Friday, January 1, 2016

Crowded House "Don't Dream It's Over"

New Year's Eve has long been one of my favorite holidays, and and New Year's Day one of my least favorite.  It's the day I realize that the holiday season is over, and that I am about to go back to work with the worst months of the year stretched out before me.  In recent years it has become even more difficult because of the deaths of those close to me, and the changing in the calendar reminds me of their loss.  The years keep rolling on, and fewer and fewer people are there with me, either due to distance or dying.

I've tried to take time this new year's season to remember those that I've lost.  The song I choose for this reflection is always "Don't Dream It's Over" by Crowded House.  This might sound like a strange choice, since it's apparently a minor key love song, but I have my reasons.  The first person close to me I ever lost was my dad's father, in April of 1987, on Good Friday after a long illness.  He and my grandmother lived in a tiny town half an hour away, and I swear every time we drove there over the days after my grandfather's death this song was on the radio.  I cannot hear it without thinking about that moment in my life.

I often think about the fact that I was just really getting to know my grandfather as a real person right at the moment he died.  The prior year he had stayed at our house for a couple of weeks while getting treatments at the hospital.  I was at first resentful of the fact that he was sleeping in my bed, and I was now confined to the couch.  I got over that pretty quickly, thankfully.  My grandfather would tell me stories, and as a budding history nerd, they blew my mind. He was born in rural Missouri in 1903, and could thus tell me of a time when he surprised to see cars, not just horse drawn carriages, on the roads.  He was actually in the train station in Kansas City during an infamous 1933 shootout there between gangsters and the police.  More crucially, he wanted to watch baseball every day, and that habit drew me away from the after-school episodes of GI Joe and towards Cubs games on WGN.  My life would never be the same again.

But I never really had the chance to talk baseball with him, even though he lit the spark for my more serious interest in the game.  I watched the '86 World Series intently, and when the 1987 season began I was buying Topps cards like a maniac and checking the daily baseball scores, but he was already in the hospital for good.  I still remember a day, maybe the day of his funeral or the day after, sitting disconsolately on my grandparents' couch in their always underlit, cramped and cluttered living room while looking at the sports page of the Omaha World-Herald and seeing that Bo Jackson, the Royals' great new hope, had struck out five times in his last game.  (Based on my research, this was apparently on April 18, 1987.)  That made a truly rotten day feel even worse.  As I sat on the couch, despondent, my sweet Aunt S. came over to ask if I was all right, and I think I talked about Bo Jackson as a way to deflect the depths of my sadness over my grandfather's passing.

I was talking to my parents on the phone tonight, and my dad retold the story of how my grandfather loved baseball so much that he played on the town team (back when every little town had its own amateur teams) well into middle age, and used an unorthodox cross-handed hitting style to great effect.  For some reason my hands instinctually want to grip a baseball bat that way.  It's my grandfather's blood talking to me.

What I would give to be able to talk to him again.  Listening to this song is the closest I can get.


Anonymous said...

This is your cousin Dave on that side of the family. I also wish I could talk to him again. I cannot say I was particularly close to Grandpa Tebbe in my early years -- he was always loving and told interesting stories like you say but seemed reserved around me and I didn't see him as much as one would think living only 12 miles away and without living grandparents on my father's side. That changed in the fall of 1985. He was under some sort of out-patient medical care that required particular observation and he stayed at our house for about a week (maybe the same thing that he stayed at your house for?). It was right during the NL championship series, Cardinals vs. Dodgers. I learned immediately he was a big Cardinals fan; until then I had been indifferent to the Cardinals as well as much of the MLB other than the Royals. We watched three games together. Looking back at the stats, I think they were games 1-2-3 or 2-3-4 because I remember watching at least one that the Dodgers won (and Grandpa was visibly disappointed), and one that the Cardinals won including a Cardinals HR, but I think I would have remembered if it was Ozzie's game 5 HR and I don't. From our discussions during those games he got me interested in the Cardinals and far more interested in MLB generally. But more importantly, our conversations then were adult-level on multiple subjects and not reserved. Following that stay, Grandpa Tebbe was much more close and open with me. I remember a particular moment I think a few months before his passing when we were at his house and I was talking to him about something (sitting in his favorite chair and me on the floor) and my mom was having a separate conversation with Grandma and at some point Grandma stated something a little over-dramatic and Grandpa rolled his eyes at me and I grinned back. My last conversation of length and with full capacity with him before he passed was at his house and he made a point to tell me that he saw in the local paper that I had been awarded the Neihardt Scholarship from Wayne State and congratulated me and he was happy to see it and that I was going to college.

I really wish he could have lived for a few more years, and I could speak to him now.

Werner Herzog's Bear said...

That's a great story about the scholarship and that little moment. I really wish I could have gotten to know him better; he died right around the age that I was able to talk with him on a deeper level. He was certainly always such a kind-hearted person.