Archive for January, 2013

Photograph courtesy of the St Louis Post Dispatch

Photograph courtesy of the St Louis Post Dispatch

I wasn’t born in St Louis, and I never met Stan Musial, but I’ve shed many tears since last Saturday when I heard he passed away at the ripe old age of 92.

For my late husband and countless other kids who grew up in St Louis,  Stan Musial was the greatest baseball player who ever wore a Cardinals uniform.   I’m ashamed to say I’d never even heard of him before I met R, but after we started dating, Mr Musial often came up in conversation, especially when we talked about how much R missed his Dad, who passed away when he was just 24.    R would talk about how he and Pop  listened to Cardinals games on the radio in their basement, how his late father – who was about the same age as Stan – used to sneak over to the old Sportsmans Park as a young man to watch Stan play, and how the latter was just a wonderful example of a good citizen on and off the field.   My husband met the ballplayer in 1963 when the latter was playing in his last season, and his Stan Musial signed ball was one of his most prized possessions.  As a four year old, he probably missed the significance of the meeting at the time, but he talked about it often with me when he mentioned his father.

When we finally made it to St Louis to see a game, of course we had our picture taken in front of the Musial statue.  Inside the stadium, my husband pointed out the retired numbers, including number 6, and told me how Mr Musial had been present at every Cardinals opening day since he put on a uniform and even after he retired, except for the years he was serving in the Navy in World War II.   In 1967 my father-in-law queued up overnight to get tickets to the World Series, and came to collect R from elementary school the day of the game so they would have plenty of time to find their seats.  That was one of my favourite stories – how R told his friends that he was going to the game, and that none of them believed him until the school principal came to announce his departure to the classroom.   I loved to  imagine the smile on my husband’s face as he walked proudly out of class to meet his Dad.

The old Busch Stadium was demolished at the end of 2005 to make way for the new one,  and Stan Musial’s statue was relocated.   In July 2006, we headed to St Louis for a long weekend visit and a baby shower – I was about seven months pregnant and since the Cardinals were out of town, we decided to do a tour of the new stadium.  It was great fun – we goofed around the whole time – R pretending to be Jack Buck in the commentators box, then Tony LaRussa calling the bullpen for help, then Jim Edmonds waving his hat as he came down the stairs (after scoring the game winning home run in a playoff game).  And, of course, we took plenty of pictures in front of the Musial statue in its new location.

In his eulogy yesterday at Stan Musial’s funeral service, Bob Costas spoke eloquently about the about the on-field achievements of a player who was often forgotten when people talked about the baseball greats,  about the humility of the man he knew,  about the decency of a human being who was never too busy to sign an autograph for a local kid,  or to make a black ballplayer feel welcome in the days when color was still an issue for many both in and out of the game.

After the service, the hearse made its way to Busch Stadium so the family could lay a wreath at their beloved Mr Musial’s statue.   It’s hard to believe he won’t be at opening day this year.

My husband used to choke up when he talked about how much his father admired Stan Musial, and how much of his memories of his father were tied up in Cardinal Nation.   R lived and breathed the Redbirds during baseball season because it was a reminder of the links to his Pop and the special times they shared, just the two of them.

I didn’t really understand how much those times with R in St Louis meant to me, until Stan Musial died this week.   His passing was the end of another special link between me and my husband.  Another reminder that R is gone, and he’s not coming back.





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I normally dislike January with a passion.  The holiday season is over and a new year usually makes me sad for the old one.   Taking down Christmas decorations, dark mornings, bare trees, shriveled plants.  Last year the New Year forced me to begin facing my grief at losing my husband four months earlier, so I certainly wasn’t looking forward to January this time last year.

This year is different.  I couldn’t wait for 2013 to begin.  We spent the end of December and the first week of January with my mother in England.  It was a wonderful visit – catching up with her – getting together with family, and with schoolfriends  – some of whom I hadn’t seen in almost thirty years – and just hanging out.  The weather was rotten – but that didn’t stop us from having fun – N rode carousels in the rain, we made gingerbread men and mince pies, we rode on buses and in taxis, and we walked – a lot.   We returned refreshed and renewed and ready to start school for the second semester.   And as it happened, I went back to school too – the week before Christmas break, N’s principal offered me a job as a teaching assistant for first graders at her school.   I’d been thinking about teaching for a while – for a few years in fact – but I was so comfortable in my previous job that I never really did anything about it.    Since N started at the local elementary school in August, I’d been volunteering my time frequently – helping out in the front office, as a room parent for class activities, around the school for special events.  I’d talked with the principal about my desire to teach eventually and here she was, offering me a foot in the door to a new career.   I knew in my heart that it was the right thing to take the plunge and dare to grab hold of my dream.

And so, here we were, jetlagged and bleary eyed, heading to elementary school together the day after we returned home from England.  I kissed N goodbye in the cafeteria and walked to the office, feeling more excited than nervous and ready to begin.  After a morning meeting with the other TAs and assistant principal, we were off and running.  My new job includes an hour of daily cafeteria coverage and subbing a few classes here and there as needed, but mostly pulling out students who are struggling to keep up with math and reading.      The first three weeks have been exhausting.  I have discovered that I absolutely hate getting up in the dark.  That I need a lot of coffee in the mornings.  That I probably need earplugs for the cafeteria.  I’m definitely getting a pedometer – I must have walked miles along the corridors so far.  Subbing classes was a little intimidating at first but I summoned my best Jean Brodie and managed just fine.

Martin Luther King Jr. once said “Faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”     In the past 16 months,  I relied on my faith to get me through my grief, to keep me going on the days I didn’t feel like getting out of bed, and to trust God with my sadness and know I would heal eventually.   I made it through my foggy inner moments by believing that I was going in the right direction, even when I couldn’t see past the next twenty four hours.   Not having to work was the best gift I could have been given, because it allowed me to spend quality time with N and really think about what I wanted to do next.

Starting this new assistant teaching position has forced me to take another leap of faith.  I’m discovering immense job satisfaction already – I love the students and teachers I work with;  my first grade teachers left me flowers, breakfast and a thankyou note last Friday;  and I constantly get hugs in the hallways from the students I am helping (as well as my daughter’s kindergarten class).   And the big bonus – I get to see N a few times each day too.

Last Sunday morning,  it was so foggy outside that I couldn’t even see the end of the street we live on, never mind a staircase.   I took the dog for a walk and thought about how far I’ve come since my husband’s death.   I know I am exactly where I am supposed to be at this point in my life.   It may take several months to achieve my goal of becoming a qualified teacher with my own classroom, but I have already taken the first step.



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