March always is a rather hectic month here at All Phoenix Real Estate headquarters for a number of reasons.
First, having rooted a large part of my business in the active adult communities, February and March tend to be the busiest months I see for buyers coming into town and sellers getting their homes on the market. It’s somewhat stunning (and often frightening) how much of my income is generated in the first quarter of the fiscal year.
Second, as a recovering journalism major who happens to be pretty damned good at sportswriting even after all these years, March is like Mardi Gras and Christmas rolled into one … a never ending run of games to be covered by the increasingly smaller pool of (quality) free-lance sportswriters who still exist here in the Phoenix area. In addition to the Suns and Coyotes, there also are 15 major league teams playing spring training games here and, at several venues where there are two teams sharing a facility, there’s a game a day to be covered.
I’ve been free-lancing for the Associated Press since 1992, through careers as a full-time sportswriter, news reporter, stockbroker, trading manager and now real estate agent. The money’s not so bad and, if I’m honest, I love not only watching the games but writing them. Writing remains my passion … if I had an imagination like many of the top fiction writers out there, I’d be dangerous. Sadly, I rely on others to play out the narrative before me.
Several years ago, at my spouse’s urging, I reached out to see if I could nail down a recurring spring training gig. And so, for the past six years, I’ve been covering most home games of the Texas Rangers and Milwaukee Brewers, along with a couple of Oakland A’s and San Francisco Giants game. (Ironically, though I live 3 miles from the Peoria Sports Complex, I haven’t covered a game there since 1995.)
Add on the Suns and Coyotes games at night, on top of the baseball games during the day (plus the rare showing I don’t pass to my buyers agent and all the work that goes into my listings) and I’m lucky the beagles don’t attack me as a stranger when I come home.
Did I mention three members of my family also have birthdays in March, all within an 8-day period?
Having said all of that, this has been a somewhat different, somewhat more Mad March … and, despite my claim as a pretty good sportswriter, I’ve buried the lead.
Last month, my parents purchased a home in Sun City and sold their place in Mesa – the home in which I’d grown up, the home in which they’d lived for the past 37 years. They moved on March 6, the day after their 46th wedding anniversary.
What was supposed to happen is the place was to have been redone before they moved – new floors, fresh paint, etc. Unfortunately, a poor choice in subcontractors left them with a home in disarray. And despite their statement that “it is what it is”, it was less than pleasant for them. Stupidly, I overstepped my bounds as a real estate agent and, as their son, tried to get the work done for them. So when it didn’t happen …
A couple of days after they moved in, my wife and kids were supposed to head over and help them unpack. My dad, yelling past my mother into the speaker on the cell phone, decided against that. I believe his exact words were “this is my f’ing house, not yours, and I’ll f’ing decide how it gets done.” My reply was along the lines of “so fix up your own f’ing house, I’m going to my f’ing game.”
Fast forward to the following Wednesday, and keeping in mind I’d not step foot in the house since they moved in, I thought I’d head over with my 13-year-old to see how they were doing. They were at his new cardiologist, who also was my own cardiologist. At least one referral I have seemed to be paying off. And so we didn’t go.
The next day I was at Scottsdale Stadium to watch the Giants play Team Japan in a World Baseball Classic exhibition. Before I left, my mom called to tell me my dad had collapsed at Walmart and was heading to the ER. What she described honestly didn’t worry me too much because it sounded much like an episode I myself had several years ago when exercising on my Wii. The only noticeable difference is where I fell backwards and bounced off the couch, he face planted – not great when you’re 6-foot-3.
We texted up and back, she said he was staying overnight which I’d already assumed … and then it was mentioned he was complaining of a headache. And there was a long, long delay in getting a CT done. And then, in the bottom of the fourth, both she and the hospital called to tell me to get over there. Fortunately, I found someone to finish out the game and I headed over to Sun City.
This is dragging on a bit so I’ll just take you to the endgame. He remains at the hospital and now, after two weeks, we’ve been told he’s not recovering from the coma he’s been in since the emergency surgery he needed following the CT to relieve pressure on the brain.
