I search for words that when stitched together, as in an eye-catching tapestry, express something with texture and richness, and I hope, beauty. Fingers are crossed for a glimpse of a sparkling thread, or an unexpected color that draws a reader in. Sometimes I fail miserably. But on a good day, as with the surprise of a wonderful candid photo, I capture a spirit, and a heartbeat. Then I watch a story come alive.
I didn’t answer the phone that afternoon. Given all the
blah-blah-blah and yadda-yadda I did for a living, I rarely answered when it
rang. I left it for the machine, or my excellent assistant – my son.
“Mom, Rick Greenley’s on the phone.”
Surprising. He was married to my high school bud and I
hadn’t spoken to either of them in a few years. At the ready for bad news I
took the phone.
His friendly voice boomed. “Hi, how are you? Would you like to go to a baseball game?”
Huh? What was I missing? During the years out of touch my friend and he had separated and were divorcing. He knew I was widowed; I knew nothing.
My stomach lurched. Was he asking me out? It sounded like it.
“Are you asking me on a date? I can’t go on a date with you. You don’t date
a friend’s ex. That's not cool.”
“Not a date. No. No date. But I can only hang out with my
brother for so long and I remembered you like baseball. It’s a two-fer. I can
get used to women again after swearing off for a year and a half. We see a game and catch up. C’mon. We can do this.”
It sounded suspiciously like a rationale for a covert
I put him off. I’d call him back. I couldn't decide. I hashed and rehashed the situation with anyone who'd listen. My dad wanted out. “I did this with you
when you were 16. I’m way too old for it now.”
Bestie was trying to figure out how to be in the dating
world herself, fresh off a divorce. I didn’t know if I should trust her advice.
“He sounds nice. You like baseball. He likes baseball. What can it hurt? Go to the game with Mr. Baseball. ”
Now he had a nickname.
I called my therapist. “What do you think?”
“I think it’s very
hard to do something nice for you. Go.”
Days passed and Rick called back still waiting for an answer. “We can have pizza
Oh, crap. Pizza was definitely date territory. I polled everyone again.
They were sick of me. Even the therapist told me I could
call him about anything but no more discussions about a ballgame and pizza.
I said yes. I went to the game. We laughed. We watched the Giants lose. We
got a cool souvenir pin commemorating the 50th anniversary of Jackie Robinson
integrating the bigs. We ate pizza. He talked about his failed marriage. More than once.
I was sad for him and his wife. I was relieved for me. It
couldn’t possibly be a date because who
does that on a date. A guy NOT on a date. A guy healing from having been
I chided him in an attempt to lighten his mood and
sprinkle some optimism.
“You’ll marry again. One day the right person will
come along. Good first step getting out of your apartment.”
“You’re kidding, right? I’ll commit murder before I’ll
commit matrimony. Been there. Done that. I’d have the tee-shirt but I’m too broke to get one!”
“I saw you when you were married. You were a happy guy. The
ultimate marrying man. It’ll happen.”
“No way,” said Mr. Baseball confident in his position.
I was more confident. He was all about family. I bet him $50.
“Cash on the barrelhead. Within three years you’ll be married.”
Later I told Bestie. I was safe. It really wasn’t a date and I was
happy to have connected with an old friend.
Rick’s folks lived nearby and when he’d make the three-hour
trek south to visit them, he’d check in on Christopher and me. He was a pal. A
guardian angel. A prankster. A smile to look forward to. An eggs
benedict-making machine. He brought comic relief. He was a little too loud. He was a breath of fresh air.
And he was good for his bets. He mailed a $50 check with
a note. “I’ve decided to ‘cover our bet'. If ever appropriate, fill in the date and cash.”
The memo section on the check read, “Ain’t gonna happen.”
Months went by and we chatted by phone and wrote notes about
work and life, our parents and kids. We both began dating. But not each other.
He was an excellent human reference guide. “When a guy does
__________, what’s that mean?”
Every woman should have a friend like that. Helps weed out
riff-raff and cracks man-code when necessary. John Gray was churning out his then new Mars and Venus books, I’d read them and give Mr. Baseball a call.
“Is that really true?”
“Yup. For sure it is.”
I had a lot to think about in my not-so-brave new world of
dating. Mr. Baseball was my edge.
You all know where this goes, right?
We debriefed our dates with each other, laughed at our
clumsiness, including when we first kissed someone new after our long
marriages. We moved on to discussing our other firsts, too, if you know whaddimean…
In the end, the debriefs were more fun than the dates and we
changed the terms of our relationship. From friendship and “hanging” to romance.
He convinced me with a mischievous grin, “I’m not saying we stop being friends.
We just figure out what more we could be. You’ll like it. Dating is a lot like
hanging. You just put on lipstick once in a while.”
Who can resist a line like that, right?
It all started with our not-a-date, no-absolutely-not-a-date
baseball game, 20 years ago today. The souvenir pin lives on my baseball cap.
And I collected the $50. In cash. So I could save the bet-covering check. It’s
in a frame and like every good wife I've been known to say, “I told you so.”
I just didn’t
know he’d be marrying me.
I couldn’t love you any more, Mr. Baseball. Happy 20 years
since our first not-a-date. (Nope. Definitely not a date.)