“…I threw a pebble in a brook
       And watched the ripples run away
       And they never made a sound…”

There’s a scene near the top of my play opening tonight which we blocked way back in January. Days after my heart catheterization, the director opted to have me bumped into rather than knocked down as originally scripted. (Assenting—I knew it was his call—I noticed it. Worse than that, I understood).

I’ve come by my physique honestly. Al Bogart was a bald, heavy-set six-footer and our Mom? She was average–in everything. (Many, I came to learn, dubbed our father “fat”. I never saw it of course—perhaps for the same reason that not once did I detect an accent from a European grandmother).

That, then, was my gene pool, and why, perhaps, I wore “husky” pants through grade school.

“You’re supposed to be big,” said my dad. “You have big bones”.
“But Hal’s not heavy,” I’d note.
(No response).

To our dad my body was always right-sized, (regardless of tonnage). At any given moment in my Little League or Pony career he’d be saying: “You’re built to catch” or “Your strength slows you down but gives you power. You should play third, maybe first”. Indeed, even in college, as Wieder put me behind the plate for good, my dad found solace.

“You know,” he told me, “The catcher is the smartest man on the field.”
“But Dad, this is SLOW pitch. I don’t signal the pitcher. And do you really think Snyder’s going to move back ‘cause I say so?”

Still, I never worried about my body. Ever. From head first slides on cement (still evidenced by chipped teeth), to a broken rib from some Pete Rose wannabe, to the ripped hamstring ultimately revealing Father Time, I never did fret. If I could field and I could hit, I could play. If I could play, I figured, I was not only vibrant, but healthy and young.

Until I wasn’t. Until I was relegated to do what I must do now: watch Michael on a New York sandlot or compete, ONCE A YEAR with a sixteen inch ball and Jason in Chicago. Trust me, ‘tis no thrill in lining a beachball sharply over second only to trip twice en route to first.

There’s a picture in my scrapbook, circa ’62. There in black and white stand The Boys, Bruce and Hal. Full White Sox regalia…smiling…youthful…looking better than they ever hit.

What happened? (you ask). I can tell you in two words. FIFTY YEARS.

Eyeing the mirror, sometimes feeling young as ever, I see the decades.

My eyes: bags surround them. My hair: gray to some—don’t say “silver”. And my nose? Don’t go there. (Hal says he never realized how big it was until I got contacts again).

Oh, the parts still work…when it matters.

I still deal cards with my left hand (it always bothered the old man).
“You’re right-handed!” he’d shout.
“Why would you care, Dad? I didn’t misdeal”.

And my knees still bend, (when I drop a card).

But I’m older now and my director? He worried.

“I can still fall down,” I promised him in run-throughs.
“You’ll get your laughs Bruce.  Relax.”
(The spill, he confirmed, stayed out).

I can imagine my son reading this. I know his thinking.

“So tell me Dad,” he’ll ask, “How much do they pay you for that stuff?” And then, before I answer, there’ll be more: “And what about the film you’re doing?”  “It’s not the money, Michael. I do it for the fun.”

Getting old and feeling old are separate matters. So too are growing up and aging.  Invisible lines get crossed.  Indeed, for this work in progress, when I ignore directors or laugh off children the lines get blurred.  

So I listen.

       “And the leaves that are green turn to brown….”

                    Paul Simon

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