Spring is when our natural world emerges from hibernation—at least that’s how it works in places like New England—especially in the far-flung northern locales of the region. Buds appear, perennials poke up through the earth, and dormant lawns demand attention by way of a lawn mower.
Even in the midst of coping with the fallout from death and loss, it’s impossible not to notice and be affected by spring’s rousing “hallelujah.”
May moves forward and folds into June. Summer’s official commencement isn’t far off. And yet, the defining event rooted in winter’s cold and darkness travels with Mary and me, no matter how bright the sun shines, or how directly its rays reflect.
Upon returning from California, I was shoved into normalcy. I say “normal,” knowing that for us, normal will never be the same again. How can it be after losing someone we loved as deeply as Mark?
I’ve blogged about being a baseball umpire. Spring is a busy time when you officiate high school baseball in Maine. While our season is shorter than other parts of the country, by the first week of May, high school schedules are in full swing. With rainouts backing games up and umpiring numbers being down across all four umpiring boards in the state, you can work as many games as you want and can physically tolerate.
Beginning with an extra-inning contest at the Ballpark in Old Orchard last Friday night, I have logged nine games over the last week. Three of the nine have gone extra frames.
On Wednesday, I was on the plate between Greely and Falmouth. Mark played for the Rangers of Greely. This game between neighboring rivals pitted Falmouth with their undefeated record, and Greely having only one blemish on theirs. I had two of the best pitchers in the state going head-to-head.
When I received the assignment, I almost turned it back. Part of me had doubts if I was up to the task in terms of the emotional aspects associated with it. Like all similar situations in my life, I steeled myself for the task and decided to face up to it.
Save for Mark’s former coach being a bit too vociferous about a few pitches that he thought his pitcher should have had, things went without a hitch. I dealt with questions about balls and strikes like I had in the past—informing this coach that I wasn’t going to listen to him “chirp” about balls and strikes any longer. That took care of that.
On the way out to the parking lot to change and debrief, my partner said, “great job, buddy.” I knew he was right. While I won’t say this was easy being behind the plate in a key schoolboy contest involving Mark’s alma mater, I can say that it felt good to face up to the challenge and succeed. Mark wouldn’t have wanted anything less from his dad.
Mary’s been my rock for as long as I’ve known her. Gracious, even when her heart’s been broken. She continues to amaze me in how she’s been able to carry forth.
She’s handled what seems to be a never-ending list of Mark-related administrative tasks with courage and competence. “What else is there to do,” something we’ve both said to one another, time and time again. With our return, Mary’s resumed her weekly training with her beloved SheJAMs sisterhood. She’s focused on July, when she’ll be entering her fourth Tri for a Cure triathlon, this being the 10th anniversary of the event.
A small solace hitched to spring’s arrival that I’ve been paying attention to is the busyness inherent in the natural world—at least when I’ve slowed down and truly paid attention to it. I’ve been working at cultivating a daily ritual of descending the stairs from our bedroom and looking out the cove-facing window that sits at the base of the stairwell. I’m enjoying cranking open the window and spending a good five minutes taking in the sound of the birds, watching for the shadowy movements of squirrels in the trees, and marveling at the earliest flecks of sunlight shimmering on the surface of Woodward Cove.
The natural world is where we both feel Mark’s presence. We noted this when we were in the midst of the desert and Joshua Tree National Park. We felt him with us at the edge of the surf, on Santa Monica Beach.
Mark’s spiritual presence isn’t enough to mitigate our sadness and stop us from missing his physical form, but it’s what we’re left with and worth holding onto.