The softening sadness of a brother’s death
So this is what people carry with them.
This is what makes them hard or empathetic. This is what drives them or takes out their legs.
This is what it’s like to wake up and start the day, not sure which will be you.
My oldest brother died five days after Christmas. There were four of us boys. Now there are three.
This is what a slick morning road and an over-steer or under-steer or something does, sending a part of you too toppling sideways in that truck, breaking something in you too that can’t be fixed.
The phone call comes on a par-3 tee box in a moment where the trouble was long or right, when instead it’s on the caller ID, from someone who shouldn’t be calling now, and you just know it’s something you don’t want to know.
“I just got a call from the San Jose Sheriff’s Department …,” and that was that.
Andy was happier and smarter and more adjusted than all of us. And, by the way, a better driver.
We, as a family, didn’t know tragedy. The young are healthy. The old die. The way it’s supposed to work.
For Christmas I’d gotten Andy the seventh season of “House” on DVD. Except that the discs, it turned out, were being sent out one at a time. I wrapped two and told him it would be the gift that keeps on giving, the “House CD of the Every Couple Weeks or So Club,” that I’d send him the rest as they arrived. We’d laughed.
Ten minutes after the call on the eighth tee box, I received an email. The third disc was on its way.
For three days I’ve wondered how it goes from here, for our parents, for Andy’s wife, for the three brothers Andy left.
I’ve studied strangers, frisking them for the pain they bear, which I now share.
Is this what makes their eyes go dull? Is this what makes them hard or empathetic?
And I hope. That Andy is safe. That he’s at peace. That we all can be again.
So, I return to baseball, the diversion everyone else talks about it being, the one I never really needed.
I thought I’d gotten it, that I understood the reasons people clung so tightly to a game they couldn’t touch and then to players they didn’t know and probably never would.
That was before my world spun out, too.
It’s a job and a curiosity and a passion. It’s agents and airports and aux boxes in the freezing rain.
Thankfully, it’s Game 6 in St. Louis, 10 minutes at Torii Hunter’s locker, a beer with Joe Maddon, the top of the ninth at Yankee Stadium.
It’s four years on a book with Jim Abbott, for whom the game was invented.
It’s home, just past midnight, my wife Kelly rousing and asking drowsily, “Who won?” – she not having the slightest notion of who played.
And it will be again.
I’m not sure any of it makes great sense today or if it ever will make sense.
What I do know is that I’ll be pleased to have baseball back, this year more than any. I could use the distraction. We all could, I guess.
Andy was 52, what he’ll be forever. We hardly ever talked about baseball. It wasn’t his game.
He was one of the parts that fit around baseball, that helped frame it for me, that reminded me baseball was not all things to all people, but some things for some people.
Andy would be mad at me for attaching so much to this. He’d be mad that I’ll carry it with me, the way those other people carry their burdens.
But, I’m one of them now – unsure, happy for what I had, sad for what I’ve lost, hopeful for what’s next.
So, for him, I think I’ll choose empathy. I think he’d like that.