Travels With James

June 25th, 2005

We left home at 9:30 A.M.  He was used to an early start, but it was a lot harder for me.  We had a two hour drive up to Detroit for an afternoon game.  I was curious why the Tigers were playing the Cubs, since they were in different leagues and all.  “Interleagues,” James told me.  He always knew so much about baseball.  I knew a little bit, but this trip was about him.  The game was exciting, mostly because it was it was the first on the trip and it was James’ first in about two years now, well before he got sick.  Some rookie for the Cubs hit his first home run of his career in the first inning.

The incredible thing is, in the fourth inning, a player for the Tigers hit one a mile, and the second it hit the bat James shouted out “it’s gone.”  I looked over at him, and when the crowd went nuts, he smiled as bright as I’ve seen him in months.  I don’t know how he knew it was going out, but he did.  He had developed incredible sense of his surroundings in the last few weeks…

We stayed around Detroit for a little while but mostly wanted to get a head start towards Chicago.

June 26th, 2005

We stayed at a motel in Chicago last night.  It wasn’t the greatest place in the world, I thought it looked sort of scrappy, but James didn’t mind.  The White Sox had a night game against the Blue Jays.  We had a few hours so I took James to the Navy Pier and he absolutely loved it.  I made a vague comment about there being a play going on in their theater, and to my surprise James wanted to go see it.  We bought tickets to go see Midsummer’s Night Dream.  I wasn’t much of a Shakespeare person but I could tell he was loving it.

James has felt well throughout the trip so far.  I hope we can get through most or all the trip with him feeling this way.  I pray every night he can fight for another day.

June 27th, 2005

Last night’s game wasn’t very close, but it was fun anyways.  The White Sox scored four in the first and another four in the second.  I think they got around 12 or so runs.  James told me that the White Sox were having a fine year and could go on to do very well in the playoffs.  I’d have to remember that and see if his prediction comes true.  The Cubs had a day game we just got back from.  James kept telling me how much he loved Wrigley Field, with the weird outfield fence and its atmosphere.  To me, it was just another stadium, but he could tell it was different.  He must know more than me, but even still, he could see something in the place that I couldn’t really see.  It was weird being on the other end of that trade.

June 29th, 2005

We headed up to Milwaukee yesterday but had a day off because the series didn’t start until today.  Yesterday wasn’t a very good day, James was starting to feel sick in the car and we had to stop and walk around a store for an hour or so.  He said he didn’t feel much better but that he wanted us to keep going.  He is so strong.  I pray that he can keep going, we’ve only been to three stadiums so far…

We’re going to the stadium in a little bit, but thought I would update that he is feeling a little better, but I’m worried anyways because he was feeling so strong a few days ago.  His spirit is still just as great though.

July 2nd, 2005

It’s been a few days since I’ve written in this, but we’ve been really busy.  The Brewers lost their game against the Marlins 4-2 a few days ago.  Two days ago we went to Minnesota and saw the Twins stomp on the Royals 15-3.   I’d never really heard of anyone on the Royals line-up, to tell you the truth.  James tells me they aren’t very good.  Guess that’s why they got killed.  We almost got a foul ball, too.  We were sitting up in the second deck along the first base side and Justin Morneau hits a bullet and it comes straight at us.  Lands about six seats to our right.  It was sort of scary though, cause I know James wouldn’t have been able to really duck for cover had it came towards him, so I stuck my arms out in front of his face for protection.  I expected him to ask what was going on, but I could hear under his breath mumble that “we almost had that one.”

Anyways, we took our time yesterday.  The Royals were still on a road trip so we had to backtrack a little bit and go back to St. Louis.  We spent most of yesterday driving, but I did take James to see the Field of Dreams in Iowa.  It wasn’t too out of our way, but it did take me a little bit of time finding it.  I had to stop in Iowa City to ask for directions but it didn’t take too long to get there after that.  I’d only seen parts of the movie, but James knew it perfectly, like he did just about every good baseball movie out there.  He described to me the whole story of the Black Sox Scandal and the World Series of 1919, making the same comments with the same voice inflection as in the movie.  He told me there was a book on it too, called Shoeless Joe.