I’d like to think it’s a function of my era that my relationship with my father always has been … complicated. He was a travelling salesman for vast portions of my childhood, though not all of it, yet my overriding impression of most of my school years was that he wasn’t there.
I was walking out of Surprise Stadium yesterday and saw a father and son playing catch. I remember doing that once, maybe twice. I also remember taking a hard grounder in the stomach at a Little League practice, knocking the wind out of me, and being told to get up and stop exaggerating.
I also remember asking my dad, who was working as a Little League home-plate umpire, what happened to my at-bat when the runner was thrown out stealing second when I was at the plate. And I remember going to Swenson’s after a game “not because of how you played” but because my friend J.J. got his first-ever hit.
Then there also is the man who, at my bar mitzvah, pulled out a tattered photo of a 4-year-old me holding a white “All American” football with red stripes and some truly awful plastic helmet. The same man who never carried pictures because “I know what my kids look like.”
Though there never was anything physical between my father and I, he raised me hard. (This isn’t whining, I assure you … I can’t stand today’s blame-it-on-someone-else-because-I’ve-got-daddy-issues bullshit.) I’ve worked and worked to not do the same to my children, with varying degrees of success. They all still tend to complain to my wife that I get angry too easily or whatever – I’m the grown-up here – and I’m left to shake my head and tell them, as my father told me, you have no idea what angry/yelling/hard is.
It’s a Dalton family trait, as is the lessening of the Irish in us (to put it nicely) with each passing generation. My grandfather served in World War II. My father was on the Fighting I – CV-II, the Intrepid – in the late 50s and early 60s. And I try to not look disgusted when some baseball players tells me you’ve got to tip your cap to the other team.
Over the past many years, I’ve learned that a handful of things my father said were true, if not the way he said them. I find myself talking and hear his voice … the pacing when he’d tell a story, or react to something. Yet when my wife calls me by his name to tell me I’m acting like him, I bristle. Because she doesn’t really know. She’s starting to learn, but she doesn’t really know.
So it’s been that the past two weeks have been somewhat conflicted for me. All the things I wish I’d had the courage to tell him are bubbling up and, at the same time, I’m realizing not a damn one of them matter. I absolutely can tell you I have daddy issues – I feel them any time I’m in any kind of confrontation and find myself on the wrong (yet probably right) side of the fight-or-flee instinct. I’ve long ago reconciled that my sister and I, five years apart, knew two very different men.
None of this is to say I don’t love the son of a bitch. I do. But, again, like others of my age, it’s really not that simple.
The first time my dad fell seriously ill was six-plus years ago, I was devastated by the reality that he was in fact mortal. I’d already known from my mother’s successful fight against breast cancer that my parents wouldn’t live forever, but it’s not something you realize until you’re forced to admit it.
This is a very different post than that … perhaps because of the acceptance that this day would come, maybe because my last conversation with him wasn’t a conversation at all, maybe the last e-mail I received from him telling me to “stick with what you’re good at, sportswriting and selling homes.”
Truth be told, I’d have loved to see him in the house just once, even with all the disarray. I’ve been told by my mom and wife (who did see him) how much he loved the front patio, with the view of the lawn he wouldn’t have to mow and the quail and the rabbits. I never saw that.
I wish he could see my about-to-be 16-year-old sitting in the old Nissan truck that’s soon to be his, spending an hour or more talking to his sisters about how he wants to trick out his soon-to-be ride. But he said not to bring the kids over, so he never saw it.
I also wish I could have shook the bastard’s hand one more time … we’re not huggers though, ironically, I’m pretty such I hugged him goodbye at the last family event during the holidays.
But all those are largely pointless thoughts because, in truth, the body in the bed and hooked to a respirator at the hospital, isn’t my father. It’s an empty shell of the man he was, for better or worse. Take it or leave it, that was my father.
And besides … it’s still March … there’s a Brewers game starting in two hours and I’ve got to be there.