If you have been following this blog, or know me in my life outside of blogging, you know I adore my granddaddy. I call him granddaddy, but the world called him Kirk because his first name was too hard to pronounce. I call him Kirk, sometimes, too. Kirk & my dad are what the Atlanta Braves manager calls “baseball rats.” My dad dreamed of being a major league baseball player. He got pretty close. He tried out for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Before one of his callback tryouts, he was hit by another driver; and his throwing arm was crushed requiring dream ending surgery. However, the love of the game never went away for father or son, and got passed onto me.
Kirk was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease before I was born. Never knowing him, in this life, without the challenges Parkinson’s brought, was a huge asset, blessing, and example, for me; that having a diagnosis didn’t equal stopping, giving up, or life-ending. It simply meant adjustment, and overcoming challenges. Such a mindset, is of course, a choice. It was a choice he made every day, many days, more than once. It’s the choice I made, and continue to make every day. I make it for myself, for him, and for everybody who loves me.
I was a super shy child. I talked to those I knew and loved a lot, but strangers? It was a struggle. I was bullied horribly, as a child, at school. Anytime, I saw Kirk, which was frequently; because we lived close to him and Grandma Kate, he knew by both the look on my face, and my silence when I had a bad day/ week at school. He would hug me, and then go sit down in his recliner, turning on the TV. Kirk was a man of few words preferring to lead by example. When he did talk people tended to listen. I sure did. After turning on the TV, he would leave his hand palm up. That was an invitation to come sit with him. I always would unless grandma needed something. From March-October, the TV was on a baseball game, mostly, Braves games, but not always. I would pull up beside him taking his hand. My touch on his hand or arm, with the tremors, seemed to help. It was just my touch. I have a couple of theories as to why, which I’ll share in a later post.
Watching baseball, he’d let me process and give me silent comfort. After a while he’d say, “Want to talk about it?” Not really was pretty much always my answer. He’d grin and teach me the finer points of the game he loved. After a while, I’d always start talking. It would tumble out and I couldn’t stop it once it did. He’d listen and let me sob. He would squeeze my hand, or put his arm around my shoulder. After I was done, the advice that would make me feel better, give me a perspective reset, or teach me how to fight through the tough days was given. I learned more about how to thrive, in life, with a condition, watching baseball than most anywhere else. Now that he is one of my angels, watching baseball is where I feel closest to him. It is also where I connect with my dad best, too. Baseball is much more than a game, to me, and in my immediate family because Kirk made it that way.