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Tom Grieve

January 25, 2019

tom grieve

Kingdom Come

Two

“Will the earth last forever?”

My older son asked this a few days ago. He’s seven, the same age I was when I first held this 1975 card.

“Yes,” I said.

It was near bedtime, and near bedtime the night before he started panicking about tarantulas. The point is that near bedtime I will lie to my son about the impermanence of all things. I won’t tell him everything starts and ends with a flash, and there’s no start or end, and there’s no such thing as time at all, just the blazing light of kingdom come.

***

There’s no earthly reason for me to keep coming back to these baseball cards. And yet at the beginning of this month, the beginning of a new year, I pulled four cards out at random and spread them on my desk, and they’ve been here ever since, a thin, insistent barrier between me and earthly reasons. Ralph Houk with his glowing watch and air of impending resignation was the first card, and this one was the second.

It’s from 1975, the first year I started collecting cards, which was also my first full year away from my father. I had only recently learned to read, but when I first held this card in my hands as a seven-year-old, I’m sure I was able to read that simple, familiar first name: it was the name of my mom’s boyfriend. But that second word was more complicated. I didn’t know what it meant, didn’t know that it meant anything. Something was gone, and in its place was this: Grieve.

So I’ve been thinking about this word and its weight, and I’ve been thinking about fathers and about sons. Tom Grieve and his son, Ben Grieve, were both drafted in the first round of the major league baseball draft, making them, I believe, the only father and son duo with that distinction, but that’s not the father and son duo I want to get involved with here. Instead, allow me direct your attention to the father and son that I came across when this card brought me to an article about Tom Grieve’s biggest day at the plate, which also happened to be 10-cent Beer Night:

Meanwhile, the intoxicated crowd continuously misbehaved.

This included a woman running onto the Indians on deck circle and flashing her breasts and trying to kiss the umpire, and a naked man running onto the field and sliding into second base as Grieve hit his second home run of the game.

Also, a father and son ran into the outfield and mooned the fans in the bleachers.

***

“O lost, and by the wind grieved, ghost, come back again.” – Thomas Wolfe

***

On Sunday in Asheville, exactly one year after a stroke wiped my father’s mind clean, my mother, my brother, and I drove to a path that was the last place where my father took walks. My father was along for the ride too, in a box on my lap.

All his life, my father walked. He walked all over Manhattan as a boy. He walked on the rising and falling paths of Thomas Wolfe’s hometown in his nineties even after recovering from a broken hip. He just walked slower and used a ski pole for balance.

On the drive I brought up on my phone a 2012 live version of Lou Reed’s song “Cremation (Ashes to Ashes),” and my brother turned on the blue tooth so that it could play through the car speakers.

Since they burnt you up, collected you in a cup, for you the cold, black sea has no terror.

We got to the parking lot as the song was swelling to a conclusion. My brother cut the ignition. We got out of the car and inched down the icy path against a biting wind. My mom started to cry a little, and I put one arm around her. I carried the box under my other arm. We headed toward a point in the walkway where my father, on his walk, liked to sit for a little while before moving on.

My mother, brother, and I got to the part of the walkway near the bench and stepped carefully down toward the edge of the stream. My mom took the first turn of dipping a paper cup into the box of ashes.

“Note the direction of the wind,” my brother said, wisely.

My mother turned her back to the wind and tipped the cup, and the ashes swirled and fell to the water and dissolved. My brother went next and shook all the ashes in the cup out into the wind. Then my brother paused and looked down in the cup. He looked over at me and then held the cup up so that I could see. At the bottom of the cup was a large metal screw.

I took my turn at scattering my father to the wind and water, eventually, but not before all three of us laughed until tears welled up and then froze on our cheeks.

(continued)

2 comments

  1. I hope the simple ceremony you describe gives you some peace, Josh.


  2. Beautiful



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