“Strike three! You’re out!” the ump called….again.
We were a baseball/softball family. Both my brother and I played ball since we were old enough to be in the park district league. Mom and Dad came to every game to cheer us on. Memories of summers playing catch with my dad and brother, weekends spent at traveling team tournaments, celebrating home runs and winning games all make me smile.
From the start, I either socked the ball far over the right fielder’s head or I struck out swinging. One particular batting slump when I was about ten years old lasted at least a few games. I, always the clean-up hitter, felt embarrassed letting my team down like that. My dad sensed my frustration and decided to help me out.
We took a small gym bag full of practice balls and my lucky florescent orange bat down the street to a large field next to my school. My leftie dad lobbed pitch after pitch at me. I swung and missed every time. He’d offer tips as we gathered the balls behind my batter’s box for him to take back to the mound. For hours, into having to squint into the setting sun, Dad pitched. I swung and did not make contact with the ball even once. I was sunk. Defeated. Ready to quit. Still, Dad put a hand on my shoulder and encouraged me that I would hit the ball again.
Despite the positive forward movement in my life of a new job, I seem to be in a similar batting slump of life lately. Depression, grief and anxiety have reared their ugly heads at me yet again. I have nightmares and wake up shaking and looking for my mom and dad. I have panic attacks and flashbacks of past abuse. I miss my parents – a whole lot. I miss talking to them, going out to breakfast with my dad and shopping with my mom. I miss just knowing they loved and supported me so very much. It’s like I’m living and going through the motions, only floating without an anchor to latch onto. The ground beneath me feels slippery, shifting and uneven.
I’m searching for something, anything familiar to tell me they still love me yet at every turn I avoid pictures of them and things that remind me of them because it hurts too much to think about them not being here. Navigating this life without them, even three years now after they both have been gone, is more than I can handle some days. I’m putting all my skills into play to get up and go to work and keep moving forward. But some days, it seems my best is laying in bed wishing I just wouldn’t think and be tortured by my own memories and cruel and destructive thoughts towards myself.
And then I remember that day that my dad took the time to pitch to me while I swung and missed every time. He was so caring, supportive and patient. He never, ever, ever gave up on me. Not during that batting slump, not after my suicide attempt, not during my season of unemployment. As I worked on job applications, Dad would tell me to list him as a reference so he could tell them how amazing I am and what a good worker I’d be. While he was in hospice, he shared with me that he knew it would be hard on me to lose him but he knew I’d make it. I promised him that I would be OK.
That unconditionally loving daddy is still in my heart. I only need to remember, not avoid, and to listen for him. My mom is there in my heart with him. She’s not giving me on me, either. Neither is the therapist, a beautiful woman of faith who has not given up on me even through the hardest of times after losing my mom – nor are my handful of beautiful, wonderful close friends.
Most of all, God is not giving up on me. For all I’ve been through and done to myself, I very well could and probably should be dead. I’m not. I’m here breathing and living despite it all, even on those days when all I can do is lay in bed and sleep and cry. Clearly, there is more for me to do here on this earth. And Dad, Mom and God did not make me to be a quitter. I’m not about to let everybody, mostly myself, down and quit now.
Back to that batting slump… The game I played in after that day of my dad pitching to me, I bat the cycle – single, double, triple and home run. It was the start of an incredible batting streak with lots of home runs. So I have hope. Hope that this batting slump of life will break forth with success and fulfillment, peace and joy – SOON!
With Father’s Day coming up this weekend, I want to say thank you to my best buddy and biggest advocate, my dad. It’s been over 5 years since we went out to breakfast and you had your favorite French 2x2x2. I still miss you and love you with all my heart. I know you are still in my heart, cheering me on and not giving up on me. I told you, Daddy that I’d be OK, and I am going to keep my promise to you, one day at a time. Thanks, Daddy. Love you forever.