Down But Not Out

Yesterday little Dorothy turned two. And because of this stupid pandemic, I couldn’t go to the party. I couldn’t hold her in my lap. I couldn’t smell her hair, fresh and sweet scented. And, gosh-darn, I couldn’t even have cake. Which is an extreme disappointment to know that 90 miles from right where I’m sitting, people I know and love were eating cake and I wasn’t there to do my part.

This is a big disappointment to me. I haven’t been this disappointed since I had the mumps and had to stay home while Mama and my sister got to go see Elvis in Blue Hawaii. Elvis movies were a big deal. The girls thought he was dreamy. The guys thought he was cool. Elvis is just driving along or sitting on the front porch, and the next thing you know he’s singing with that silky-smooth voice of his.

We had been waiting on this movie for weeks, I guess. Maybe months. We’d go to Griffin to buy groceries, or to run by Woolworth’s 5 and Dime. And just down the street was the theater with the big marque, “Coming Soon. Elvis in Blue Hawaii.”

Hawaii. Now, that sounded like a place I’d like to see. Blue Hawaii. Exotic palms and beaches. We had a black and white TV, so it was hard for me to imagine what a blue Hawaii might look like. You had to go to the theater to see something like that. And I was looking forward to it.

But, no, I had to get sick. I had to stay home. I can still see Mama and my sister walking out the front door. I was lying on the living room couch. How could they leave me behind?

Mama tried to console me. “You’ll get a chance to go later.”

I didn’t want to go later. I wanted to go now. The picture is not completely clear in my head. I could be wrong about this detail. But it sounds like something she would do. As they walked out, my sister looked back one last time, scrunched up her face and stuck out her tongue. It was her way of sympathizing with my overwhelming disappointment.

If the truth be told, there is a cloud of disappointment in general that has been moving in from the horizon for some time now. A lot of you have missed birthday cake because you felt like you couldn’t go and be safe or keep others safe from the virus. Funerals have been attended by only enough to fit in one car on the way to the cemetery. Graduations were canceled. Celebrations have been postponed indefinitely. Vacation plans have been ruined. Professional sports have taken a dive in the toilet.

Disappointment everywhere.

We were flipping channels late yesterday and as I went by ESPN, SportsCenter was on, and I commented to my wife, “You know, I have no idea how long it’s been since I watched any sports news, but it’s been months now.”

I’ve been so disappointed that there’s no baseball. No Braves games. No trips to little Disney-Sun-Trust-New-Name-Park to spend a small fortune on a game and all the pre-game stuff and marketing stuff and food-park stuff and that cap that I bought last year, the one that I have worn only one time. Though I’ve never caught a foul ball or a home run in the stands, I always think this could be the day. I love the sound of the game. I love the incredible colors of green and brown on the field.

Actually, I have caught myself wondering what it would be like if baseball never came back.

Oh, I tried to hang in there for a while. I’d check every morning, while the coffee was brewing, to see if there was any hope that baseball might be alive. The owners were blaming the pandemic. The players were crying that they were only going to make a quarter of their 37-million-dollar contract.

Then they started showing Korean baseball in the early morning time slot. I wouldn’t want any nice folk to take this the wrong way. It’s not that I think anyone in Korea is reading this, anyway. But since I feel so strongly about this, I want to put a disclaimer in right about here. Take this as the words of a disappointed baseball fan. This could be just the reaction of a distraught and loyal fan of anything Phil Niekro and Hank Aaron. Here goes.

“I couldn’t give a flying-rats-behinder-part about Korean baseball.”

Watching Korean baseball would be like showing up at some house that has balloons on the front porch and a big Happy Birthday sign on the door. I don’t know who these people are. They evidently think I’m a lost Uncle from Tupelo. There’s some cute, dolled-up 2 year old sitting at the table wearing a pointy birthday hat. She’s not Dorothy, but she’ll do. Any old birthday party will do. Right?

Wrong. I’m disappointed, but I’m not desperate or indifferent.

This is one of the reasons I’m not choosing to move to a different country right now. We just celebrated the most patriotic day for America on the entire calendar, and we celebrated it in the midst of one of the more disappointing seasons of our history. Cities on fire. Divisiveness ruining our spirit.

I don’t think I’ve ever been more disappointed in politics. I’m disappointed in the hatred that rules our cities. I’m disappointed at all the words of unkindness and mean spiritedness. People who do not know each other ripping each other apart. And, I know I’m extremely disappointed in the behavior of those who cannot seem to tell the difference between liberties born out of freedom and demands born out of selfishness.

I know I sound like an old goat, but what is this world coming to?

The temptation when disappointed is to get cynical. As in, “I don’t need no stinking birthday party anyway.” Or, “Baseball is for kids. It’s just a stupid game.” Or, “America, who needs this crap? I’m ready to move to New Zealand.”

Well, I’ll tell you who needs it. I need it. I need America. I need baseball. And I darn sure need birthday parties with my own granddaughter. I don’t need any of these things like I need air or water or food. But to be whole, to be complete, to be human with any sense of joy and satisfaction and meaning, I need these things. In order to feel like some pandemic is not completely ruining my life, I’ll take a ballgame any day of the week.

Disappointment does not mean that you give up. Disappointment does not mean that you jump ship. Disappointment does not define everything about life and how one lives it.

I hear that there might be a Party #2 coming up. A pandemic do-over just for Grandpa and Nana. I’ll be there. And if they decide to play baseball again. I’ll be there, too. And here’s hoping that next July is not so crazy as this one. Either way, I’m planning on being at a party eating cake with Dorothy.

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