My mother was wrong. All those years she’d say “You are what you eat.” She was plain wrong. (Not that I ever understood. She thought I was creamed cheese and jelly?)

No, I’m not what I eat; I’m what I hear. Trust me.

As a kid I always had confidence. (Not with girls, of course, but in the classroom, on the ball field—where it counted).

Not only did I have value, but I knew it. And why? Because from Day One my Dad told me. Always. “You’re as smart as anyone,” he’d say. “That’s why it hurts so much — you don’t try.”

As a ten year-old, little league tryouts were at Victory Park. Today it’s a Giant Eagle, but back ‘twas dirt and an endless single file of wannabees fielding grounders as six men judged. We were vying for the few open spots on rosters replete with older kids. “You’re as good as they are,” my dad would urge (and I bought in). He always believed in me, and said so. His confidence made me better than I was.

If my Dad said I was good—I WAS good. So simple. I was what I heard. (Of course, there was a downside: Oh, I made the majors that year— with the juggernaut White Sox— champs of South Euclid. Got the mandatory one bat per game and went 0 for 1960. It was that kind of year).

“You’ll be fine,” came the voice, steadfast—a white James Earl Jones. Brother Hal not of age, there was but one schedule to track. Eschewing folding chairs, Al Bogart stood in foul territory, cigarette in tow, and never missed a pitch. “Level swing. Relax.” Once a night, twice a week: “Level swing. Just relax.”

We made the World Series that year, opening away at Brainard Park. Started! (Manager Fred Wendel opted to get me in and out early). As such, when Mr. Jackson flashed the “bunt” sign I dutifully signaled back. Squaring around it popped over the onrushing third baseman. When the dust settled I was standing atop second with the second biggest smile in the park.

“Attaboy” he called. And from a distance it meant “Knew you could do it.”

Alas, I AM what I hear. For better or worse. Indeed, was there not a time all I heard was crap?

“You’re a loser!” she’d say. “What kind of clients do you have? Why don’t you do this? ” “What’s wrong with you?” Insults, just like compliments, can be self-fulfilling prophesies.

I remember when I got to recovery. Guys would talk about how rough it was to stop drinking. They’d share stories of difficulties accepting powerlessness—acknowledging personal failings.

Then I’d get up and they’d laugh. “Hey, I’d note…I’ve got no problem with that. That’s the easy part.” And I’d mean it. That WAS the easy part.
Truth was, having heard “Loser” for so long—having been dubbed a “Failure” so often….well, acceptance was the easiest part of the process.
Drinking, I sensed, was just another thing I couldn’t do right.

It’s been a while.

And yes, I’m still what I hear…And with a TONE that’s bird-sweet, in a voice like Walter Cronkite… what I hear these days is that people are loving and that….I am loved.

It’s a message sent by family and friends.
On line and in rooms.
With words and prayers.
With thoughts and deeds.
And even with just…knowing smiles.

In times of struggle, I feel loved. In times of doubt, I feel loved.
’Tis a message not unheard or unappreciated. And it makes me, to be sure, better than I am. And it makes days better than they are.

Last night it came again…in my son’s frustration.

We were on Skype.
“Dad,” he begged, “Promise me—I want you to promise me you won’t go on the mo-ped.”
“No,” he shot back, “I want you to PROMISE.”

A long day was ending and five hundred miles separated father from son. But he told me he loved me…and he kept me off the mo-ped.

And even my Dad would say that’s better than a bunt double!

One Response to “WORDS”

  1. alan wieder says:

    This great and true and do stay off the moped as I learned on the motor cycle the hard way.

    By the way, I can see your dad.

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