Hugs not Hate

The hug seen ‘round the world.  Why are so many people reacting to the scene at a little league game the other day of a boy who was accidently plunked in his helmet calmly walking from first base to the pitching mound to hug the pitcher who was crying over his errant throw?

Because so many of us are starved for a glimpse of humanity no matter where it comes from; in this case, a child.

We all want to believe we are capable of doing what 12-year-old Isaiah “Zay” Jarvis of Poteau, Oklahoma did.   His act of forgiveness came from the heart, a gesture exhibiting empathy though both boys are on opposing teams.

A hug is a simple yet powerful gesture.  It conveys warmth, care and respect for another person.

Earlier this year CBS Sunday Morning aired a video about a man in Arkansas whose left side remained paralyzed after a stroke.  While he learned to get around life using just his right arm, the one thing that he craved but could not do was give two-arm hugs around his grandsons.  Then some industrious occupational therapy students at his daughter’s college developed a device called a hugger.  With it wrapped around his left wrist, he could use his right arm to move it around so that he could hug them.  The emotional moment was captured on this link.

Another heartwarming hug happened in a market between an 82-year-old widower depressed over the loss of his wife and a 4-year-old girl who demanded a hug from who she called an “old person.”  Thus began weekly visits between the two.  The man calls the girl an angel since she rescued him out of his gloomy state of mind.

Finally, watch this innocent story about two little girls—one black, one white—who viewed themselves as twins.  And when an older child pointed out to one of the girls why they couldn’t possibly be twins due to their different race, the child burst into tears then came up with an inspirational reply.

It would be simple-minded to believe that if people of different races, religions, ages, or politics would hug each other instead of yell at each other, the world’s troubles would go away.

It is simple, however, that a preschool child can find healing words that grown-ups can’t seem to conjure:   “We are twins because we share the same soul.”  May that be the credo we all listen to in our hearts.

Vinny is Gone

Whenever an unbelievable major news event occurs, I absorb all readings and viewings of the event so that the reality finally registers.  And so it is with the passing of Hall of Fame Dodger announcer Vin Scully.

Even though I never met him (a wish that never came true), Vin Scully’s death at age 94 hits me hard.

Vin Scully outlived my father and my mother during my lifetime.

I was 14 when my father died.

I was 47 when my mother died.

I am 64 when Vin Scully died.

The year 1958 is very precious to me.  It was the year I was born.  And it was the year the Dodgers moved from Brooklyn to Los Angeles.

Perhaps that explains why I am a lifetime Dodger fan.  However, the person responsible for that love for baseball and the Dodgers is Vinny.

He was always Vinny to me because he was talking to me on my transistor radio, describing what he was seeing on the field.

I held on to each precious word he broadcast from the time he greeted us with “Hi everybody and a very pleasant good evening to you wherever you may be” to signing off with a “Good night, everybody.” His dulcet tones were soothing, comforting.  He was our security blanket from April to September.

If I was driving home and putting away my car in the garage, I wouldn’t turn off the radio until Vinny finished the half-inning.

It is why whenever Vinny would do a playoff game on the radio, I would turn off the TV volume so I could hear his unique depictions of the game, always adding personal stories of baseball players he knew that spanned much of the 20th century.

I always looked forward to his history lessons on Memorial Day and Independence Day.  He was a true patriot, a lover of this country as when he remarked “Can you imagine that?”

when two spectators at Dodger Stadium ran onto the field to burn an American flag (then Chicago Cub outfielder Rick Monday famously rescued it).

His calming but firm words at the start of the first Dodger game after the Sept. 11th attacks in 2001 were the appropriate way to soothe all of us shaken from that dastardly terrorist attack on U.S. soil.

All of us were truly fortunate that he had such a long life and broadcast for 67 years working for the same employer. 

There will never be another Vin Scully.  Besides the gentlemanly traits that he imbued—decency, kindness, class—he broadcasted in an era where only one announcer was in the booth meaning that he had a personal connection to the listener or viewer.  Even when it became fashionable to have one or two analysts sit with the play-by-play announcer, Vinny held his ground that he didn’t want to lose that attachment with the fans and so the Dodgers never forced him to change his ways.

That is why the Dodger games haven’t been the same since he retired in 2016.  Hearing two people talk to one another instead of talking to the fans feels remote as if we are eavesdropping on buddies joking with each other in the broadcast booth, instead of a person who we feel is a friend or a member of the family.

Here is just a small sample of the type of calls I will forever remember Vinny making:

On using poetry:  “Deuces wild.  Second inning, two on, two out, two and two count, tied at two.”

