“Hello, Pope.”

The first time I heard my father say this it surprised me. We were heading to Northport and his voice was almost too low. Having turned off the parkway we had almost reached Bread & Cheese Hollow Rd. I furrowed my brow and asked, “Whaaaat?”

Dad had been silent as we often are on the final stretch of the trip. Old trees greet you with a rich bounty of leaves. The road turns gracefully and we’ve (usually) completed bickering about my driving skills.

“That’s what Yogi said when at the Vatican.” I laughed and asked for more context. And so Dad recounted a story told countless times. I smiled thinking how many times I’ve skipped the forced reverence stipulated in a corporate job. (If there was information or advise to be found I wanted it. Titles meant nothing to me.)

My father enjoys visiting memories. I learn things from the past which will stay with me forever. Baseball stories are in full swing with the Mets being so strong this season. We’ll be sitting on the couch and he’ll urge me, “Look that up!” while waving his index finger at me.

I had no idea Yogi worked with the Mets. Yogi, to me, equaled critical success with the Yankees. As a catcher and coach. But I was fuzzy on details.

“Well, he was fired. Actually three times.” Seemingly random bits flowed out. 

“He was short, like you.” Eyebrow raised as if this was a terrible transgression. (When I later pointed out my father was shorter than Yogi he shook his head. “No he was short.”)

“Very stubborn man. You should stop that.” It was my turn to shake my head. “What d’ya mean?” And so I learned about the decade plus where Yogi refused to speak to George Steinbrenner.

“The Mets had a terrible year with him.” But Dad you just said he helped them. (“They won a pennant with him!”) 

“No, the Mets fired him. But only once.”

After a lingering pause, “But…you’ve got to believe. Yogi did and said, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.” (My father quickly clarified “Tug” owned the first phrase. At home I was mandated to pick up the iPad. )

“Know the Mets. Understand they are winners.”

I’ve heard my father shout at the television many times. Prefaced with “See?! I told you!! It ain’t over until it’s over!” after the Mets would tunnel out from a painful battle. 

With the extended visit home Yogi has come up often. I listen, my Dad talks, and so it goes. Baseball is a staple to my father’s being. He is vivid in details about both New York teams. 

I know it will sadden him to learn of Yogi Berra’s death. I’m hoping the Pope’s visit will crowd the news. With age comes the unfortunate thoughts of mortality. Dad measures his relative age when hearing of a death.

A sigh escapes him.

I watch him quietly and can say little. There are no witty Yogi-isms to stop time.


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