Today I invoke the the energy and spirit of one of the biggest Tigers fans I know, my stepdad, Jim Younger, who is currently in the throes of battling a failing liver at a hospital in Midland, Michigan. Not for that energy to move the team from Detroit to victory, but so that this selfsame fan gets a needed home run of his own. So I fly now, home, to Tigers country, in the hopes that the doctors and nurses can figure out what the hell needs to be done to save his life.
And here I find myself hoping that he’s coherent enough to watch tonight’s game, no doubt another nailbiter, as the Bengals’ ace, Justin Verlander, tries to stop the offensive combine known as the Texas Rangers.
I hope we can watch this game because I know that would make Jim a happy guy. He’s a tremendous sports fan, mostly for baseball (where he’s got the type of mind that can recall how Bill Freehan hit in 1965), but also for that most disastrous of franchises, the Detroit Lions. Jim could stand some great baseball, to take his mind off the pain, off the weakness, off the sheer terror and numbing boredom that is a lengthy hospital stay.
Jim’s been a part of our lives for over 35 years. He and my Mom got together in 1975, lived together in 1980, were married in 1991. As a stepdad, he had to suffer the sometimes chilly reception my brother and I gave the new guy. But Jim’s about the most outgoing human being I’ve ever met, and John and I came to welcome him into the wobbly family circle pretty quickly.
There are a few stepfathers playing catch with a certain son (me, not John.) He helped me try and become a little league pitcher, knew how to turn me into a moderately successful banjo hitter, and loved to watch the Tigers play, any time and any where.
So baseball will help tonight–maybe. Maybe it won’t. He’s out of it now, thanks to that gimpy liver, coming in and out of coherency, at times perfectly lucid, at times belligerent. Baseball doesn’t necessarily become more important, in and of itself–it becomes wonderful, amazing, a tremendous help, if that’s what’s successful. If Jim decides he’d rather jump into a Two and a Half Men marathon, that becomes today’s savior.
But I’m guessing he’ll want to know about the game. He’ll want to talk about Verlander’s successes or mistakes. He’ll tell us about how Don Kelly can be frustrating, how great Leyland is, how much he admires Austin Jackson. Like my Dad, felled by stroke, who could invoke tales of Shakespeare out the fog that swirled in his mind, perhaps the Detroit Tigers will be that magic lighthouse of his mind, calling the ship of consciousness to safe shores.
No candles lit tonight, the jersey left unpacked, a Tigers hat my only charm. Today, there’s more important games that need my mojo, my concentration, and my love.