I was absolutely taken back with humble surprise months ago on my birthday as Lindsay gave me with two tickets to a Boston Red Sox game scheduled for Father’s Day. It would be a return to the place where we spent two days before my CABG(surgery) ten months earlier. As one might expect I was absolutely thrilled and my excitement grew as we got closer to the date .The delight grew exponentially as Ginny and Leigh decided to make the trip to Boston for Father’s Day a family affair—and post anniversary celebration! The only thing that dampened the prospect of watching a baseball game in that cathedral on Yawkey Way was a month of deluge that would have made Noah nervous. I hadn’t heard any voice warning me to build an ark, as I was too busy praying fair weather requests for a special weekend!
The National Weather Service and related weather web sites became my virtual chapel. Most of my prayer time centered on requesting blue skies and blessings for the weekend! A special attendance at a daily mass also provided opportunity for serious supplications for sun! Then an indication of miraculous relief appeared on the Saturday before Fathers Day when the weather service indicated that the rain that had ruined the US Golf Open for thousands of fans who bought tickets, and not to mention the golfers, was passing through the northeast and New England regions faster than expected! “Prayer works,” I thought. “The Feast of the Sacred Heart is on my side and I won’t be denied,” I concluded. Though a “what if” meditation surfaced on potential lesson that might be learned considering that the weather and God may not respond to my self-absorbed reflections.
The trek to Boston was safe, quick and uneventful. Dinner at the famous Anthony’s Pier Four was a wonder-filling Anniversary-Fathers Day feast. Sunday’s dawn had low-lying clouds hiding peaks of Boston’s skyscrapers and any hope of brightness and warmth. A real threat became evident that the anticipated celebratory day could be washed - out. However, an early morning coffeed-up meditation along the banks of the Charles River surfaced a flood of blessings past and there began the metamorphosis of the wandering soul. Directly across from this pilgrim’s pastoral pew the ghosts of yesteryears were as clear as if they were in the present. I could see vividly college student Ginny from 40 years ago venturing in and out of her 700 Commonwealth Avenue dormitory. There too she and I were with a member of the band, David, singing and snoozing on the banks of the Charles while rowers’ sweat and strain and sailors carefully continue to this day to tack up river. The now infamous gigantic Kenmore Square Citgo sign shining through the mist, symbol of dreams, illuminated a view of my giant Citgo client and dear friend O’Toole as his laughter and his love filled my senses one more time. Tears of joy began to flow as if I had just washed up home on the banks of the river from a wander-lusted odyssey. Though a prayer for a fair weathered miracle persisted, hope for a peace-filled and joyous present day grace gradually replaced the meteorological petitions.
After ignoring my cardiologist’s dietetic recommendations for a second day in a row, this time with cholesterol filled breakfast the family squeezed ourselves into a cab and darted to our destinations for the day. Linds and I exited the cab under O’Toole’s sign in Kenmore Square to make our way to our field of dreams while Leigh and Ginny chartered course to do what they do best, shop on Newbury Street. The four of us were off to prospective afternoon of heaven as the moisture filled grey sky baptized our respective arrivals.
Lindsay and I approached the Fenway Park with a combined religious respect and childlike enthusiasm of yearning pilgrims. We stopped to pay homage to the bronze statue of Saint Ted Williams before we made our way to the mardi gras like festivities of Yawkey Way. Music, laughter, food and beer filled the air. We had no idea that the sky continued it’s perpetual spraying as we were lost in the moment. We even had a chance encounter with a St, Joseph’s University family , where Linds attended college and where Leigh is now a senior. (We heard later that Leigh also had a “Hawk” sighting on Newbury Street! ) These encounters seemed somehow to bless the moment in an Ignatian way. Those exposed to Jesuit education and spirituality would know that something like this would happen. Linds and I met alums from Holy Cross and Fordham the night before sitting next to us in the hotel bar. My friend Ban would say “Ya just can’t ignore the Jesuits…their influence is everywhere!”(even at Red Sox games!)
We were bleacher bums and had a great view of the field. Fortunately I had received a brand new high collared water proofed Red Sox wind shirt earlier as a Father’s Day present. It protected me from the wind and the spray zipping over the green monster onto our seats and the field. But much like the players on the field we were focused on the game. We also enjoyed the brew, peanuts and hot dogs. I can’t remember if it was raining when we sang “Take me out to the ball game” or when we cheered “So Good, So Good, So Good.” to the chorus of “Sweet Caroline!”
But then something happened!
