Eighteen Years

Busch Stadium in St. Louis is a truly beautiful place. For the past ten or eleven years, it’s been a family tradition to go and see a St. Louis Cardinals home baseball game with my-in-laws. It started out with just the boys going, while the girls, along with whoever the baby boy was at the time, stayed back to go out to eat, paint our nails, or get back to school haircuts. Over the past several years it’s morphed into us all going together.

I knew I probably shouldn’t have gone, and I was right. This past year I’ve missed a lot of family events, be it Sunday services or Sunday afternoons out to eat. I stayed home from most my oldest son’s baseball games and didn’t go to my in-laws house for the kids’ birthdays. Earlier this month, while coming back from a family vacation to go visit my grandma, we went to an Atlanta Braves game in Atlanta. That’s its own story, but all of this is adding up to the reason I decided to go ahead and go along to the game.

The hour and a half long drive was okay. The 0.1 mile walk from the parking garage to the stadium will forever now be for me amazingly okay. The sitting in front of the stadium for half an hour was okay. The sitting in our seats for two hours before the game even started, now highlighting the obvious differences in how I personally would’ve chosen to do things, was still also okay. Catching a glimpse of David Freese signing autographs, the hometown hero champion of World Series 2011, then encouraging my kids to also walk over there, to get close enough to peek around the wall and they’d see him, was a thrill for me far more than it seemed to be for anybody else. At that point, I still was generally doing okay.

I was doing okay until about the third inning. If you know anything about baseball, you know that the third inning means you’ve still got at least six solid innings and potentially two to three more hours to go in the game. I started to feel a vibration in my back. I thought it was from the palpable energies booming throughout the stadium and somehow making their way to my chair. I turned to my left and asked my husband if he could feel his chair vibrating. He paused for a moment and then he said no. When I then put my thumb to my wrist to check my pulse, I realized my heart was actually pounding and that the rate at which it beating was significantly higher.

Instead of telling myself I was fine, that this was just your mind trying to play tricks on you, I told my body instead that I heard it, that I was going to do whatever I was able and could do then to help it. I’d gone up and down the stairs twice in three innings, once to use the bathroom, and once to accompany my daughter while she went. That was the point where I needed to sit down, where my upper legs were beginning to tremble, where the stadium lady came and asked me if I was alright. Three more times a person would ask me that question, and each time their genuine kindness and concern would pierce my heart.

I told my husband I needed to get up and go somewhere else, to sit up by the stairs. Then I asked if would come with me. I had a spent much of the afternoon Braves game comfortably alone in the open stairwell, away from the crowds, where I could stretch, rest, breathe and enjoy the light breeze. But the stairwell this time was only a stopping place. The stadium was too loud, the night was getting too late, and the hours leading up to the evening game had been too long. I told my husband I needed to go back to our van.

He disagreed, and this wasn’t a surprise. We have been through years of moments like this before, but this time I was consciously unmoved and different. He would help me or he decidedly would not, but there would be no changing my mind on this one. As my pounding heart continued to pound, I reassured my body that I was going to get it what it needed, that it was probably going to take some time, that I didn’t know exactly how all of this would work out, but that we were going to make it back to the van.

I asked for the van keys. I understood this predicament and could in some way relate. He couldn’t make me better with anything he would say, and I couldn’t make him see by over-trying myself. This was an inconvenience and a hassle and was going to cause a minor scene involving several other people, having nothing really even to do with what I wanted, but with simply what was needing to be done at the time. After a lady told me I couldn’t sit on the stairwell but could sit in a chair that was out of the way, texting my sisters and asking for prayers, and a little bit more back and forth interaction, he started walking with me over towards the third story steps. I was relieved that he was coming with me, and that the way from there was not uphill.

We were right about making a minor scene. All we wanted was to get me back to the van, and then he could go back for the rest of the game. But we arrived at the gate, and our differences met yet again. Because of COVID, anyone who left could not re-enter the stadium. I said this wasn’t a big deal, that all we needed to do was tell somebody what was going on, that if the person had any heart at all, which is every single human on this planet, they would make an exception. He said the rule was they wouldn’t let anybody back in, and he didn’t even have his ticket. He texted my in-laws to have them text the ticket to him.

After going up and telling the gate-people what was going on, they said they were not allowed to let anyone back in. By this point I was reaching my limit for walking, and was truly starting to hope my heart wasn’t about to explode. This wasn’t even the gate we needed, which was completely on the other side of the stadium. They said maybe gate three would let us do it, and I asked if there was any way to get a ride over there. They pointed us in the direction of the nearby help station, right next to the stretchers and the wheelchairs and the first responders.

I asked the help lady if there was any way to get a ride to gate three. She said she could get a stadium cart, but that a wheelchair would be quicker. For the fourth time that night I was touched by a stranger. She asked if I was okay, if I needed to be seen by first aid. I said yes I was okay, I was just needing help getting back to our car. She called the guy for the wheelchair and arranged for the parking lot transportation people to meet us at the street curb outside of gate three. The wheelchair guy looked slightly confused when he saw me. “Am I taking you?”, he asked. And I said, “Yes.” He wheeled me to where we needed to go, and at some point in the middle of the wheelchair ride my heart settled down to now pound at me less. I was relieved, thankful, riding against the people flow, and trying to hold in laughter about this absolute ridiculousness.

We arrived at the needed gate, but this time he had his ticket, and I was sitting in a wheelchair. He went up to the gate people and explained the situation. They immediately brought him to the gate’s main gate people. They said yes, go ahead, and if he came back there they would remember his face. The guy on the street was waiting for us with his vehicle, and the first thing he said to me was, “Hello Miss Rebekah.” I said hello back but when he asked me how I was, it was all I could do to hold in my tears, to look into his eyes with a sad half-smile and say nothing at all. We slid into our seats and took the short ride to the garage.

He told him this was our stop, that the driver could let us out here. He gave him five bucks and I thanked the man before he then drove away. Before too long I was back in the van, into one of the teenager’s middle row bucket seats where I could take my PRN medicine, call my sister to check in, cuddle up with my blanket that I still bring places, and soundly fall asleep behind the dark tinted windows. My husband gave me the keys, and he told me to promise him I wouldn’t drive to the hospital. I said I wouldn’t. He said it’s going to get hot in here, so I needed to leave the air on. Then he said to lock the doors.

I woke up to the sound of our kids knocking on windows. The game was over and the Cardinals had lost. I’d been asleep for two hours, and by the time we’d wind our way out of the garage, it’d be two more hours before we got home. I stayed right where I was and it was a comfortable ride, and before too long, the boys in the backseat were sound asleep too. I think I might have fallen asleep again, but I don’t remember. Needless to say, after all of that, I spent the entire day back in my in bed again. For the past six weeks I’ve been thinking about marriage, wondering what I would want to say here if I were to say something about it. I guess, for today, this story will do.

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