[Throughout the course of the day, you may see a lot of stuff on social media about Derek Jeter’s last at bat at Yankee Stadium because if you can believe it, it happened a year ago tonight.]
A year ago tonight, I was with my father in his hospital room, watching the Yankee game. I made it a point to be with him that night because I figured who better to watch Derek Jeter’s last home game with than my dad. He was the one who introduced to baseball when I was a little girl, and he was the one who turned me into the rabid Yankee fan I am today. Dad wasn’t feeling well that day and had a fever, but he was able to see Jeter’s double in the first inning. He even pointed at the TV as Jeter made it to second base. He fell asleep sometime in the second inning and didn’t wake up again until about 30 minutes after Jeter’s walk off, but I held his hand almost the entire time. The only time I let go was when Jeter hit his walk off, and I jumped off the chair and quietly celebrated in dad’s room so the rest of the people in the burn unit at Weill-Cornell couldn’t hear me. If you can picture it, I was jumping up and down and pantomiming screams. Thank goodness no one saw me.
What I didn’t know that night was that it would be the last time I’d see my father “alive.” I put alive in quotes because the next morning, my dad coded. The doctors were able to bring him back, but the damage was too much and he suffered catastrophic brain damage. We’d find out a few days later that it was irreversible and that he wouldn’t be my dad ever again, and a week after he coded, we said goodbye.
For me, the Jeter walk off is hard to watch because at the time, I had no idea what was in store for my dad or for me and my family. That night I was euphoric. I left the hospital after saying goodbye to my dad and watched the replay of the last hit and even stayed up to watch the Encore on YES. And about 15 hours after the walk off, I was devastated because even though we didn’t know exactly what had happened to my dad that morning or the extent of the brain damage, I saw what he looked like and saw how his eyes were fixed on the ceiling and how when you picked up his hand, it was limp, and I knew things wouldn’t be the same for any of us again.
So now, that night symbolizes a lot more for me. It was the last night that I made eye contact with my dad and I will never forget the look on his face. And because I was the last one with him before he coded, I still go over in my head, every single moment from that night and wonder if I missed anything. I don’t exactly blame myself for what happened, but I feel like maybe I missed a sign from him. Maybe in that last look, he was trying to tell me something and I didn’t pick it up.
While everyone else is posting about Jeter’s last walk off and celebrating it, and they have every right to do so, I’m thinking about my dad and how I wish I could have one more moment with him. Just one more. Maybe we could talk about baseball and I could tell him about all of the stuff he’s missed this past year. Or I could just tell him how much I love him and miss him.
So please do me a favor today. After you watch Jeter’s walk off for 500th time, hug everyone close to you and tell them how much you love and appreciate them because you never when they’ll be taken away.
(Published originally on It’s About The Money 9/25/15)