My heart sank a little bit when I heard that.  A few months ago, when he was staying in the hospital, he would get tons of baseball books sent to him from friends and family.  I remember Shoeless Joe being one of the ones he had stored away there.  He kept the really good ones he’d always wanted to read for last.  He got through most of them, but his eyesight gave out before he ever read that one.  I remember going to visit him and seeing it sitting in the corner of the room on a table, where he used to keep the books he hadn’t read yet.  It about broke my heart going to see him and that book sitting there.  When he told me where we were going was a representation of that book, I could have died.  What I wouldn’t give to let him be able to read that book right about now.

This is getting pretty long so I guess I’ll wrap it up.  The Cards, backed by two home runs by Albert Pujols (“He’s leading the National League right now, and it isn’t even close” James would later tell me), narrowly beat the Reds 6-5 today.  Busch Stadium wasn’t as great of experience as some of the other stadiums…it was really warm.  James loved it though, as you’d imagine.  And I love it too, just sitting next to him.  He’s always shouting out random trivia and I swear, he can tell what’s going on more than I can.  I’m starting to believe he can see things that I can’t…

July 3rd, 2005

James wasn’t feeling too good this morning, but by afternoon he was about as good as he’s been on this entire trip.  I’m glad he’s holding up this well after about a week now.  My prayers continue to be answered.

We drove across Missouri today to see the Royals play a nightcap of a double-header against the Tigers.  Now that we’re starting to see teams for a second time now, I recognize some of the players.  I sometimes confuse people together, but James always politely corrects me and also reminds me what particular players did the last time we saw him.  He’s got the greatest memory of anyone I’ve ever met.

A pitcher named Jeremy Bondman threw a beauty today, though James continuously pointed out the hapless Royals’ offense.  Either way, it was a four hit shutout.  He kept a no-hitter into the sixth, but a utility player that even James hadn’t heard of drove one into the gap for a double.  Bondman went on to get the next three straight batters out.  He was on fire tonight, James commented afterward.  We have a pretty far drive through Kansas and into Colorado to see the Rockies play, though they don’t play until the 5th so we have a day or two.  I asked James if there were any random baseball landmarks in Kansas, to which he replied “are there any landmarks in Kansas?”  He was a funny guy, when you got to know him.

July 4th, 2005

It was sort of lucky there wasn’t a game today, because James didn’t feel well throughout the day.  He threw up a few times this morning in the hotel.  I felt terrible, but there wasn’t much I could do but comfort him.  I think he gets embarrassed when he gets sick.  I guess he must feel like he’s holding the trip up.  I try to comfort him, but it gets really hard for him.  He’s a pretty self-sufficient guy, even through all of this he doesn’t want to bother people with his condition.  I prayed for him especially hard this afternoon…

We pressed on through Kansas and made it to Denver around 9 o’clock tonight.  He’s asleep fairly early tonight.  Usually we’d stay up and he would tell me baseball stories or he’d listen to a sports show on the television or something, but he needed some rest.  He looks incredibly peaceful though.  You couldn’t pay me a million bucks right now to wake him up.

July 5th, 2005

James still wasn’t feeling very well but we went to today’s game anyways.  It was a night game against the Giants.  It was scoreless into the seventh inning.  James kept remarking how it was a hitter’s park and he was surprised at the score.  I don’t really know what makes a stadium a hitter’s park or not, but I wasn’t going to question him.  The Giants hit a solo shot in the seventh and eighth to win 2-0.  “Shockingly low score for Coors Field,” James said.  He’s a walking baseball encyclopedia. He really is.

All the driving throughout this trip is starting to get to me.  I wasn’t really bothered by it, since I knew this was all for the greatest cause I could ever imagine, but even still, it’s many hours a day through hundreds of miles of interstate driving.  I made a passing comment about how we had a really long drive ahead of us to Seattle, the longest of the entire trip, and that I wasn’t really looking forward to driving throughout the night (the Mariners played the last game of their home-stand tomorrow and we had to get there by the following evening).  James, always thinking of everyone but himself, told me that we could skip Seattle and go straight on to San Francisco.  I instantly regretted saying anything.

