Sunday, July 29, 2012

One last ballgame for father and son By Evan Grant

ATLANTA — I took my father to a baseball game Friday. It was his last. He is 87, dying from congestive heart failure and has been in the care of a hospice nurse for two months. We know what lies ahead shortly. And yet, this is not a sad story.

 Not in the least. Some 40 years ago, just down the block in what is now a parking lot, my dad introduced me to Major League Baseball. By taking my hand and walking with me on what was a perfect day — at least as far as I remember — into Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, he opened a door to a world that has become my passion and my life. I wanted to simply try and repay him by taking him to one game as a way of saying thanks. It was going to be my Father's Day gift to him. Instead, it is about a gift he gave me.

 This whole idea arose during spring training. Dad, who celebrated his 50th wedding anniversary to my mother in December, was in and out of the hospital on a couple of occasions because of fluid retention and what we assume is the continual decline in his heart function. One morning, his doctor called me in Arizona. "Evan, I think you should be prepared to lose your dad fairly soon," he said. I thought I had been prepared already. He's been in congestive heart failure for 13 years. In 1998, I had rushed back to Atlanta when he took sick and seemed to be failing fast. During that time, Mom and I made burial plans. When I finally had to leave to return to Dallas, he was still in the hospital, pale and frail. I hugged him tight, really thinking it would be the last time I'd see him. Somehow, he stabilized. Nearly a year later, a new cardiologist performed a second heart bypass on Dad with great results. But I knew then, the next episode would probably be the last.

 For 10 years, I'd been preparing myself. Flood of memories Then baseball had to get in the way. After the doctor's call, I wandered around the Rangers complex in Surprise, my head flooded with memories of Dad and I at sporting events. As a child, that was our bond. He liked sports, and I loved them. There was a Hawks game for which he'd prepped me with stories about "Pistol Pete" and his droopy socks. The Hawks played a championship-caliber Milwaukee team that night, but I can't remember what Lew Alcindor or Pete Maravich did.

I only remember walking with my dad toward Alexander Memorial Coliseum. There was a Falcons game against Chicago. Later, during a five-year "exile" in South Florida after jobs dried up in Atlanta, there was an NBA exhibition in which Artis Gilmore nearly ran over my mom. There was a trip to Yankees spring training when I somehow scored a baseball autographed by both Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford. There was a time he indulged me with wrestling tickets to see the "American Dream" Dusty Rhodes in a "Bunkhouse Match," whatever that was. We never saw it, though, because I was ejected from the arena for tossing an empty Coke cup at bad guy Jos LeDuc.

When I ask him at lunch Friday about his most vivid memory of us at a sporting event, he says: "Unfortunately, that wrestling match when you got ejected." I got it: That wasn't very sportsmanlike. And every year, there was a whole day trip to West Palm Beach to see my beloved Braves play a spring training game. Every spring, I found a game on the schedule that sounded exciting. We'd make plans and drive an hour — seemed like three or four at the time — from Fort Lauderdale to West Palm so I could hopefully see Phil Niekro and Jeff Burroughs and Brian Asselstine. Hey, it was the late 1970s, man. Plan takes root The conversation with the doctor wasn't nearly as depressing as it was inspiring. I wanted one last chance to spend time at a sporting event with Dad.

The Rangers schedule provided the slightest glimmer of hope. Father's Day weekend, they'd be in Atlanta, which meant so would I. I called my parents. "Mom, if he makes it until June, I'm taking Daddy to a baseball game," I said. First, she dismissed it. Then she, in her role of caretaker and guardian, explained all the logical reasons why it couldn't happen. I didn't budge. Her response: "Alevei!" It's Yiddish. Basically, it means: "we should be so lucky!"

We were very lucky. Dad began at-home hospice care in April. It is not a bad thing. The hospice people have reduced his medications dramatically. It may make it more difficult to prolong his life an extra couple of weeks or a month, but he is now more alert and energetic and he can, to some extent, enjoy what days remain. For him, though, enjoyment these days is mostly a bingo game. Or an outing to Costco, his favorite store on the planet, to sample foods and drive the electric cart while picking up household supplies. On Friday, when I see him for the first time in two months, he looks hunched over, but more steady on his legs than before. He hugs me close. "Are you excited about tonight?" I say. "Because I am." "I'm excited to be with my son."

