| We stood face to face trembling from unknown possibilities when my vision slowly began to dim. Officers in a crisis have often described the narrowing of sight as tunnel vision, a complete focus on one important subject. I recall the faint sound of a television in another room keeping itself occupied in my absence. The burning in my throat was no doubt a reaction to the acid churning in my stomach. I wondered when its contents would attempt an escape. Despite the surreal moment, I actually perceived the world like I never had before. I was deep inside myself looking through the eyes of a stranger with all the curiosity of an innocent bystander. The pressure was towering as if it could fold me like a paper doll. In an instant, my wife would walk out the door forever. But she didn’t leave yet. There was something…something she was waiting for me to say. No, that’s not exactly right. She was waiting for something I haven’t shown her. I felt all the pain of my young life in a span of minutes and I still couldn’t bring myself to do what without words she was begging me to do. What stopped me? Forgive me for getting ahead of myself. Allow me to take you further back.
Like many boys in the neighborhood my passion was baseball. The sensation of slippery grass under my shoes and the give of a baseball as its propelled by the force of a bat thrilled me. The moment of absolute pride as I round the bases in triumph. For me it was a time to be a man years before the weight of manhood would turn my outlook in another direction. In 1988, my baseball team made it to the championship game. As destiny would have it, my bat alone held the fate of our entire season. All of my focus was trained on the release point of the pitcher. My lips were dry and my heart was pounding as I allowed strike three to pass by me in a blur. My legs went to rubber as the real world crept back in. I followed my father blindly to the car as the other team cheered with exhilaration. I purposely sat myself in the backseat of my father’s car to avoid talking to him. It didn’t work! He threw clichés at me like, “You’ll get’em next time ” or the always comforting, “you played good” I knew better. Before the first wheel turn of the car I was crying. At first it was only a gentle weep, but it soon progressed into a complete breakdown.
I thought of my teammates that I let down and the hours of work that I put into the season. And most of all I thought of my father who at the time worked third shift and gave up endless hours of sleep to practice with me. Not to mention the cheering section he provided for me at every game no matter how tired he was. I cried for all those reasons and mostly for my own failure. I guess I was unaware of the strength of my outburst. I can’t be sure how much time had passed before I realized myself, all I’m sure of was that my father parked the car and was now facing me in the front seat. “What is wrong with you boy?” I shook my head as tears streamed down my cheek. “You did your best out there. Now stop pissing out your eyes like a little girl!” With that said I furiously wiped at my face and cleared my throat. “When you feel like crying son, tuck that deep inside you. You’ll be stronger for it.” My father turned back toward the wheel as I gathered my composure. I should’ve known better than to cry in front of him. No sooner has we pulled into a driveway than my heart began to harden.
I can imagine what you must think of my father after hearing this. Yet he deserves our pity, he has mine. A couple years after that championship game, my grandfather died suddenly of heart failure. I watched my father stand next to the casket of a man that was everything to him, as my father is to me. And now I can’t help but to wonder what lessons were taught to my dad as he watched his hero lay still with no trace of emotion escaping his gaze. He was in pain, that much was clear. To what extent will never be known to me. It will always be trapped inside him forever. His burden to bear alone.
And now many years later my wife was searching for a trace of emotion from me. A glimpse of regret, or a sigh of discontentment. I felt everything and showed nothing. We finished our last conversation in a way that now seems as melodic as a pianist pounding out notes to a song unrecognizable to the ear. To this day I’m not sure what was said between us but I am clear to every meaning behind the words. The misery of things left unsaid. When she finally left, I walked along the streets for hours not quite sure where I was going. My feet were guiding me like they had a life of their own. I didn’t look up until I found myself standing in front of my parent’s door. I wasn’t aware of ringing the door, but it opened nonetheless. My father greeted and ushered me into the house. I wasn’t sure why I was there, or if I should be. I avoided my father’s gaze as I asked how he was doing. “Look at me son.” I slowly made eye contact with him. “Everything’s gonna be okay.” With that I broke down crying. He swept me into his arms and held me tight. My tears had no shame in it. “Let it out son.” And I did. I cried for my lost emotions of childhood, and for my relationships that have withered before their time. But above all, I cried for my father who could never cry for himself.