This trip was for him, about him, I was just here to keep him company, to be an audience for his stories, to help him to his seat…And suddenly, I felt like I had betrayed that notion, even if just for a passing moment.  Nevermore would I complain about any of this.  It was a privilege to drive him to Seattle, if it meant hours and hours behind the wheel to myself while he slept.  It was a tough few hours, but I looked over at him, and in his sleep I could tell he was dreaming about baseball.  Somewhere, he was hitting a ground-rule double, or laying a perfect bunt, or pitching in Game Seven of the World Series.  He was succeeding at whatever he was dreaming about, that much I did know…

July 6th, 2005

The game tonight was exciting, for what we got to see of it.  In the seventh inning, James began to feel sick.  He threw up again in the restroom and we both decided to leave the game early.  I could tell it was killing him more emotionally than it was physically for him to leave.  I bet he’d never left a baseball game early in his life.  “I’m a true fan.  I stay until the last out, regardless of the score, even if the game was decided innings ago…” he said as we made our way through the parking lot.  I continued to try to comfort him, but when it came to baseball, especially on this trip, he would remain inconsolable about that kind of thing.  I’m not sure who won the game, though that was about the last thing on my mind on our drive back to the hotel.  We had two days until the Giants were scheduled to play a night game, the last until the All-Star break.  We’ll try to get through Oregon to somewhere in northern California then get a good start on the morning of the 8th to head to San Francisco.

July 8th, 2005

James again wasn’t feeling too great during the game, but he wasn’t about to leave two games in a row prematurely.  We waited out a 35 minute rain-delay after the fourth inning and about a million pitching changes later in the game, which the Giants eventually won after nearly four hours.  I think the score was around 13 or so to 10.  I could tell James was really starting to get worse during the ninth.  When the last out was recorded, he couldn’t wait to get out of there.  That really worried me.  Earlier in the trip he would often stay for a little bit after the game.  He’d say something like “I just want to breathe the air of baseball just a little bit more.”  It was something you don’t normally hear from a kid his age.  I guess he wasn’t really a kid, but I always used to call him kid, so it’s sort of a habit.

He was unusually quiet on the trip tonight back to the hotel.  He couldn’t really get to sleep.  I asked him if he had any stories for me tonight, to which he replied “not right now.”  I’m beginning to feel guilty, like I’m dragging him around the United States with his health dangling so dangerously.  I feel like his life is hanging on strings with myself as the puppet-master, and I’m shaking my hands vigorously and I can’t get myself to stop.  He kept telling me though that I was doing the right thing and that he wanted to keep going, though.  It’s becoming increasingly more difficult to oblige his requests yet continue, knowing his health is rapidly deteriorating in front of our eyes.  I was getting scared, but he pressed me into continuing.  This trip was about him, and there wasn’t time to waste…due to the nature of the trip, we were constantly on the move.  I feel like having a day or two to rest in between each game would help, but most of the time its day after day.  A long, grueling drive, a baseball game (which, even though I love baseball, is seemingly longer each game), another drive, a night in a hotel, and then more driving.  I was getting scared.  I wanted him to finish out this trip, but his strength isn’t improving.  I’m praying especially hard but I don’t know what else to do but continue driving.  Each night I call mom to tell her how it’s going, and each night she tells me to do whatever he tells me.  If he feels good enough to go on, then go on.

As it stands, we have a few days off now to relax until the All-Star break is over until we have to drive down to Los Angeles.  We should have been stopping at Oakland next, which is right near San Francisco, but they start off the second half of the season on the road.  We had to drive down to Los Angeles, backtrack to Oakland, then go back down southward to Los Angeles again to see the Angels play.  Now that I had a few days to relax, driving wouldn’t bother me so much once we were back on the road again.  This all-star break couldn’t have come at a better time.  I just hope James stays strong enough to continue going.  With how his health and stamina has dropped the last few days, I fear a few days off will be more detrimental than helpful.  I’m praying, God, please, PLEASE, let him get through this.  Please, God.  Please.

