Wednesday, March 28, 2007

A life saved, a life remembered and lives reconnected

Aaron Heilman is either pouting that he's not a starter or hanging his head in shame for the Molina dinger.


I was sitting on AirTran flight 231 as it taxied on the runway for takeoff in Ft. Lauderdale, lamenting the lack of actual baseball news on the on-board XM Radio’s MLB Home Plate station when I noticed a commotion.

Three rows behind me, a man was shaking in his seat and a passenger was shouting "medical emergency!"

The guy sitting directly in front of me said he was a paramedic, and two women from near the front of the cabin rushed back after one of the stewardesses called for a doctor or a nurse.

As the plane turned around and headed back toward the gate, the paramedic, the women and the stewardess took the man out of his seat and laid him in the narrow aisle. A friend brought the man's son — part of a high school hockey team heading to a tournament — to the front of the plane as someone unbuttoned the man’s shirt.

I heard them say the man was not breathing, and they started using the defibullators. The machines make an eerie sound, with a audible instructions — "Do not touch the patient" — before you apply the shock.

They tried this three times before passengers sitting around the activity applauded. He was breathing again.

By this time the plane had made it back to the gate, and airport paramedics rushed down the aisle. More returned with a backboard, slid it under the man and carried him off. I thought walking down the aisle is difficult with walk-on luggage. They asked passengers down the length of the plane to tuck the man's arms in on both sides as they passed.

Apparently they laid the man back down just outside the plane doors on the jetway because the pilot stood outside his door watching, and occasionally reported the progress.

After about an hour, we backed away from the gate a second time and headed to Detroit.

It was an ominous end to the emotional roller coaster that was the Florida trip. As you know from the previous post, we lost my grandmother last week.

Florida proved to be a bittersweet reunion with family — both baseball family and the ones I’m actually related to.

I arrived Friday evening, just ahead of aunts and cousins, thanks to my brother John heading all the way down to Ft. Lauderdale to fetch me. My folks live about 40 minutes south of St. Lucie and Mom asked if Mets were in town during the weekend. I had not even thought to check. Mom always thinks about me.

In fact the Mets were playing. Saturday actually had two games. Half the team was to be in Jupiter — right near my folks — and the rest in St. Lucie. We decided to stick close to home, and Dad and I went in late morning to grab tickets. Shockingly, the sign said "Standing room only." We called ahead to St. Lucie and were told there were tickets available in the bleachers and on the new berm in right field. So we gathered up relatives and sped north, leaving Mom to intercept the steady stream of flowers and fruit baskets.

I was excited because I haven’t seen the Mets in person in years, certainly not in the Wight-Reyes era. And I had heard that the Tradition Field, as it is now called, has been revamped.

We arrived just before game time and were greeted in the parking lot by scalper named Mark who offered us seats in the grandstand for what seemed like a fair price. How open was the scalping? Mark had a business card.

Exposing the relatives to what passes as the criminal element in St. Lucie — not counting Karim Garcia and Shane Spencer at a pizza place — was not what we had intended. But hey, we were not sitting on the berm.

I didn’t know which of the team would be traveling to Jupiter, but I hoped to at least see Jose Reyes or David Wright. As the Mets took the field I grew more excited as I scanned the positions. Wright, yes! Reyes, yes! Beltran, yes! Shawn Green...Moises Alou...Jose Valentin...Paulie...they were all here — except Carlos Delgado, who we knew was in Puerto Rico with his delivering-at-any-minute wife. Chan Ho Park was standing on the hill.

That was a best-case scenario and I was very glad to not be standing in Jupiter.

Alas, while the players were there, the offense apparently was not. The team managed just one hit off the Baltimore B-squad through the seventh inning, eventually losing 2-1. But it was still glorious.


The revamped Tradition Field is a vast improvement.

In fact, it was so glorious that we made plans to return the next day. Once again, all that was available were bleachers and the berm, so we used Mark’s business card and called him. He had just two tickets left — we needed four — so he said to sit tight for a couple minutes. True to his word, he returned with seats in the top row between home and the Mets dugout. It's best not to ask questions at such times.

Again, most of the regular lineup was in the game. And again, much of the offense seemingly took the day off. Surprisingly, so did the defense. Wright and Reyes must have been told to shift into "don’t get hurt" mode, because it sure appeared that they waved at some catcheable balls.

Mike Pelfrey started and seemed OK, and the Astros were up 5-3 when I decided to take a break from scoring and hit the gift shop and snap some photos of the stadium.

I worked my way through the Island Girl Tiki Bar to the Mets bullpen where Jorge Sosa was finishing his warm-ups. Snapped some shots of him, then of Aaron Heilman hanging around.

Then I made it outside to the team store, tried on every cap and contemplated the assortment of T-shirts and pennants. Bought a Diet Pepsi and a big pretzel properly heated over charcoal and snapped some more photos from that side of the stadium — semi-lamenting that I might have missed an entire inning or possibly more.

Shockingly, Sosa was still on the mound and a 6 was tacked on to the score by the time the frame was over.
Jorge Sosa about to punch his ticket to New Orleans.

They lost both games, but I was just thrilled to see my Mets in person once again. It was just exciting to be surrounded in a sea of Mets caps and jerseys. For a change, I didn't seem like an outsider cheering for my team.

Hopefully it's the last we've seen of Sosa for a while. Apparently Willie had seen enough, Sosa moved his gear to the minor league camp the next day.

Our next day was spent saying goodbye to Grandma. It was a brilliantly sunny morning and my Dad performed a beautiful graveside service. My aunt, sister Lisa, cousin Tim and I shared memories.

I wrote mine out — a modified version of the previous post — and thought I could read it without getting too emotional. That lasted for half of the first paragraph. My Mom came and stood by my side to help. She always thinks of me.

Grandma was such a special person. While the formal eulogies were expressed at the cemetery, the informal ones continued throughout the day and into the evening over sandwiches and snacks. My sister Jen compiled a beautiful scrapbook and everybody had stories to tell. There were tears, but there was also a lot of smiles and laughter.


It's some comfort to know that Grandma rests with Grandpa and my nephew James -- and Perry Como, Grandma's favorite singer. Yes, it's really him. Hall of Famer Billy Herman rests nearby as well.


It’s sad that it takes a funeral to bring families together, but it’s true. And it was a treat to reconnect with people not seen in years.

That led to the next day's plane ride from Ft. Lauderdale. It ended in bumpy fashion, too, with the plan rocking from side to side then seeming to drop while lightning flickered out the window. Passengers applauded when we finally touched down. I’ve never, ever been so happy to see Detroit.

It’s more than a two-hour drive home from Metro Airport. I had a lot of time to think about the activity of the flight and the events in Florida.

I decided life is short and life is fragile. I stopped at both Dunkin’ Donuts and White Castle on the way home.

1 comment:

Sunshine sis said...

No mention of Jack Horner, not buried in a corner? Shows great restraint!