People say the midlife years are hardest. When grey hair strands and deeper wrinkles shepherd in new feelings, and grief becomes all too consuming.
Tommy couldn’t tell you when his midlife lull began. “Maybe it was around thirty. That was my first feeling of passing time. Made me think much about earlier years,” he’d say.
In those earlier years of youth, he wanted to be a shortstop for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Many said, “don’t forget about us when you’re playing at Ebbets Field.” But when his girlfriend gave birth to their son at sixteen, he took a job. The baseball dreams stayed then. But when his girlfriend became pregnant again a year later, he put his cleats, gloves, and bats deep into the closet.
Tommy was a father to four and still working the same job when those grey hairs started showing. Time had passed without fury. But it had passed. The neighborhood kids he grew up with were adults now, with families of their own and troubles atop of mind.
“Emotions. They can be difficult at times,” Tommy told his wife one night. He wasn’t a sensitive type; didn’t talk about feelings often. Except “I love you,” which he said to his wife many times a day. The two had known each other all of life. Born a day apart, their families lived in neighboring apartments. And so they became friends as kids, kissed for the first time at fifteen, and then their children came. They married at eighteen. She didn’t question his love for her. Nor desires to be together.
The Brooklyn Dodgers moved to Los Angeles in 1957. Tommy cursed Dodger ownership the day they left. But he stayed loyal, following their games, and watching when they played on TV. They were still his team.
They were still his team in 1963. That team didn’t have a great start to their season. And on May 4th, they lost again, bringing their record to 11-13 for the year. Yet for the first time in a long time, too long to even remember, Tommy felt no emotions about the game or the team record. He forgot they were even playing. That day, he and his wife watched images coming in from a protest in Birmingham, Alabama the day prior. Instead of the Dodgers, he watched a teenage boy attacked by a police dog, protestors beaten and hosed, dragged away. He watched with tears streaming down his still chiseled cheeks.
Racism had never made sense to Tommy. “You judge a man by his character,” Tommy’s father always taught his son. That lesson stuck. Tommy was proud that it was the Dodgers, his Dodgers, who signed Jackie Robinson to a contract, breaking the color barrier in baseball. He rooted for Jackie.
His wife watched the tears stream down, the sadness in her husband’s eyes. And she knew that he wanted to take part in the civil rights movement.
She put her hand on Tommy’s leg and looked at him tenderly. “Honey, I’ll get a job,” she said. “We’ll make it work.”
“Tommy, The Dodgers, and Civil Rights” is a historical fiction short story. While based on real events, the story, characters, and incidents are fictitious.
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