Some things you can be taught. Others you have to learn. Before I was ten I could throw popcorn in the air and catch it in my mouth, (Cousin Howard showed me at the old Fairmount Theater). A year later, teammate Fred Capretta demonstrated how to throw a curve ball. Soon after, in the dead of winter, Alan on his indoor garage’s basketball court taught me the difference between a dribbler that properly backs into position and one that commits an offensive foul. (If HE had the ball it was backing in; if I had it, it was charging).

You could teach me what I could see. But only what I could see. Abstract beliefs came more slowly. Sometimes a half century later.

“Life isn’t fair,” we’d hear. (This was the way they said “Sh*! happens” in the 50’s). And when it did happen they put a bandaid on it and sent you home— a valuable lesson delayed. Consider:

One night at Nigrelli Field we got beat by the Tigers (2-1). We lost on a bad call at the plate. I can picture it to this day.

My dad was the manager…Harold Fischer slid into home… Scott Lery was on deck; I was in the hole. Our vantage point from the first base side was perfect. Then, in shock, we watched the ump’s thumb go up! Disbelief and tears and anguish….we were inconsolable. And then we had no choice but to slink off the field.

The regular umpire hadn’t shown and Jon Scott’s father filled in. But none of that mattered. My dad looked horrified; he knew. He knew. He said nothing, but he knew.

That night we didn’t want to hear that life wasn’t fair. Instead, in route home, our manager took Stuart and Ricky Fenton, my brother and myself to the Victory Park carnival to walk it off with ice cream.

He consoled us; we laughed a bit, but the loss still hurt. Still, looking back, the seed of a lesson was being planted: No matter how bad that umpire’s call was the score wasn’t going to change. Get over it, Bruce. Accept it. Move on.

It took me a long time to truly learn that lesson. And just as I still visualize the flying dust from Fischer’s wasted slide I can also pinpoint the exact instant I finally, once and for all, “got” it. It was Saturday, February 9, 2008. 8:45 PM.

I had been reeling from a recent series of events. And the pain was sharper than a 2-1 loss. You see, ten days earlier, for reasons only G/d knows, a recently-departed girlfriend had summoned me to talk; she had something she “had to share with me.”

We convened in neutral territory–the friendly confines of Barnes & Noble’s. Over coffee she revealed that yes, she had been intimate with a “friend” of mine. She just needed (she said) “to get it out there.”

It was something I’d suspected, but she’d denied toward the end of our relationship. Why she opted to bring it up two months post-mortem I’ll never know. So now it was out there, and eating me.

It hurt. I felt violated…by both of them.

Hey, he was a colleague…a would-be friend…and I’d never cheated…and didn’t we all know each other? There were a million reasons why I couldn’t justify it. And try as I did, for more than a week I couldn’t accept it.

I hadn’t wanted her back; I knew them both for what they were…but still, WHY?

I didn’t have my father to take me to a carnival, but I did have a support system. My sponsor told me to write the guy a letter, but read it to him before issuing it. And I did. No joke—I emailed the “draft” not only to David, but also to Burnside and Michael B. Within moments each had emailed me back begging me not to send it. (Dennis was more adamant. He called me, and his exact words were “You’re better than that.”)
And because of them, I was…and it still rests in peace, as a Word document.

But it ate at me, and ate at me, and ate at me. Why? The program had tried to teach me that everything happens for a reason. That I should look for lessons in everything. That what doesn’t kill you will make you stronger.
But I hurt.

My sponsor told me that sick people do sick things, but that I didn’t have to dwell in their sicknesses. Intellectually I knew he was right, but I ached.

And then, that February night it fell into place. John D was leading a meeting and I didn’t want to miss it. Entering the chapel I noticed not only the ex, but also the guy…with his wife. All of us in one small room…THE PERFECT STORM.

My head was spinning as I sat down in back. Afire, I kept asking myself how all this could be happening. How could they just flaunt it? What’s wrong with these people?

And then, as she took a seat in the front row, husband guided wife to the seats to my left. Purposely next to me—in my face! One big happy family. (Only no one was upset—except me).

I burned. In anguish I mentally replayed the “tools” I’d been taught.

And then it happened. I had been asking myself why G/d was doing this to me and somehow my thought process asked “What’s the lesson here?”
And, so help me G/d…a warmth came over me. At once I felt safe and at peace. I felt comforted. I knew.

At once that abstract lesson I’d been learning in one form or another for a decade finally pierced my fabric. I “got it.”

Acceptance IS the answer to all my problems. I don’t have to worry about other people’s actions, only mine. And I could choose to play the victim or let it go. I could mire in the crap of others or let it bounce off me and just work on my self. I could, if I chose to, breathe.

And just like that…it was gone. I mean it—just like that.

You may scoff but I know that G/d put me in that circumstance to finally learn that lesson. No pain, no gain.

It’s been a year and a half. In that time I’ve seen many things I haven’t liked, but few I could change. Still, I am accepting people, places and things exactly as they are…and sleeping better.

I am at peace…and have been since 8:45 PM on February 9, 2008.

One Response to “LET IT BE”

  1. Mark Ermine says:

    How do you remember all this stuff. Your head must be swimming with the past. My childhood must not have been as eventful as yours, or I just choose to forget it!

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