HeartNote, March 28, 2019: Opening Day

In 1972, I was in eighth grade. Tom Ryan, Mike Tentler, Dave Nicolay, Tom Maloney and I went to the second game of the season. Opening Day, at least for those who wanted to get a seat at Wrigley, was always the second day of the season. I forget who the Cubs played, I just know that the following occurred: I took five dollars out of my Mom's purse, we cut school, Denise Yuell told Sister Mary Georgeanne of our transgression, and my Mom received a call from the school letting her know of same.

My father was flying home from a sales trip. When I came home from school, he hadn't arrived. As soon as I hit the door, the mother confronted me with the news. I admitted it. She smacked me in the arm. It was the only time my mother ever raised a hand to me.

By the time my father came home, I'd retreated to my room. Then I was called. "Mr. McShane, come here please." When my father used the words, "Mr. McShane" in a sentence, it wasn't because he was preparing you for a life of elevated respect from your peers. It was the prerequisite to a beating. Nine children, and no one escaped the hand of my father. His belt was notched with bruises, head trauma, and concussions of the children he raised.

And I was convinced my turn had come again.

As I approached the dining room, my mother and father were seated at the table, my father eating dinner. He turned to me and said, "Mr. McShane, step into the bathroom." The upstairs bathroom was where beatings routinely took place.

But my mother spoke up. Completely outside of her passive character, she said, "Oh, he's got to go to bed. He's got to catch up on his studies." My father, fatigued from the trip, said something about jeopardizing my future and that if I wanted to be a garbage man, this was the path to take. To be honest, I can't really recall it. I only remember the shock at my mother's intercession and the relief to leave the vicinity unscathed.

My father never struck me after that day. My mother saved me from annihilation. And I paid back the five dollars.

We moved that fall. My father and mother were happier.

That day began the Opening Day to a new trajectory in life. I wasn't as anxious anymore. My grades improved. I learned more in high school than I expected. My mother relaxed a little. So did my father.

The next day, the kids knew about the game. They looked at me as cool. They told me that I stuck it to Sister Mary Georgeanne because I had the five bucks and I got us into Wrigley. For one day, I was notorious.

I went to bed that night happier than I'd ever been.

I never did anything that risky again. And I've been a Cub fan ever since.

This year, the Cubs won their first game of the season, 10 to 4 over the Texas Rangers. Wherever they are, I hope my Mom and Dad were able to catch a couple of innings.

It's going to be great year.


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