There’s No Grading System for a Memory
By Peter McCabe aka 74Razor
No matter how much I rubbed my forehead the headache just wasn’t going away. I thought I read somewhere that if you rubbed hard enough your body would release a natural painkiller. Wasn’t this supposed to get rid of headaches? Or was it a lime that you needed to rub against your forehead? Was that it? Wait, I don’t have a lime, so does it matter? No.
‘Iron Man has this face shield in his suit, which looks like a computer, that he uses when he flies.’ I knew my son didn’t lead me to the toy aisle only to amaze me with random Iron Man facts. I knew this song and dance. He was going to talk me into circles and then when my legs started to give he was going to take a shot with an over hand right like a prize fighter going for the knock out.
‘Dad! I have all of them except for this one! Please? It is the only one I need! You promised.’ And, there it was. He stood there with a package in his hand that contained an Iron Man figure that looked exactly like every other one he had at home. Boy was I wrong. He kindly informed me that this specific Iron Man had a grey suit which was special armour. Whatever he had at home, it paled in comparison to this Iron Man.
‘Are you ok daddy?’ I had just got done with a 10 hour shift. My body ached and I needed a shower. I needed to get a few things done before I returned home and there just wasn’t enough time in the day.
He looked at me, shrugged and said, ‘I don’t have to get it.’ He took that one last step and put the Iron Man back on the shelf.
Suddenly, just like that, I was back in 1989. ‘She Drives Me Crazy’ was playing on the radio and I was telling my dad all about the Red Sox. Until that summer, I didn’t care about the Red Sox. It wasn’t until I played Little League for a team named the Red Sox that I felt it was my duty to support them. Besides, someday I would grow up and play for them so it was best to know the history of the team you were destined to play for! It all made sense to me. My dad’s old Ford pickup loudly pulled into the parking lot of a local card shop as I was filling my dad in on Mike Greenwell and how Wade Boggs could quite possibly be the best hitter of all time. He only said something about the fixing the muffler but I didn’t care. This was the most important day of my life. It was my birthday and my dad was bringing me to my favorite card shop to pick out any card I wanted! I was young and the fact that cards could be worth something wasn’t important to me. I opened the door and slid out of the truck. My dad shut off the truck while muttering about the music of today and how it was nothing but noise. ‘How could he possibly be thinking of anything besides what was happening right now’ I thought to myself. Doesn’t he see the importance of my journey? At home I had spent countless hours, days, months… years putting together my baseball card collection. My mother had brought home boxes from work so I had somewhere to store them. She even bought me a cork board that I used to pin my favorite Red Sox to. An entire wall of my room was filled with cards of Marty Barrett, Wade Boggs, Mike Greenwell, Dwight Evans, Ellis Burks, Roger Clemens and Oil Can Boyd. At the corner of the board was a picture my dad had taken of me during one of my games. I figured it wouldn’t be too long before I had a card of my own up there, but until then this picture would have to do.
I had been in that card shop hundreds of times before but today was different. I had my dad with me! All those times I had returned home empty handed meant nothing because today I would get to pick a card. My dad laboured behind me in his soiled blue factory uniform. As soon as he pulled into the driveway I was out the door reminding him about the promise he made me about today. He gave my mom a kiss and got right back into the truck.
My face was pressed against the glass as I went from case to case trying to absorb it all in. The entire history of baseball was right here in this very room! Some cards were glossy, some dull and faded. Some were in plastic holders or in sleeves, while others were leaning against a wall to remind customers of their heroic feats. No matter the position, you could almost feel as if you were part of the game somehow. It was there that I saw it. It was the card I knew I had to have. I had told myself the night prior that I would spend hours at the store looking at every card until I found the perfect one. Well, 5 minutes for a kid like me felt like hours. In the far back left of the enclosure, held up by a plastic bracket stood Wade Boggs. It was his 1983 Topps card. The owner must’ve sensed what was going on because he asked me if I liked Wade Boggs. I wanted to answer by giving him his career batting average or the number of batting titles he had won but I simply nodded my head. He took the card out and slid it across the counter for my dad and I to look at. My dad asked if this was the one and I said it was. It was the first time since I got into the store that I actually looked at my dad. He seemed run down and tired. He even looked at the price tag a little too long for my liking. ‘I don’t have to get it.’ He took one last look at the card and back at me then smiled.
My son woke me from my dream by pulling on my shirt. ‘We can go dad.’
You know people sometimes say the journey is the best part, and I agree with them. However, having someone to share it with makes it even better. To be honest, I can’t tell you where that Wade Boggs card is now and I can’t even tell you what condition it was in. What I can tell you is what that card shop smelt like. I could drive you down to the building it used to be at. I can tell you how much it meant to have my dad there and listen to all the stats I had memorized. The most important thing is I can tell you how much it meant to me, even to this day, to have my dad there and pat me on the head on the way home when I couldn’t take my eyes off my dream card.
I took a long look at my son, smiled, and said, ‘So tell me more about this Iron Man.’ He excitedly took the box off the shelf and flipped it over to read to me, in detail, every feature the guy came with. I don’t kid myself. I know that in days or months or even years that this Iron Man will be lost forever.
Here is to hoping that the memory of his dad taking an interest in him lasts a lifetime.
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