tagNon-EroticThank You Lord

Thank You Lord


The call came around 8:15pm as I was making my way up I55 to Memphis from New Orleans. I was just approaching Jackson, MS, the only city of any consequence along my route when the call came. Not wanting to juggle a cell phone while driving in traffic, I had to turn on my Bluetooth headset and call my sister back.

Answering on the first ring, Jenny, my older sister by six years, dispensed with any formalities and announced, "Dad tripped and broke his hip."

My first thought was "Oh crap, 89 years old and he breaks his hip. That can't be good." My next thought was "The way he has been stumbling around for the past five or six years, I'm surprised he didn't break it sooner!"

Dad, as he moved into his 80's, had become increasingly unsteady on his feet. We jokingly referred to him as Fred Sanford after Red Foxx's television character. As he aged, Dad walking gait had morphed increasingly into shuffle. Along with the shuffle came the increase in trips and falls due to Dad's loss of balance. Couple all that with his refusal to use the cane we had bought him, it was only a matter of time before something serious happened. And now it had.

I told my sister that I would be arriving in Memphis around Midnight and would immediately start for St Louis, where they were located. She told me that was fine but not to kill myself getting up there because the earliest surgery could be scheduled wouldn't be until later in the afternoon. With that I hung-up and called my company to let them know about the situation and that I would need some time off. There were no problems on that end.

It's funny the things you think about when you're driving late at night all by yourself. That night found me thinking about an incident that had occurred over fifty years previous.

I was thirteen at the time. I had a baseball game that evening. It was the top half of the second inning and I was due up second. As I stood in the on-deck circle, I kept glancing to the parking lot to see if he had arrived. Then it was my turn at bat. I walked up to the batter's box taking my time to smooth the ground and the dig in my foot holds, all the time checking the stands to see if he had arrived.

Finally, the umpire looked at me and said, "Come on son, batter up!"

I looked back at the ump, nodded to him, looked back one more time and stepped into the batter's box. I looked out at the pitcher and taking my stance, waited for his first pitch. He wound up and threw a curveball ball that started at my head and broke low and outside. The pitch buckled my knees and I made an awkward swing at the ball. Strike one.

I backed out of the box and looked to the stands to see if he had arrived, still not seeing any sign of him. I took a couple of practice swings and then smoothed out the dirt in the box - again, and dug in - again. All the time, I kept glancing over my shoulder for him, not finding him. The umpire was losing patience with me and finally snapped "Come on batter, play ball!"

Getting back in to the box and looking out at the pitcher, I watched as he threw a fast ball right down the middle of the plate. Strike two.

I stepped out of the box and glanced out at the crowd, still nothing. At this point my manager, noticing how distracted I was, called time. I walked back to the dugout and he proceeded to chew me out for not concentrating on my at-bat. I finally woke up and realized I couldn't worry about him, I needed to worry about what I had control over.

Going back out to the plate, I stepped into the batter's box with a new sense of purpose. Tapping my bat on the plate I peered out at the pitcher. As I settled into my stance, my focus sharpened and narrowed. The noise of the crowd diminished and faded to nothing. My field of vision narrowed and focused first on the pitcher and then sharpened down to the ball. The pitcher wound up and tried to throw his curveball again. However, this time instead of breaking sharply down and away, the ball hung out over the plate. It was strange, but because of my focus, the ball seemed to be coming to the plate in slow motion and as it got closer and closer, seemed to get bigger and bigger until it appeared to me to be the size of a beach ball.

I swung and at the crack of the bat knew I had made perfect contact. The ball sailed out toward dead center field, rising as it went. The center fielder could only turn and watch as the ball cleared the center field fence by a good twenty-five feet. A home run! My first ever!

As I rounded first base the first base coach high fived me and the first baseman acknowledged me by saying "Nice hit, Jeff." As I rounded second base I happened to glance out toward the left field corner and saw him next to his car, jumping up and down, waving his arms and screaming at the top of his lungs. I smiled, he had made it.

Coming around third base, I pointed to the sky and said a little prayer of thanks and then pumped my fist. The whole team met me at home as I crossed the plate. I was drowned under the weight of my teammates all trying to slap my back or shake my hand. But the real celebration was taking place out in the left field corner where he continued to dance around in circles in his business suit fresh from his last meeting of the day.

Thinking about that special moment as I drove through the night, I had to wipe my eyes just so I could see the road before me. I played and/or coached baseball for more than thirty years and that moment was one of my two of three most vivid memories.

I got to my sister's house around 7am and after getting a quick shower, we hurried over to the hospital. Dad was resting comfortably, thanks in large part to the pain medications he received. We got to visit with him for a little while until he was wheeled away to be prepped for surgery. Jenny and I went down to the cafeteria to get a bite to eat and catch up on what was going on in each other's lives. As Jenny lived in the St Louis area and I lived in the Memphis area, we didn't get to see each other as often as we wanted. So, when we did get together, we tended to hone in on each other to the exclusion of everyone and everything else. It was no surprise therefore that when the nurse came to get us to meet with the doctor post-surgery, that the intervening three hours felt like fifteen minutes.

The doctor said that all had gone well with the operation and that Dad was back in his room although still heavily sedated. He did say that we could go in and see Dad for a few minutes if we wanted. We wanted.

I looked down at my eighty-nine-year-old father sleeping peacefully in the hospital bed. Again, that sharpening focus came upon me. Miscellaneous hospital noise faded away. Intravenous tubes and heart monitors faded out of sight as my field of vision narrowed down to my Dad's face. I was struck how, that while he was sleeping the years seemed to fade from his face. Lines and age spots seemed to disappear.

Recalling that moment from so long ago, I looked up toward the ceiling and repeated the little prayer I had uttered as I had rounded third base all those years ago, "Thank you lord for my Dad."

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byJeff_Thomas© 3 comments/ 2625 views/ 0 favorites

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