My dad, Jack, sat in a wheelchair in a Toronto hospital. It was October 2013, and he was 86. The doctors had said he was dying of bladder cancer. They didn’t know when, but it would be soon.
Before my mom left to get coffee, she asked me to keep an eye on him. I wasn’t sure what to do, so I pulled out a New York Times magazine and began to read an article on Miguel Cabrera, the superstar slugger of the Detroit Tigers. We both loved baseball, especially the Tigers. I started to read it out loud. After 10 minutes, I was sure he was asleep, so I just read to myself.
“Don’t stop,” he whispered. “I like you reading to me.” It was the last lucid moment we had. Three days later, he died.
Baseball was our soul connection. When I was a teenager, he objected to my long hair, my passion for rock music and my mediocre marks in school. There was a lot of arguing. But we came together on baseball. As an adult, he’d call me up and I’d update him on my wife and his grandchildren, and then he’d say, “Okay, about these Tigers…”
In the eight years since he died, that conversation has continued. To me, he’s still alive, but in a mysterious way. I don’t think about heaven or the afterlife. I think life just continues, somewhere between memory and physical life. So, Jack and I keep talking. I’ll be watching a game and say, “He shouldn’t have swung at that.” And Jack will say, “Waste of an at-bat.”
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Last August, Cabrera hit the 500th home run of his career. Only 27 others have done it in history.
I saw it on TV and looked up. “Dad, he did it!”
“Remember when the Tigers got him in 2008, and we wondered if he’d be any good?” he asked.
“Sure do. I’ll check in with you during tomorrow night’s game.”
Paul Fraumeni is a writer in Toronto.
This story first appeared in Broadview’s January/February 2022 issue with the title “Of home runs and heaven.”
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