimate with someone who responds to you at work. So that is exactly what I did. There was a large part of me that told me that this was not an even playing field for her. Yet I persisted. Of course, I had doubts, but things were going so well that I tried to ignore them. I felt very relaxed in her presence.
Several months passed, and I was still uncertain. Something had to be wrong; there had to be a hidden character trait that would prove to be poisonous. I just had not seen it yet. Baseball season came around, and I asked her to go to a game with me.
For those who do not know me: I am Puerto Rican. 99% of Puerto Rican babies learn how to say “ball” and “hit” long before they say “mama.” The few who start out by blabbering “papa” are immediately referred to a pediatrician before it is too late to correct their behavior. To make matters worse, I live in Saint Louis, a city whose inhabitants believe that Stan Musial had divine powers. My first wife could not tell a bunt from a sac fly. I understood that this was not the reason that we could not get along, but who knows?
She wore jeans, and sneakers, and a Cardinals cap. Check. She sat in her seat and immediately put her feet up on the chair in front of her. Check. She ordered a beer, and then another one. Check. It was a well-pitched game. When a Cardinals player stroked the first hit of the game, she let out a loud “Yeah!” at the same time that she stood up and clapped her hands. Check. Then came the whistle: loud; shrill; the kind that can pierce your eardrums. I have never been able to learn how to whistle. In an instant I knew that this was THE turning point.
“Will you marry me?”
There have been thousands of games since then. Even when we are behind by seven runs in the bottom of the ninth, she is there with me. Together with the sneakers, the beer, and the whistles. A few years ago, I got her one of those expensive Cardinals shirts (Yadi’s, of course) for her birthday. It was received with more emotion than if I had given her a diamond ring. When a player from Triple A is promoted to The Show, she knows that this guy was not there yesterday.
“Who is this guy?”
Our new outfielder.
“Is he from the Minors?”
Yes, he was tearing it up in Memphis.
I do not think that this is why he got called up.
“I like his butt. He has a nice butt. Reminds me of Tommy Herr.”
You say that about all of them.
“I do not know why it is. Baseball players are cute and have nice butts. I wonder why.”
If he cannot hit a slider his butt will not help him. Let us hope that he can adapt.
“He’s still cute.”
Yesterday our long-delayed season got under way. Peace and wafts of magic are in the air. We have hope. For three hours there is nothing wrong with the world. Almost forty years later, we sit in front of the TV and we feel that time has not touched us. That the choice that we made that long ago was, without a doubt, the best thing that ever happened to us.