I can’t imagine what Phil Hughes is thinking today. Feeling today. Being today. He is sitting in a hotel room in St. Louis, waiting to see if he has Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. His life must be a living hell. Waiting, wondering, hoping and maybe praying. Tomorrow he sees the specialist. Tomorrow he starts the journey to learn his fate. Does he have this circulatory problem? Will he need surgery to remove a rib? Will this only require some physical therapy? Will his life follow the path to baseball greatness, will he be able to compete in MLB, and will he end up a high school baseball coach, filled with stories from his few years in the show, and a wish that life had treated him better. How will he face the possibility of the end? With dignity and grace? Hope and desperation? Despair?
We all come at some point to a fork in the road. Andy Pettitte did so last winter. He decided to end his baseball career to spend time with his family. He made a choice which devastated many, but was the right one for him. But somehow his choice was different, because it was his choice. It was his right to choose. Andy chose to end his career. What of those who don’t get to choose?
There are so many I know of, who are unemployed. Not by choice but by economy. They did not choose to remain home with their families, but there they are. They are trying to get back to a work force that is changing. Trying to find a place as a productive member of gainfully employed society, without the safety net of a lifetime worth of money stored in a bank account in the Caymans. They need to support their families, to pay their mortgages, to buy food. They live with the underlying fear that maybe that last job was their last good job. Was this the end of their employment career?
Others fight on, not wanting to get to the end of their careers. They are holding on, hoping they can fight off the hands of time. They hope that they are able to keep that magical fountain of youth from escaping their grasp for just a little longer. Mo is 41. He has to be feeling the aches and pains of age. The simplest things start to become more complicated. What was once on auto-pilot now requires some thought. Maybe it isn’t so much getting older, as getting wiser. Knowing each day, the end is near. Knowing that each moment on the mound is special, because tomorrow is can be taken from you, in a microsecond. And then what? What do you do when you reach the end?
I wonder how Jorge Posada feels. At almost 40, he is near the end. Baseball is a young man’s game. It is made for those still quick and nimble. It is made for those not ravaged by years of playing catcher, with multiple concussions, achy knees, and pummeled hands. I wonder if he realized each time he stepped behind in the plate in 2010 it would be his last season there. If he recognized it would be his last time as the director of the infield; his last time as both a fielder and a hitter. I wonder if each at bat this season, he wonders if this is his last April, his last May. I wonder how you function, when you know the end is near.
Today I went to the 95th birthday party of my great aunt. She is still living independently in a senior living apartment, taking care of her own breakfast and lunch each day. My parents do her food shopping, but only because she refuses to pay the prices at the store downstairs from her. She has slowed considerably, and needs more naps and reads voraciously, but overall she is doing great, especially for 95. She had outlived all her sisters and brothers, and all of her girlhood friends. I wonder how she approaches each day. She is surely closer to the end of her life than the beginning. She has seen more sunrises than are ahead of her. (Though, frankly, I could be wrong. She is quite the mustang.) How do you face each day knowing the end is near?
I hate endings. I avoid them whenever possible. I hate that my babies have turned into kids, and my kids are turning into preteens. I hate that my daughter is leaving the safety of her elementary school and entering middle school in the fall. I hate that her childhood is ending. But change is inevitable, and part of life. And with change comes new beginnings, and endings. How you face them is how you choose to live your life. It shows the person you are, and the beliefs you have. For me, changes have brought many endings in my life. Yet I’ve always thought, please let me leave on my own, before they ask me to. When I’m gone, don’t let everyone say, “Thank God”, but rather that they miss me.
So tomorrow is Phil’s big day. How will he face it if it is the end?
How will you face it if it is Phil’s end?
How will you face your own end?