This is a very personal note about how baseball helped me to deal with the loss of my dad. To me, it proves that baseball (and perhaps sports in general) can be a healer for sad personal situations.
Thanks to my father I was infested with the baseball virus. Originally my father was a soccer player, playing for DEC (De Eendacht Combinatie) in Amsterdam. My dad was a very good soccer player as he got an offer from Ajax Amsterdam to play there. But that was in a time when you still showed love for your club, so he never joined Ajax. Like many Dutch soccer clubs, DEC had a baseball branch as well and like many soccer players, my father played baseball in summer.
In one of the endless stories about old-time Dutch baseball, my father told me he often visited AHC (Amsterdamsche Honkbalclub) Quick. Back then one of many baseball clubs in Amsterdam, nowadays the oldest still existing club in Europe. Perhaps it is a coincidence, perhaps not but even though I only started playing baseball at the age of 21, I ended up with AHC Quick eventually. I always liked it when he came to watch a game.
Eventually, I moved South, while my dad stayed in Amsterdam. I played baseball for a few more years until I blew out my arm. That signaled the end of my baseball “career.”
Thanks to this shoulder injury, I slowly turned to writing.
Around 2008/2009 it became obvious that my dad suffered from Parkinson’s disease. Knowing that I would lose him one day, I started to say goodbye already. My mother passed away at the age of 64 in 1992 after a long sickbed. As I was still young, I never wanted to accept my mother would pass away due to that illness. Because of my stubbornness, it took me very long to deal with her passing. With my dad I wanted to avoid this, so that is why I started to say goodbye already, knowing that one day he would not recognize me anymore due to Parkinson’s dementia.
On an evening around St. Nicolas this was celebrated at the care home my father resided. At the end of the evening, I said goodbye to the nurses and then went to my dad to say goodbye. He looked at me and said: “Do we know each other?” I must admit I had to chuckle. I said we knew each other indeed. “Did we meet at soccer”, he asked. “No”, I said, “at baseball.” Did we meet at ABC (Amsterdamsche Baseballclub)?” “No, at Quick”, I said. “Ah”, he said. “That always was a nice club.” I never found out if he was talking about the period he paid the club a visit in the 1940s or that he was talking about the time I was playing there. Perhaps both.
Anyhow, my dad passed away on November 12, 2012, at the age of 85. Sure I was sad, but because I started to say goodbye early, I thought I could handle the situation. I thought…
After my dad passed away, I kept volunteering at the care home.
A bit more than three months later, on March 1, 2013, AHC Quick celebrated its 100th anniversary. During my lunch break, I roamed the club’s Facebook page. As a coincidence, there was a Youtube movie about a bunch of players that went to a village in Sauerland (a region in Germany, East of the Ruhr Area), where my parents and I spent a lot of vacations. While I was watching that youtube clip, I thought, “I will tell dad about this, coming Thursday.” Then I realized he wasn’t there anymore. At that moment something snapped. I had an emotional breakdown. As a coincidence, we received a payment of my dad’s life insurance, we didn’t know of. My wife proposed to spend the money on a trip to the US, so I could watch the Dutch national team play in the semi-final of the 2013 WBC and just to get away. I did. Luckily, on my way to San Francisco, I sat at the window seat, so I could shed some tears without anybody noticing.
Unfortunately, the Dutch lost 4-1 to the Dominican Republic. But thanks to my dad who made me fall in love with baseball, I was able to attend the 2013 WBC (something he would have loved as well). Thanks to this baseball trip to San Francisco, I managed to find some peace.
I had come full circle.