Thursday, October 29, 2015

Forget the Odds and Have Hope

Two Outs, Two Strikes . . .
Where Were You
 Saturday, October 25, 1986?

Silent tears do a slow roll down my cheeks. It’s not 1986. It’s 2015 and the Mets are playing in the World Series this year, the first time since 1986. My tears aren’t because I’m a Cubs fan (or even because the Mets have lost the first two games of this Series). My tears come from my memory of two magic evenings in 1986. I knew little about baseball other than strikes, fouls, and outs. I knew about running the bases and I knew how to read a scoreboard—the simple stuff: Saturday, October 25, 1986, Game Six, Red Sox 5, Mets 3, bottom of the tenth inning, Mets at bat, two outs, two strikes. The Mets would not only lose the game but also the World Series.
I watched my first World Series game on October 25, 1986, but only because the television was on in the suite at Wellington Regional Hospital in West Palm Beach. The Mets were losing, but so were we. My seven-year-old daughter Alexa’s doctors said further treatments for her brain cancer would be futile. I wanted to keep her at home, but her pediatrician insisted we admit her to a hospital where I would have help caring for her during her last days.
When you are in a hospital with someone who is semi-conscious and you have done what little you can to comfort your loved one—body and soul—television can be a welcome distraction. That night, it was, indeed, a distraction.
My then husband Ken was initially immersed in the game. As the game progressed on the TV in the hospital room, I saw him change from subdued to intent, to beside himself with anxiety, curled up like a spring twisted beyond its limits and ready to burst. That—and the final losing minutes of the game—got my attention.
Things looked hopeless for the Mets. Things were hopeless for us. That hopelessness made us kindred spirits. Also, the Mets catcher, Gary Carter, was from Palm Beach Gardens, a bit north of where I lived. Boston’s land of Red Sox, Cheers, and odd accents might as well have been in another galaxy. Curse of the Bambino? What was that?
Red Sox fans who weren’t even alive on October 25, 1986, know what happened that night. When catcher Gary Carter stepped up to bat, I had joined with my husband, rooting for the Mets, but clearly saw that their situation was as dire as the one in which we had existed for the preceding 16 months of Lexie’s illness. I figured the Mets would join us as losers.
While my husband trembled and shook, I said to myself, “The Mets are going to lose. I know they are,” and I felt that loss compound the greater loss we faced. Nonetheless, I continued to watch, my own anxiety creeping to the bursting point. There were two outs, two strikes, and as soon as Gary Carter struck out, the Red Sox would win the series.
But Carter didn’t strike out. He singled. The next batter, Kevin Mitchell hit another single. Then Ray Knight sent Carter past home plate with a single. A wild pitch meant another run, which tied the game. Next, Mookie Wilson hit the ball that rolled through Bill Buckner’s legs. Knight ran past home plate and the Mets won the game.
We jumped up! We clapped! We cheered! We won! We won! We needed that win. It diminished our grief and put a temporary band-aid on the bigger game of life that would not end the way game six or the Series ended—with the Mets World Series champions.
When life is darkest, a glimmer of hope can sustain us, can help us carry on, can help us meet life’s challenges. We lost our major life challenge on November 2, 1986, a short week later, when Alexa died in our arms. But for a few short hours on October 25, 1986, we felt hope, we felt victory, we rejoiced. Because of that, I’ve always felt a special bond with the Mets—a bond that makes me smile, even though a tear or two might join that smile.
I’m not watching the Series this year. I do know that as of today, October 29, 2015, the Mets have lost the first two games. If I were asked to give them some advice, I would say this: Don’t give up hope.
That is my advice to everyone: Don’t give up hope. Even when times are dark, dark, dark, remember to look for a small glimmer of light. It’s there. It might even be on television in a baseball game.

* * * * *

In a rather odd twist of fate, seven years after Alexa died, I moved to Massachusetts. After ten years of living there, I finally became a Red Sox fan. In 2004, I jumped in the air, and clapped, and cheered when they finally did reverse that Curse.