On a home run:  “Away back, she is gone!”

On a bases clearing double:  “In comes Buckner, in comes Russell, here comes Cey on a double by Garvey!”

Eerily, the very day before his passing, I emailed Los Angeles Times sports columnist Bill Plaschke about his health.  I noticed that the last post on his Twitter account was from May 6.

“I find this odd considering normally he would comment on the Sandy Koufax statue ceremony last month,” I wrote.  “Is he doing okay?”

“Good catch Brian,” Plaschke wrote back. “I haven’t spoken to him in a while…no idea how he’s doing…but as always, it’s worth monitoring.”

Twenty-four hours later he was gone.

This is a difficult column to write, not just because of Vinny’s passing, but it means that this will be the final time I will write about him.

There are few people we encounter in life that we wish would live forever.  For me, Vin Scully would be on that short list.

Saying Goodbye to Old Bertha

When a person goes through life stages, from single to married to parenthood, one’s car choices mirror that stage.  For example, a teenager or twentysomething is more likely to choose a two-door sporty car, while a parent will gravitate toward a minivan that maximizes passenger and storage capacity.

In the summer of 1999, my wife and I along with our three-month old moved into a larger house.  We were planning to have another child, so besides going from a 2-bedroom to a 3-bedroom home, we knew our twin Toyota Corollas were not enough.

So, with the proceeds of the sale of our first house, we were able to do something that we had never done before nor have we done since—pay cash for a car.  It was one of those fantasies that people like us rarely realize.

That is why we immediately became attached to the 2000 Volvo V70 GLT in blue.  It wasn’t just a station wagon.  It was a companion that would be with us throughout our parenthood as we raised our kids.

My wife and I are the type of people who like to buy new cars, then keep them for more than 10 years.  As I approach 50 years of driving, I have only had five cars.

As the years went on, and our first son got his driver’s license, we gave him the keys to the Volvo affectionately nicknamed Old Bertha.  Though 16 years old, it still looked good, but more importantly its steel cage protected our son just in case of an accident. 

Once he drove to college, Old Bertha was showing her age.  Interior plastic parts were beginning to fall apart, and the rear gate was wonky.  On top of that, her clear coat was disintegrating on the roof and the hood which made the car look unsightly.

When my wife purchased a new car, it meant that our son could now drive her used car that was a 2010 model year instead of 2000.  It was an upgrade. 

However, we still held on to Old Bertha because in a few years our other son would need a car.

We were fortunate that neither of our sons were attracted to status symbols.  They didn’t care if this old luxury wagon didn’t look cool.  They were pleased just to have a running, safe car.

In holding on to Old Bertha for 23 years, my wife and I were able to “afford” to give her to each of our sons as their first car.  We had no payments ever on that car so why should we go into debt in getting them a new Smart car that could never match up with the safety of a Volvo?

Some parents buy their teenagers brand new cars.  I don’t think that’s a bright idea.  Young people especially males are the worst drivers causing the most accidents of any age group ergo the high insurance premiums.  Why give them an expensive new car?  And since the most affordable new cars tend to be sub-compact size, they are the least safe to be on the road against the massive three-passenger row SUVs that clog the highways.

Also, it is important for young people to learn the value of material items.  To hand over the keys to a six-figure luxury car is to ensure the child will never learn that lesson.

In the last couple of years, Old Bertha really began showing her age.  More dilapidated moldings coming off, the radio and CD player inoperable and, most alarming, the car doors could never be locked despite fixes in a repair shop.  Still, she did her job of transporting our youngest.

Now that our oldest son has moved out and bought his very first car, we were left with four cars for three people.  Clearly, Old Bertha was the odd girl out due to her age.

We decided to donate her to a charity where her parts such as tires and battery would hold more value than the 181,000-mile whole car would.  It’s like people who have donor cards; upon their death, their organs can be harvested to give life to others. Not a bad way to go.

Still, as my wife and I stood outside our home watching the tow truck driver hitch up Old Bertha, clearly the oldest of the four cars he had collected that day, we couldn’t help but feel sad to see her slowly fade away down the street. 

She was a good girl for 23 years, with us on all our road trips to national parks, from Yosemite to Zion to Yellowstone.  She was there for all the boys as they grew up, from baby seat to toddler seat, from soccer to baseball games, as well as providing rides for our dogs Buster and Noble.  She was part of our family. 

If we are lucky to live long enough, we will eventually have to say goodbye to loved ones: parents, siblings and pets.  It is never easy letting go.  But, oh, how our lives were enriched with a 2000 Volvo V70 GLT named Old Bertha.  Our family history would never be complete without her.