Kevin liked baseball.
Kevin liked movies.
Kevin liked baseball movies.
On hot summer evenings, if the Yankees weren’t playing on TV, we’d pop in a baseball movie. On cool late autumn nights, when the Yankees weren’t in the Series, we’d still watch the games, but sometimes alternate with a movie. We had our favorites: For the Love of the Game. Fever Pitch. Field of Dreams. A League of Their Own. The Natural. We watched them over and over and laughed at the same parts and cried at the hard parts and I cried more when it all turned out okay in the end. Quotes from the movies were our shorthand, the way we talked to each other.
They also became a way we dealt with cancer.
When we spent a long day at chemo and he’d been poked and poisoned and sent home with more to drip through his body, and tubing was attached to him and hanging from him, he’d give a feeble laugh as I steered him through the house and tucked him into bed. He’d sink into his pillow and as I arranged tubing and blankets, he’d ask me, ”What if my face was all scraped off and I was totally disfigured and had no arms and legs and I was completely paralyzed. Would you still love me?” knowing that I’d come back with, “No. But we could still be friends.” And we’d laugh and the heartache of dealing with cancer would fade for a minute because we couldn’t imagine a time when we wouldn’t love each other. Especially when the cancer made us love each other even more.
And when the chemo racked his body weekend after weekend and he was exhausted from fighting cancer and his mind got stuck in the dark places and he felt like he couldn’t go on, I’d tell him, “You just throw whatever you got, whatever’s left. The boys are all here for you. We’re gonna be awesome for you right now!” And he knew that I was there, that I was going to fight with him and hold him and hug him until the darkness went away.
And when the first chemo stopped working and the cancer came back, and it was hateful and vengeful because it hated us for fighting it, and the oncologist told us about a different protocol, we took a deep breath and said, “A new season. A clean slate. Yep, this smells like the year.” Only it never was the year. As hard as Kevin fought, he could never make the cancer go completely away. But he tried. Oh, did he try.
When he’d regain his appetite after a round of chemo and I’d fix him some deep dish pizza or a French silk pie – anything to get some food into him – he’d take a bite and I’d giggle as he exaggerated his delight with the flavor. “Is this heaven?” he’d grin at me. “No, it’s Iowa,” I’d smirk back. And the house was full of laughter and we could breathe hope and it felt like there really was enough magic in the moonlight to make our dreams of beating cancer come true.
So he fought and he tried and we loved but sometimes the answer to a prayer isn’t “Yes” but it’s “No” and now the World Series is on, but the Yankees aren’t playing, and it’s hard for me this year and it turns out there IS crying in baseball. The memories are swirling around me and I should be pulling out a baseball movie to watch because that’s what we do, because baseball goes on, and life goes on.
But I can’t, because it’s hard to go on without Kevin. I just want him back. So much.
But I also know what he wants. He wants me to keep swinging. He wants me to watch and wait and take a swing at this curveball life’s thrown. He wants me to hit it and curve toward joy and watch happy and delight and hope round the bases and head toward home.
So, okay, Kev. This one’s for you.
(Quotes from For Love of the Game, Fever Pitch, and Field of Dreams)