 Game day There are moments when I think this has become an exceptionally bad idea. He doesn't sound nearly as excited as I feel. His vision is so impaired now that when he squeezes lemon into his Diet Coke at lunch, he misses the glass by a couple of inches. His hearing is so impaired, he asks for repetition of almost every statement. If he can't see or hear, how can he enjoy the game? On top of that, I realize you can't account for everything shortly after we leave their apartment. I think I've got everything covered: wheelchair, handicapped parking, covered seats, a portable oxygen tank and the hospice number in case anything goes wrong. But I forgot to pack an umbrella and as we head downtown through miserable Atlanta traffic late Friday afternoon, it starts raining. Hard. Just before we arrive at Turner Field, the rain stops. A cool breeze is actually blowing instead of the humidity that enveloped as we left their apartment. As I wheel him into the stadium, I feel almost the same as I did on that summer afternoon in 1971 when Dad walked me by the hand into the stadium. I feel like everybody's watching us. And I feel an intense pride.

We take our seats behind home plate. I ask him what he can see, and he says only silhouettes of the players. He can hear the crowd noise, but not the P.A. announcer's lineups. He asks how Scott Feldman, one of his favorites, is doing on rehab. When Michael Young comes to the plate he says, "he's a helluva hitter isn't he?" He asks how that "fella who left for Philadelphia is doing." I say "Cliff Lee? They hardly think about him." I give him brief descriptions of plays, though a lot of time is spent in silence. He looks at a field he could see clearly 40 years ago. I look at my dad and see him as he was 40 years ago.

Tradition takes hold He wants peanuts, just as he always does at the ballpark. I'm a little worried they will frustrate him. Does he have the manual dexterity to crack them? Does he have the vision to separate shell from nut? Are they too salty for somebody whose body retains fluid like a sponge? I get them anyway. He shells and pops them into his mouth like a pro. Nelson Cruz doubles to give the Rangers the lead. "Cruz," he says, "he's a pretty fair hitter, isn't he?" "Yep." "Yep." He goes back to popping peanuts.

I go back to my brief descriptions of plays, leaning in ever closer so he can hear. An inning later, I instinctively lay my head on his shoulder, my arm wrapped around his shoulder. He is still popping peanuts. By the fifth inning, Dad is checking his audible watch. When the inning is over, I ask him if he's ready to go. "Yes," he says. "I think so." On the way out, I notice a photo collage of Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium's history. We stroll by it. The first photo is an aerial shot of the stadium and tiny specks are crawling along the plaza toward the stadium. That image of us walking to the stadium for the first time flashes through my mind vividly all over again. Now, however, it is joined by a new one: Dad and I, together at his last game.

 I wheel him to the car. We listen to a couple of innings on the way back to the apartment. I call mom to let her know we are heading back. "How's he feel?" she says. I repeat the question to my dad. "A, number one," he shouts. Mom and I laugh. I take him home and hug and kiss them both. "Son," he says, "thank you for taking me to the game." No, Dad. Thank you.

Sad News: Sheldon Grant, Father of DMN Baseball Writer Evan Grant, Died Last Night

Evan Grant with his father Sheldon at their last game together. Joey Ivansco/Special Contributor. Photo courtesy of Dallas Morning News.

Last June, Dallas Morning News baseball writer Evan Grant took his ailing father to a baseball game in his hometown of Atlanta. At that time, doctors didn’t think his father, Sheldon, would make it through the month. Grant wrote an emotional piece about his father and their relationship to each other and to the game of baseball. (Warning: grab a tissue.)

I’ve known Evan and his family for a long time. Sheldon was a gentle man with a fighting spirit. When doctors told him he couldn’t do something, he did it anyway. When they told him he had a year to live, he lived five more.

And then another.

Evan was in San Francisco yesterday getting ready to cover the Rangers game when he got a call from a nurse who said his father had taken a turn for the worse. He jumped on a plane and flew to Atlanta. He got to his father at 10PM last night. Evan and his mother, Rhoda, sat by Sheldon’s bed sharing life stories. Sheldon gave up his fight at 4:15AM (CST). He was 88. I just re-read the piece Evan wrote last year and it cleared my head of some of the silly things I think are important

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Movie Review: The Dark Knight Rises (IMAX)

I really had no idea what to expect with this film.  I had managed to avoid reading all of the reviews and didn’t want to go in disappointed with this film. As you might remember, this is the film that I chose as the #1 film to see this summer and after seeing it, I sure am glad that I chose this film as my #1. It isn’t good, it’s that great.

Now what is known about this film is that it takes place 8 years after the last film in the series, Gotham is a peace, Harvey Dent is loved as Gotham’s savior and “The Batman” had retired due to no more war. The film introduces you to a man that is pure evil by the name of Bane and you can see that he has a whole new idea for Gotham, but until the end of the film you aren’t really sure what his goal is for Gotham.

