The Yard


Months ago, my Mom and Da were at a St. Mary’s parish auction. My Da is very active in the parish, ushering at Sunday mass and regularly donating to the parish. This year, at the charity auction, the old man was the highest bidder on field box tickets to Wrigley Field. See, the brother of the governor of my fair state also happens to be the owner of the Chicago Cubs, a position he filled when he bought the team from the Chicago Tribune company, so he has copious amounts tickets to disperse as he pleases. The way my Da figured it, he would just pay for the tickets with the same money he would have spent on his annual donation to the parish. So, for what will most likely be his swan song trip to Chicago to see Cubs games, a practice my family started almost 3 decades ago and has been executed enough times over the years to garner us rap sheets for attempting to break into Wrigley Field, blacklist status at at least one Wrigleyville bar and an iron-clad bond between all members of my immediate family that has gotten us through every season at Wrigley (because if you know Chicago, you know that the 6 months of the baseball season can see rain, sleet, snow, heat and hail. Hell, even a hurricane or an earthquake would probably be met with a shrug by the Wrigley Field faithful.) This year, we mustered the newest members of Team Cubs (my brother’s wife and 2 kids and my girlfriend) and embarked for the friendly confines one last time.

Now, the body I have inhabited since my family first started going to Cubs games has changed dramatically over the years. The rolly polly youth I was when I first visited Chi became the rosy-cheeked college student who was already sporting a beer gut but that girls still inexplicably found cute. By the time me and my Da saw a game the same year the Cubs finally won the World Series, I had become the clean-and-sober-but-still-inexplicably-beer-gutted grown man who would, 2 years later, adopt a nutrition-and-exercise regimen to optimize what’s left of my brain power and combat my burgeoning diabetes with a vengeance. This time around, I became painfully aware of a few things:

  1. Going to the gym 3 days a week for some moderately rigorous elliptical work peppered with core exercises and squats is quite a bit different from the sheer volume of walking city life demands. It’s like driving my 10 year-old Hyundai with 180K on it around town, racking up maybe 50 miles per week, then suddenly driving it to Oakland. Something’s gonna go wrong. At 10 P.M. on the second day, we left the game a couple innings early as the Cubs were getting smoked by the D-backs for the second game in a row. On this night, I opted to walk back to our lodging alone as I had not had any time by myself in days and needed a meditative walk. A little over a mile later, I hobbled upon the front stoop of our lodgings to find my Da hunched over (yet still smoking a Lucky, which I believe is the man’s way of telling Death that he will go when he’s good and ready) and almost in tears from the fatigue.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“I’m old, that’s what’s wrong,” he replied. I didn’t have the energy to inform him the trip had taken a physical toll on all of us. Even my 1-year-old Golden Retriever could be relied on to sack out for a few hours after the hiking time my clan had logged in the last couple days.

  1. I eat pretty healthy. Granted on weekends, I indulge more than I should, but weekdays I fast for the first half of the day, then around 1 P.M. it’s a smoothie and eggs and later a hearty dinner (though ice cream at night is almost impossible to discontinue, but I’m working on it.) And if I had consulted with a nutritionist before the trip, they would have perhaps advised against embarking on a 3-day junk food bender where the principle ingredients were peanuts, chorizo and kettle-chip sprinkled, red chili pepper-laden, celery salt-laced footlong sausages and miniature-batting-helmet ice cream at the ballpark (hey, it was with my nephew and everybody knows that ice cream with a blood relative, especially a child, doesn’t count. It’s like a recovering alcoholic who has a shot of Jameson and a Guiness when visiting Ireland or eating Italian food standing up. The rules of A.A. and Weight Watchers don’t apply) By the end of the second day on the labored stroll back, I was eating Oreo ice cream bars and drinking Coca-Cola classic just to stave of what I knew was coming. By midnight of the night I returned home, I was wretching on the bathroom floor and cursing Philip Wrigley for being born.
  1. Adding Lexapro to this mix is roughly like tossing a bucket of napalm on the smouldering embers leftover after a BBQ. I staved off the hulking blanket of drowsiness for a few days, but my digestive tract was like a freakin’ Slip ‘N’ Slide by the time I got home.


Don’t get me wrong, spending three days with my family, replete with niece and nephew and Kim, was fantastic even at our B and B or Air B and B or Vacation Air B and B or whatever the acronym is for a rental house where not one previous occupant had left behind coffee, there’s an exposed mosaic of plaster on a hole in the floor board, duct tape engulfing the knob on the backdoor and a bathroom in the basement that looks like it could have been the setting for the first Saw movie. But the whole crew might not make it to Chicago for Cubs games again and I paid my alma mater a 20-years-later visit just to check it off the list (ironically, Bruno’s, the old bar-and-liquor store where I first started procuring booze for the entire Lake Shore campus of Loyola University Chicago was still there leaving it and the campus book store down the street the only businesses that have lasted these 20 years.) So while I probably will make it back to the Windy City for one reason or another in the future, I don’t imagine it will be for purposes as young as the ivory towers of my youth or as innocent as the Elysian Fields.

One of the high points of the trip, though, was seeing an old family friend from the same neck of the woods as me. As we munched peanuts and baked under the setting July sun, Dan told me that he subscribed to my blog and read it all the time. He had also watched the presentation on meditation that I had given at the monthly meeting of the Brain Injury Alliance of Nebraska support group. He told me he looked forward to all my blog posts and hoped I would continue with it.

This is exactly what I needed to hear. In my life, I have received many compliments on my writing. But the 3 that stick out the most are my father, my sponsor and now Dan. I have my reasons why the compliments of these three people in particular carry a lot of weight with me and I won’t go into them in this post. Point is, feedback I have received from these guys is enough for me to pursue my prospects of a blog/podcast/YouTube channel that focuses on brain injury and addiction. I have read that many writers have certain people in mind as an audience when they write and that compliment from Dan in the bleachers at Wrigley was akin to getting a pat on the rump from the defensive coordinator on your football team after you execute an important tackle.

You reach for the small things when you really need encouragement to do something. I got that from you, Dan. So thanks and I’ll see you a little ways down the road. Seeing Chicago with Kim was great. Going to Wrigley one last time with my family was even better. The most important part of the trip, though, was validation to keep doing what I’m going with my creative energy and, hopefully, make it even better.


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