The Sox looked like they had is game sewn up when suddenly they gave away the lead to be tied up in the top of the eighth! In the bottom of the eight the Braves (it was an interleague game) brought in a reliever who knocked down the Sox batters. The super star Sox reliever, redeemer, savior, rescuer extraordinaire, John Papalbon, entered the field to concert blaring sound systemed song by a now famous local Irish American Celtic Punk Rock-Type band called The Dropkick Murphys. The band is known for its raucous music but also for it’s loyalty to the working class, blue collar causes and trade unions. “That’s Joey’s song” Lindsay screeched! The song is a favorite of her Irish boyfriend…it was perfect…”I’m Shipping Up to Boston.”
O’Toole must have been smiling from his private box in the sky. The stadium actually rocked and started to rumble and sway as the fans stomped and cheered. There was no way the Sox would be denied. A little more rain spread over the field and players. The optimism began to wane for a few of us when Papalbon throwing faster and harder than hard and loaded the bases. The long gone prayers for good weather ignored now were now resurrected and redirected to “help us get through this!” I was also worried that we would get into extra innings and would get a later than planned start back home and Leigh had to get to Philadelphia…blah,blah,blah…when Pap finally got three out with no one scoring! Whew! His job was done! (For the time being anyway.)
The crowd weaved the tension and enthusiasm in the air into a fever pitched frenzy. Nick Green, a recent addition to the regular Boston lineup, came up to bat. The first pitch and…Bam! Over the right field fence just fair. Game over! Crowd crazy! Team runs out onto the field jumping shouting and climbing on each other. Sound system blasts immediately “Love that Dirty water…oh Boston you’re my home!” We dance, we high five each other and everyone around us and sing at the top of our lungs! It was as if the fans and team never doubted. “What am I missing,” I mused as Lindsay and I jumped and sang with our fists in the air.
Decompression is difficult as within minutes we are back at the hotel meeting Ginny and Leigh and we respectfully competed with stories of our respective outings in Boston. Within a few more minutes we poured into the car and appropriately we literally added some room for “Grace.” A perfect coincidence. Seriously…Grace is a friend of Leigh’s from college who was in Boston visiting a friend and who sat right where Nick Green’s homer won the game. She joined us for the return journey. But the skies couldn’t take it anymore and opened the floodgates for our departure from Boston.
Two hours later after careful skimming in and out of the weekend exodus the seas parted and the rain had ceased as we stopped for a quick bathroom break and a refueling of burgers and fries. It was at the exact same moment as we were all laughing and gathering back in the car that I realized my prayers from the days before had been and are being answered. Within seconds of that moment of illumination we all noticed the biggest and most prominent brightest rainbow any of us had ever witnessed right to the left of the highway. The soundtrack of my soul promptly turned to a song by Van Morrison “When Will I ever learn to live in God?” (See below)
The weekend was transformed into a celebration that was more and better than I had expected or ever prayed for. It was much more than a rerun of the Red Sox weekend ten months earlier . It matches or even surpasses the old Fathers Day weekends we had years ago on our old sailboat. Yes, my prayers were answered as they always are.
Why do I doubt? Where is my faith? Years ago when I started down this faith journey I had very simple basic prayers that always seemed to be answered simply and straight forward. But now as the journey has logged numerous miles, hours and encounters .The answers to the prayers are more substantive if not simpler. Sometimes I am really slow to learn…this joy and peace filled weekend was never about the weather or the game…it was and is always about the love…the relationships…the faith…. and the gift of family...a journey of discovery of the love and blessings that surround us all ways.
“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
- Matt. 6:21
When Will I ever learn?
…When will I ever learn to live in God?
When will I ever learn?
He gives me everything I need and more
When will I ever learn?
Whatever it takes to fulfill his mission
That is the way we must go
But you've got to do it your own way
Tear down the old, bring up the new…
- Van Morrison
Red Sox Nation - August 2 &3 2008
(From - Songs of the Second Chance Dance)
Pilgrimage to Mecca,
Land of Yaz
Blessed by St. Splendid Splinter
Back bay beauty
Loving dirty water under
Joe’s sign at Kenmore.
Grey thunder boomers
On our tail along I-84
Would our luck find it’s run?
48 hours and counting
would be New England lobster split
in the bottom of the 9th
with a full count.
Outdoor lunch and cheers
Where everyone knew our name.
The sky became black and
Street band played
“Oh when the Saints.”
Fantasizing , praying that the message clear
The clouds would pass.
Every ounce of water in heaven
Niagra falled their way to
Noah who calmed us just 14 days
At the boss’ party
Said this too would pass.
With more hope than faith
We made our way to the cathedral
Angels blew away the clouds.
Dressed requisite red
Slugging back bay brew and dogs
Sweet Caroline was right
As we sang “So good, so good”
Officially Baptized into the nation
Our sins forgiven
We celebrated victory with one last Sam.