Gifts

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On Friday, I talked a bit about my mother-in-law and the life she led. We were lucky to see her as often as we did, with her traveling to us by bus or once in a while by train before her accident three years ago, and our traveling to see her as often as we could. She lived about two hundred-fifty miles away from us so it was a long drive, but well worth it.

We were visiting her the last week in June. We had waited for the kids to get out of school, and down we went. We had no idea that she would be gone before we left for home. There’s being sick in the hospital and there’s sick in the hospital, heading to rehab to regain mobility and since she was the latter we were already making summer plans to visit again when she passed away.

She was able to have seen her three children and three of her six grandchildren. She admired my daughter’s outfits, which I mentioned on Friday were inspired by her own free spirit and her grandmother’s. She asked us about visiting my parents’ graves and bringing rocks from her garden. (Leaving rocks on gravestones is a Jewish tradition that we followed whenever we were at the cemetery.)

My mother-in-law grew up during World War II in and around Belfast to a Catholic mother and a Protestant father. I mention this again because it influenced her lack of use for the Church. She had seen too much. Even as her kids went to catechism, her opinions on the bureaucracy remained.

When I told her of my decision to join the Catholic Church and be baptized, she was nothing but supportive. She immediately went into her dresser and gave me the prayer book pictured above. She said she wondered why she kept it all these years; now she knew why.

On another visit, she gave me the keychain/folder that is also pictured above. I don’t know that she ever carried it seriously in her purse, but it was the most perfect piece of religious kitsch that I’ve had the pleasure of seeing.

She also gave me a little confirmation statue of Jesus and a girl that she happened to have, probably from one of her beloved garage sales, still in an old, dusty box.

Despite no love for the physical church that she remembered, she supported my new found faith and asked me about it whenever we were together. She enjoyed looking at my Easter Vigil photos from my baptism, confirmation and first communion.

No matter what she thought, everyone had their own path to follow and she encouraged them in it, always.

A Force of Nature

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My mother-in-law was a force of nature. So vivid and bright, even in the black and white world of a Northern Ireland childhood, the sun dimmed in her presence because he knew when he was beat. She didn’t wear pink; she wore fuchsia. She didn’t wear peach or salmon; she wore orange. Her red was the color of a rose or a fire engine. She had to go out and buy a black skirt to wear to my wedding. She wore it again to her daughter’s. Waste not, want not.

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50-9 – Shea Stadium

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I mentioned in my last “50” that there was a Shea Stadium reflection. It still bothers me to this day. In fact, it  thirty-nine years ago today that it happened. Wow. Thirty-nine years. I guess I really can hold a grudge.

We had tickets to see the NY Mets play at Shea. It must have been ’77 and it was just me and my Dad. I have no recollection of who they were supposed to play. I don’t know if this was my first visit. I can remember other games, at least one, filling out the scorecard, reading the program, eating snacks. I probably still have the program in one of my boxes piled in the basement.

This day, however was July and there was a city-wide blackout that affected everything. Maybe you’ve heard about it. We must have driven; I don’t think the trains were running. How could they be?

By the time we arrived at the stadium, the decision to call the game had already been made. The stadium was mostly empty and my Dad and I walked around the cement concourse. Whatever vendors were there were already packing up. We looked down on the empty field and across; the perfect blue sky seeming much brighter from our shadowed place. The grass on the field also seemed somehow greener, brighter than normal or maybe I was seeing it through a ten year old’s eyes.

The reason they gave for cancelling (or maybe postponing) the game was that the scoreboard didn’t work, so they couldn’t hold the game. To this day, it still makes no sense to me. I mean it’s baseball. Do you really need electricity to play ball? It wasn’t even a night game. The scoreboard doesn’t work. Even my ten year old, polite, non-swearing self called bullshit on that one.

We never got back; not that I recall.

Whether it was our moving east to Long Island or my moving to ice hockey as my go-to sport (Rangers all the way!), I don’t know.

I still love the Mets and root for them always. My Dad grew up in the Bronx so his Mets affiliation was probably more for us kids than for his own feelings. You couldn’t like both, but we tried. He was such a good Dad. More than that, he was a good person. I hope I’m half as good as he was.

For now, though, Let’s Go Mets!

Travel Recs – I Love NY App

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A street sign on the Long Island Expressway led me to the I Love NY app. If you allow it to access your location, it will show you several of the things to do, places to eat, etc in the region that you are in. You can also save certain regions as favorites or go to the region that you’re looking into visiting.

I had fun playing around on the app, and it worked flawlessly on my smartphone. I can’t wait to try it out in my home region.

Visit their website to download it for free.