July 11th, 2005

James is not doing very good today.  He was starting to shake a little bit this afternoon, and I was close to taking him to a doctor, but he says he’s alright and that we’ll see how he’s doing after a few hours.  He’s resting now, and the all-star game is tonight.  “I haven’t missed one yet,” he tells me.  We’ll put it on tv and watch it.  Please God, give him strength.  We have so much farther to go.

July 13th, 2005

James is in the hospital.  I’m not sure exactly what is happening, but I’m praying for him.  I took him in here earlier today and he’s still in there and I’m out here in the waiting room praying.  This is incredibly frightening.  Please God, please, tell me this isn’t the end.  It cannot be the end.

July 13th, 2005

James is pretty stable now.  He’s going to stay here a few days.  They understand about what we’re doing and they think he will be strong enough to press on for a few more days, they tell me.  They tell me that, for his mental sake, there is no use in him staying at a hospital like this and that we’re doing the right thing for him.  We’re a day or two behind now but it will be ok.  I’m just glad James is doing better.  I’m praying so hard for him, I’ve never felt like I’ve needed God so much in James and I’s life as much as I have now.  This is almost unbearable.  I prayed before this trip that we would get through it without having problems like this, but its uncontrollable.  I feel terrible for him, but there isn’t much I can do than continue to support him and keep going.

July 14th, 2005

We’re on our way to Los Angeles right now to see the Dodgers play an afternoon game against the Diamondbacks.  James is feeling better than he has in a week, he tells me.  We’ve stopped at a restaurant in a little town off the highway really quick.  He said he really wanted to go to a diner for some reason.  They don’t have many diners here in the West Coast.  James and I always went to one in our home city.  He loves places like this.  I’m not going to write much here since we’re going to be leaving soon.

July 14th, 2005

I felt really anxious taking him to another game for the first time in several days, but the game went without incident, fortunately.  The Dodgers lost, 3-2.  The Diamondbacks scored all three in the eighth, and it seemed like the fans were going to explode by the end of the inning.  James tells me they are incredibly loyal fans.  He told me to wait until Philadelphia, though to see the real crazy ones.  It amazed me hearing him say that.  Even through an incredibly painful and tough week, unknowing if the trip would continue or not, he mentioned being in Philadelphia, which was one of the last places on the trip.  He was going to go through with this to the end.  He was so strong.

I wish I shared his passion for baseball with just about anything.  He cared so much about the game, about its past, its history, its stories, its legacy.  Baseball, it seems, is keeping him alive right now, above anything else.  He knew so much, retained so much information.  The way he talks about it, you can just tell how much he loves the game.  As we were driving back to Oakland, I began to realize something.  It wasn’t just baseball he cared and loved so much, it was life.  Baseball was just a representation of life, with its ups and downs, twists and turns, no day exactly like another.  It was life that James truly cared so much about.  Sure, baseball was his love, but it was a lot more than that.  I could tell.  He loved life so much, it pained me to see things going like it was.  James watched as his life was coming to a depressingly abrupt end, and he loved life more and more with each passing day.  He had so much to live for.  I wish I shared his passion for life.  I wish we all did.  We could learn a lot and be a lot happier if we cared as much as James did…

July 15th 2005

James says he isn’t feeling nearly as good as he did yesterday, but that he feels sort of good enough to get through some or all of the game tonight.  I was feeling a little bit more relaxed after a great game yesterday, but now the anxiety is coming back…I never know when he’s going to feel good or bad, when his health is going to suddenly drop like it did earlier this week.  It scares the hell out of me.  I hope the game goes well tonight.

This afternoon I took James to a huge bookstore we passed along the way for a surprise.  I led him to the sports section, and fortunately, they had a copy of Shoeless Joe.  I bought it, telling him I would read him a chapter or two from it each day.  I then saw the book, well over 200 pages, only had about four or five chapters, but I promised him I’d read him some condensed sections of it each day at least.  I was about to drive out of the parking lot, but he insisted I read him the opening part of it then.

