Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Comisky Wound

I haven’t been to the South Side to see a Chicago White Sox baseball game in a long time. When I was a kid the White Sox didn’t play at U.S. Cellular. The South Siders play Comisky Field. Same place, different name.

As a North-Sider and a Chicago Cubs fan, the White Sox, didn’t matter to me. Too far away. We just didn’t go down to the South Side to watch the Sox. The South Side was not only out of bounds, too far, but could have been too “dangerous.” After all, white flight flew north, not south in Chicago, to the northern suburbs. I lived in the most Jewish of them all, Skokie.

A little shuttle train to the city enabled my brothers, friends and me to take the Howard Street L, an elevated train, directly to Addison Street, a North Side stop. We got off at Addison and there was Wrigley Field, tall and proud, home of the Chicago Cubs. Five bucks and we’re in the gate.

It was that or stay at home and watch the game in black and white on WGN, Channel 9. I could quote batting averages of greats like Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, and Ron Santo back in the sixties, and sure, collected baseball cards.

Almost twenty years ago, married with children, I determine it’s time to reward Bobby, one of my four boys, for something or another, probably for reaching 20 points on the ever-present behavior modification "point system" on the refrigerator.

So I buy some tickets to the White Sox/Blue Jays game, not so much for the Sox, but for the Jays. I don't know why, but Bobbie loved the Blue Jays, not the Cubs, not the Sox, neither Chicago team. He probably liked the bird.

We leave Bobby's twin brother Ricky to baby sit our youngest, Sammy, who is about 4 at the time. I think my instructions to Ricky went like this:

1) pick up Sammy at camp
2) take him the park to play
3) take him home
4) eat the dinner that I left you
5) don't burn down the house.

These were the usual instructions.

We take off for the game in the car (you can take the train, but it’s a long ride from where we live in the city), but I’m worried. Ricky is only 11 and Sammy is my baby. It wasn't that I didn't trust Ricky to baby sit a four-year old. It was just that as a working woman I'd had a literal army of babysitters. My experience leaving the kids with kids hadn't been the greatest. They tended to leave me with no vodka at all.

And Ricky was still a kid. But I had told myself and my spouse, FD, that this would be okay. I could deal with a baseball game. Bobby deserved it. Ricky could handle Sammy. We'd be home before too long. The neighbors knew to check in, and FD wasn’t in China, he worked only five miles away.

So the two of us are off to Comisky Field and we get there in one piece, park and find our seats. I’m unimpressed and already regret going to the game. The Sox are not my team. I simply don’t care about baseball, not really, not anymore. I have no interest in drinking beer, like most people, to assuage the boredom. There are no big TV screens, no electronic banners, no bells and whistles. And Bobby doesn’t seem so Tom Terrifically interested.

These are not cell phone days, by the way. Nothing to play with. I wait until Ricky and Sammy should have been home from camp and the park, maybe it’s the third inning, and leave Bobby to find a pay phone to call home. The public phone, since we’re so high in the bleachers, is near our seats.

The phone rings, rings, rings.

It rings and rings.. They aren't home.

Or they were home and have been slaughtered by the home invader. (I have a repeating home invader dream about once a year, never know when it’s coming on, am convinced now, that this is why).

Being a rational-cognitive therapist (among my many beings) I know I must counter these thoughts if I am to survive my anxiety. But I can’t convince myself that the possibility of home invasion is remote. Maybe there was a home-invader. Without proof, who knows?

I call a neighbor and she checks the house, returns to the her telephone to say, "They're not answering. It doesn't look like anyone's home."

"Did you see any home invaders perhaps?"

"Uh, no."

I return to my seat and say to Bobby, “They're not home."

"Oh, I'm sure they're probably over at the Levitt's."

The Levitts! They live near the park! I call the Levitts. No, they aren't there.
I call home. No answer. The phone rings and rings and rings.

Forget countering negative thoughts. The boys have been kid-napped, obviously. I have the worst panic attack in years, have forgotten what a panic attack is like it has been so many years, but even now I can feel this one in my chest remembering it.

My thinking on this, just so you should know, is that if you don't have true panic disorder, but you do suffer occasional panic attacks, with a little searching you can remember them all. I remember them all. I ask myself is these are like the snapshot memories that some prostitutes have, the ones I’ve treated who say they remember every trick.

This panic attack is terrible. My heart is pounding, I can’t breathe. I’m weak in the knees and feel like I’ll pass out. I’m was sick with anxiety, and try to protect Bobby from catching it. Knowing that it’s just anxiety doesn’t help, either.

I jockey between the pay phone and reporting back to Bobby, trying desperately not to panic him. He notices that I’m upset and he is upset, which upsets me more. .

At some point I say, "We're going home."

No argument there. But before we go, obsessively I say, “Let's make one last call for the road.”

Ricky picks up the receiver. These are land phones we’re talking about.

"Where in the world have you been? Are you okay? Is Sammy okay?"

"Huh, yeah. We're okay. We're eating."

"Why didn't you answer the phone? How long have you been home? I was sick with worry about you guys! Where were you?!?"

"We were over at Gershon's house, the Russian kid. We were playing video games in his basement. We lost track of the time."

"Oh. You're sure you're okay?"

"We're fine."

"Why didn't you go home?"

"I thought we'd just stay for a couple of minutes, play a few games and go. I lost track of the time. Sorry."

Never mind that he broke the rule on video games. We didn’t do video games, even then, no Nintendo especially. Not in our house, shunned television, even, and our kids admitted, years later as young adults, that their grades were better, probably because of that. Outside the house, we surrendered.

Never mind that Gershon wasn't on the list of things to do.

They were safe.

"We can stay if you want," I tell Bobby. "We can finish out the game."
But the game is ruined; he wants to go home.

All in all? Not a good memory. Not a feel-good night for the fam, and I stayed away from Comiskey Field, now US Cellular, for many, many years, too traumatized to go back. And anyway, if I’m going to watch two teams play baseball. One of them is going to be the Cubs.



Anonymous said...

It was the beer and the lack of little kids to worry about at the most recent game. We didn't drink beer when the kids were young, remember? The game remains just the same as it was - a "good" game is when no one hits the ball.

therapydoc said...

I USED to think you were totally right, get the dern thing over with. But I'm trying to lose my attitude and be a good. . .sport? (groan)

Anonymous said...

I've found that the introduction of cell phones have only increased the anxiety of those who need to know where you are. Once my phone went dead, and both my wife and mother thought I was dead/ They were both furious at me for a week.

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