Outside View: Baseball memories

By DR. DORREE LYNN, A UPI Outside View Commentary  |  June 23, 2002 at 5:17 AM
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WASHINGTON, June 23 (UPI) -- My father wanted a son. I understood that from the time I could intuit those secret messages that children know without knowing they know. My dad loved me. I also knew that. But, raising a daughter was foreign to him. Certainly, it wasn't his first choice.

So, in the ways that a child tries to please a parent, I tried to please him, to fulfill and give him what he wished for. It worked up to a point. Although in later years he was proud of me, for most of our life together, he was never comfortable around me.

Baseball was king in New York City when I was a small child, and although my dad was an inveterate Dodgers fan, we lived near the Yankee Stadium and it was there we bonded as much as we were ever able to.

Warm weekends, when he was free, we went to the game. I looked forward to going with him. The hotdog vendors, and cotton candy, peanuts and all the junk food my mother never knew about were a shared secret that made the day just that much sweeter, that much more special.

Sometimes he remembered how small I was and he reached out to hold my hand. Sometimes, he got caught up in the excitement of the game, forgetting he had a young daughter to take care of. I understood that too, and in those moments I reached up to touch his hand, sometimes wrapping my small fingers around his larger ones, reminding him of my presence

I learned the game well, along with the roster of great Yankee and Dodger players, with a few others thrown in: Yogi Berra, Pee Wee Reese, Joe Dimaggio, Whitey Ford, Satchel Paige and of course, the heroic Jackie Robinson.

I watched the plays, the miraculously caught high pop fly balls, the catcher --Yogi -- always in control, the umps calling their balls and strikes, the seventh inning stretch when I was more than ready to go home.

Sometimes, we shared a gigantic ice cream sundae, one more secret indulgence, before returning home.

My mother never understood the specialness of these outings.

Actually, neither of my parents did. She knew I was away for the day and therefore I was not underfoot. And, he had a companion, not the son he wanted, but I did the best I could to give him the joy he wished for. Baseball became our bond as it also became part of my lifeblood.

Father's Day, 2002: years after both my parents' deaths: They are gone but baseball is still with me. The guys in my psychotherapy practice are often surprised at how much I know and how passionate I get discussing the game. We wander into discussions of how much the game has changed. We debate the appropriateness of the player's now mega salaries. We argue plays and groan or applaud a home run.

The men who have entrusted their lives to my professional skills and I bond. I have my dad's baseball education to thank for that ability. I could never be the son he wanted. I haven't forgotten the pain of always knowing that. But, for the now grownup grandmother who as a small girl tried to be what her dad wanted, baseball remains. I am grateful for that gift.

* Dr. Dorree Lynn, Ph.D., is a Washington-area psychotherapist and the host of On The Couch on the Radio America network.

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