I could tell why James wanted to read it so badly, it was truly a great read, even through the first part of it.  The book was such a fantasy, about baseball and yet about much more.  We didn’t say it out loud, but I could tell we both understood that our trip seemed so similar to Shoeless Joe.  We were traveling around the United States, going to each ballpark, seeing hundreds of players and driving thousands of miles to experience hours of baseball every day.  It too felt like a fantasy.  I read through the first ten pages or so, and I told him we’d better get a move on towards Oakland.

I’d heard James tell me the story of Joe Jackson and how he got banned from baseball, and the story was brought up several times throughout the opening of the book.  I was curious, and though I was sure the book would answer me, I knew James could tell me now.  “Did they ever try to unban him?  Clear his record, maybe?”  He responded back, “those motions died with him.”  When James spoke about baseball, he had a very positive, distinct voice about him.  With those words, however, came a slight hesitation, and his voice had a bit of wispiness to it.  I was sorry I’d asked.

I hope the game goes well today.  God, please keep him strong. Please…

July 16th, 2005

James is in the hospital again.  He was even worse today than he was the first day he went in one a week ago.  I’m shaking uncontrollably right now.  I’m really scared.  Please, God, not yet.  Please, not yet.  I understand that it must happen, I’ve accepted that, but please God, not yet.  Don’t do it yet, Please.

July 16th, 2005

James is not doing well, they tell me.  God, I’m so scared.  I could barely tell mother on the phone what was happening.  I can barely write this.  Please, God…

July 16th, 2005

They don’t think James is going to make it through the night.  I can’t believe this is happening.

July 17th, 2005

He is still not doing very well, they aren’t sure how much longer he is going to last or if he is going to get any better for now.

July 17th, 2005

James couldn’t pull through.  He is gone.  So am I.  I am gone, dead.  I feel nothing.  Baseball, Shoeless Joe, Oakland, California, Seattle, baseball, pitchers, batters, nothing.  It is all for nothing.  James is gone.  Why, God?

July 19th, 2005

I’m being flown back to Ohio.  His body is being transported as well.  I don’t really know what is going to happen to my car but at this point I don’t really car.  I couldn’t drive it back to Ohio if it meant my life.  Maybe if we hadn’t back-tracked to Oakland, we should have just kept going through.  We were doing ok when we were going forward, but maybe going back disturbed his psyche or something.  Goddamnet.

July 27th, 2005

I swear to God, if I hear one more goddamn word about the game of baseball, I’m going to go insane.  I’m not going to watch another goddamn game for as long as I live.

August 28th, 2005

I’ve decided that the best way to give me some closure with this whole ordeal is to finish out the trip.  I ended up paying for my car to be stored there until I could figure out what to do with it, but I’m flying out back to Oakland.  I’m going to try to go through the rest of the schedule.  I have about a month.

September, 13th, 2005

I’m on my way to New York right now.  I have a game with the Mets versus the Nationals this afternoon then luckily the Yankees have a game tonight.  I should be able to get through these today then hit the last five before the end of the season.

September 20th, 2005

Today is my last game.  The Indians play a night game against the Twins tonight.  The Indians was supposed to be our last game on the trip because it was his favorite team.  I can’t even write his name.  He’s rooting for the Indians right now though, I’ll tell you that.

November 15th, 2005

I just finished Shoeless Joe.  James would have loved it.  I wish to God he could have read it.  Since the day I bought it, I’ve carried it around everywhere I’ve gone.  It’s my one true connection to James I’ll always have.  I’m always going to carry this around.  I’ll never get rid of it, never.

January 20th, 2006

I know I haven’t written this in a long time, but you know what, I’m really starting to anticipate opening day. Indians play the Tigers on the third of April.  You bet I’ll be there.

June 25th, 2006

Today’s the one year anniversary of the first day of our trip.  I know that I made his last few weeks incredibly special.  I will live the rest of my life satisfied of that.  I started reading Shoeless Joe again.  “My father said he saw him years later playing in a tenth-rate commercial league in a textile town in Carolina, wearing shoes and an assumed name.”  They’re talking about Joe Jackson, but every time I read that, I can’t help but think that somewhere in heaven, James is dreaming about playing in a league like that.  And I’ll bet you everything I have that he’s doing well, too.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: