Spring Training and Divorce Season Pt. II
(*Note: This is the continuation of a story I started a while back in this blog. Hence, the "Pt. II.")
The Yankees were playing the...I don't remember. This was 2005, a lifetime ago for my limited memory. But let's say it was the Tigers. So the Yankees were playing the Tigers at Legend's Field in Tampa, and my friend from grad school, Ollie, and I made the trek up from Miami, across one of the worst stretches of road in America, a strangled nightmare wasteland nicknamed "Alligator Alley." It was only three hours, this stretch, and if you haven't driven across it, it would be hard to convey the exact layer of Hell it occupies in the Inferno. But it's bad. Nothing to see but scrub brush and signs for places that no longer exist, and the ride honestly feels more like 16 hours than it does 3. It's the kind of stretch where if you're driving alone, late at night, you seriously begin to wonder if you're actually dead and half expect to see a hobo hitchhiker to take you to the netherworld, like an episode of the Twilight Zone.
My father-in-law--we can call him Don--lived in Tampa. It was a weird deal. Don and my mother-in-law, Marcy, didn't live together. She lived in Connecticut. He worked in Tampa, flying back every other weekend or so. In the time I dated my wife, April, I'd been around them plenty, and though it sounds like a strange arrangement, they seemed to have a terrific marriage. I'd been around Don alone a lot, and he wasn't the kind of guy to stray, and Mary was a goddamn saint (paling in comparison perhaps only to the original Marcy and maybe her other daughter, April's younger sister, Kalie, who was an absolute sweetheart of a human being, as well as drop-dead gorgeous [after the divorce, I'd find out she had a stint on one of those fashion reality shows, the one with Heidi Klum]).
When you have the benefit of looking back on something post-tragedy, the "after the fire" summary, signs and dots and evidence plain as the blister of a herpe presents itself. April's family was really good people. They were so good in fact that I overlooked these signs. My own parents had just died and I needed replacements. The problem when you have a family as good as April's is there is nowhere to go to distinguish yourself. April was pretty. But she wasn't as pretty as Kalie, never would be. And she wasn't as nice as Kalie, as genuinely decent, caring, and kind. So she lost out on being Mama's girl, because Marcy and Kalie were both sweet as pie. That left Dad. By default. She prided herself on being "daddy's girl." Which always comes with its own set of problems. No man can live up to Daddy.
I'd been married for five months at this point. Maybe. April, modeling out marriage after her parents, was flying to Tampa during the week, returning home to Miami on the weekends. Again, going back to those telling "signs," I am pretty certain she was sleeping with someone else in Tampa. This isn't that much of a venture. After the divorce, I found out she'd done a few things like that. No big deal. There is treatment for chamlydia.
As you may or may not have read in "Spring Training and Divorce Season Pt. I," April had a mini-meltdown (which she did frequently. That and get sick. She was always getting sick), and I'd offered to come back to Miami, but the catastrophe was averted, or quelled, or whatever, and that was that. So Ollie and I met up with Don, who took us to dinner, showed us all the high-rise apartments his company was working on, and then we went to the game.
It was an unremarkable game, as spring training games usually are. I wouldn't even be writing about this had it not been for the very tender moment Don and I shared. It was maybe the 7th inning, and I always called him "Don." And I was probably saying something like, "Jeter looks good, Don," or "Don't think they have the pitching to go all the way this year, Don." But in the 7th inning, my father-in-law leaned over, put his arm around me, and said, "Call me Dad." And it's cheesy, I know. But I've always had father issues, and it meant a lot.
For about six minutes.
Because within two weeks, my wife was blowing one (or two) of my friends in Houston, TX.
And "Dad" stopped returning my phone calls.