My parents – and especially my mom - have always made extra-ordinary efforts to visit me and my husband in New York. I’ll admit that I’m skilled at lining up visits regardless of the occasion, but truthfully, my mom never really needed any convincing. Occasionally she flew, but more often than not she drove, always with her handwritten directions taped to the dashboard. She drove down with my dad, with my sisters, with friends, and because nothing was going to get in between visits with her baby, she even drove the oftentimes torturous 350 miles from Rochester by herself. The car was typically loaded with groceries – always with some type of pork product, as my husband loved to point out – and beer and wine. I joked with her, “Mom, it’s New York, there are grocery stores here,” but it was wasted breath. She came to help us move, to help celebrate birthdays, for girls’ weekends, and for everything in between. All of these visits were variable, but there was one that was more or less set in stone each year.
For the last six or seven years, my parents have made a summer trip to New York. If you’re sitting there thinking what an awful time to visit NYC, what with the tourists and the humidity and the smelly garbage, you’d be right. But for my dad, this trip is about one thing: going to a Yankees game. To say my dad has a healthy appreciation for sports is an understatement. The Browns, the Yankees, Syracuse basketball, Notre Dame football, anyone holding a golf club - the man does not only watch, but truly enjoys most sporting events, a trait shared wholeheartedly by my husband.
My mom, on the other hand, was a sports fan in that way many wives are, myself included. The Yankees play approximately 162 games per season, and my mom probably watched close to 150 by virtue of living with my dad, or as she liked to put it, being a hostage in her own house. Despite this love/hate relationship, she could rattle off the starting lineup for the Yankees on a moment’s notice and liked to provide her own color commentary on each of the players and their personal lives. I was home one Wednesday night and somehow wrestled the remote from my dad, just in time to catch Modern Family. I was shocked when my mom told me she had never watched an episode, but in her now infamous words, ”If it doesn’t have a ball, we don’t watch it.”
Last weekend marked our first Yankees outing since my mom died. A small milestone, comparatively speaking, but I missed her every step of the way. Before the game, we stopped for lunch at Dominick’s, an Italian restaurant on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx, and truthfully, the real highlight of the day for me. Dominick’s is the kind of restaurant where the waiters recite for you the menu, where the red sauce is the star, where the table clothes are plastic, but most importantly to me on that day, the kind of restaurant my mom would have loved.
As we ate, I thought about how my mom would have oooh’ed and aaah’ed over each bite of chicken parm, one of her favorite indulgences. I was reminded of a conversation I had with my sister the week before. She was matter-of-fact, and told me how during a particularly difficult day, and after months of thinking to herself, “Mom would love this,” she decided to change her way of thinking. She said from that point on, she has repeated to herself, “Mom LOVES this,” and it’s changed everything for her. So I tried it on for size, over our Italian feast. And then this past weekend, when we were all together for Father’s Day, with the kids running around in the side yard, I said it again: “Mom LOVES this.”
This is my new normal. Baseball games with my dad and husband, holidays with my family, keeping my head up each and every day. It’s the new and it’s the old and if I’m being honest, I have no idea where it’s taking me some days. But one thing I do know -
Mom loves this.