Days up and down they come
Like rain on a conga drum
Forget most, remember some
But don’t turn none away.
–Townes Van Zandt, “To Live’s to Fly”
I’d never turn a baseball card away, but days are a different story. Take today. I didn’t want to be anything that I am. An employee, a father, a friend, a husband, a son, a writer, a scooper of cat shit, a registered voter, an operator of an automobile, a chewer and swallower of food, a speaker of words, a breather of air. I’m not saying I wanted to not exist. I’m of a mind with my father on that.
“I can’t understand why anyone would want to die,” he said. This was yesterday. I’d called to wish him a happy birthday. He’s now 91.
“I want to live,” he said.
“Me too,” I said.
“I can’t hear you very well,” Dad said. We talked for a little while, mostly him talking and me listening. He told me about how he thought he might not ever again be able to walk up the steep hill outside my parents’ house and about an article on Bernie Sanders’ chances and about how humans will have to live through very dark times before a necessary revolution can occur that could save humanity from complete environmental destruction.
“I worry about the future for my boys,” I said, trying to chime in agreeably. It was true, generally, but not really true on a daily basis. On a daily basis, as a father of two intense, unstoppable boys under five, I usually don’t have the energy to look beyond the borders of each pressurized, exhausting moment.
“Well, my hearing aid must not be working so well,” my dad said.
That was yesterday, and today a ferocious wind was blowing all day and the sky was drained of light and I thought a lot about how old I was—not as old as my dad but older than I ever imagined myself being—and this wasn’t so much something that caused me to worry about death but to grow weary of life, of all the gray days. Here I am, closing in on 50, and I’m the same fleshy sack of limitations I’ve always been. I’m never going to make the major leagues. I’m not talking here about any kind of material success but about something else. Early in life you believe that one day you’ll bloom into some perfected version of yourself.
I’d never turn a baseball card away, which is why Glen Bockhorn is in my collection. I don’t even remember exactly when he entered the collection, but I can’t imagine a scenario where I would refuse him.
He was a member of the 1986 Buffalo Bisons. It was the last of his eight seasons in pro ball. He was 29, and it must have begun to occur to him that he wasn’t going to make the majors. He’d hit decently throughout his career, thumping over a hundred home runs in professional baseball, and he’d done whatever he could to make himself useful, playing every position on the field except pitcher. None of this would ever lead him to the big leagues.
But Glen Bockhorn is enjoying the moment. Why wouldn’t he be?
“Hey, Glen,” someone with a camera has just said.
Glen Bockhorn turns toward the voice. He’s got a bat in his hands, a shirt with his name on the back. Who couldn’t imagine that everything is still to come?
“We’re going to put you on a baseball card,” the cameraman says, “so get ready.”