You also see that Gordon will soon be forced out of office because, even though he is a war hero,  Gotham is no longer at war and when war comes, the hero inside him comes alive. But what really helped the film along was the introduction of the policeman character of John Blake, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Every time he was in the film, he took each character that he interacted with to the next level. You knew that this man was capable of great things but by the time the film ends, it was so obvious that I couldn’t believe that I missed it.

And once again, this film needs to be seen in the IMAX format and when me and the audience say it, we really couldn’t believe how much the screen was just filled with the Batman and the demons that he comes though and in the end he overcomes.

And when Catwoman (Anne Hathaway) comes into the film one is never sure of what her role is and by the end of the film, one still isn’t really sure but she seemed happy with her decision.

All I can say is please see this film more that once just to see if you have really seen all of what this film has to offer.

Grade: A+

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Movie Reviews: Ted, People Like Us, The Amazing Spider-Man, Ice Age 4


Now I had no idea what to expect when I actually sat down and decided to watch this film. The previews had just looked really insulting and made me feel like I could lose about 50+ I.Q. points after I watched this film. Something interesting happened after the film was over, I actually liked it and the audience that I saw this film with loved it.

The idea of the film was quite simple, a lonely little boy wants his teddy bear to be alive and some force grants him that wish and it is now 20+ years later and that teddy bear is still very active in this man’s life now.

Now if you are a fan of the 1980’s film “Flash Gordon” than the 2nd half of the films will really make a lot more scenes then if you have no idea about the film. I had and the little jokes really worked for me and it really took the humor to another level that neither the audience nor I were expecting.

Now if you’re a female and you think that this film will not work for you, then please remember that I saw this film with 5 ladies that were in their late 40’s and early 50’s and they were laughing louder and more than I was at this film.

 If you get the chance please see it, if it comes to a Korean theater near you.

Grade B+

People Like Us

Now, I really didn’t know about this film except that this film was somewhat based on a true story. But with film like this one is never sure what actually happened and what was made for this film. That is also about what I felt about the film. It was a nice film to watch and it left the audience somewhat happy when they left the theater but once you left the theater, I soon forget that I had even watched this film.

 If just really didn’t work for me. It’s a nice film but it just really brought nothing new to this type of film and it really felt like it was a TV-Lifetime movie on a bit of steroids. With a tad bit of better actors and a tad bit better story.

 If you like this type of story then please see the film when you can, but if you don’t like this type of film, then please pass on this one.

Grade D

The Amazing Spider-Man

 Have you ever just had a bad feeling about a film and then you go see it and your idea of the film gets confirmed.

If you a reader of this column, I selected this film as the #1 film not to see this summer and after seeing it, I sure can’t think of a reason that anyone should go and see it.

 As you know this is a relaunch of the recent Spiderman Trilogy that concluded a few years back. I thought that in this relaunch that they might try and do a few ideas differently but when I can watch the film and predict everything that was going to happen.

The film started to fail with me quick and fast. I soon started to look at my watch and kept hopping that this film would end very fast. I will also say this I was in the minority of this opinion at the audience for this film. I really hated it while the majority f the audience I went with love it and the 2 people that I went with to see this film with, loved it.

 If a relaunch offers nothing new, then why do it in the first place. It was just too easy to predict and I grew bored with it very fast. Please pass on this film.

Grade: D

 Ice Age 4. Continental Drift

Well this was a very simple film to watch and to review. If you’re a fan of the first 3 then you’ll like this film. If you have a child that likes these types of cartoon films, then they will love this film also. (The film comes with a Maggie Simpson carton that the audience just seemed to love).

The few kids that didn’t like this film hadn’t seen the first 3 but the majority of the audience loved this film and wanted a part 5 asap.

 The film is just a rehash of other parts of this story with a few new characters added to the film. But for some reason the film worked. We were told some of the back stories of a few of the characters and when Scrat was in the film, the children just laughed out louder.

 If you like kid’s films or you have kids to take this film to, and then you and they will have a good time watching this one.

Grade: B

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Cancer Update

Sad news is that it is the beginning of the end,the cancer has advanced and is now blocking my colon and causing some pain and my right kidney is about 8 percent working now due to long term blockage that wasn't caught when I was in Korea.
No one knows how much longer I have. I am in a new apartment and being treated by hospice, home nurses.. 

It started a few weeks ago when I ate some nuts, these really caused me a lot of pain the next day and I was driven to the VA Dallas ER and when the pet scan was completed, it was determined that I hate colon blockage and that my right kidney is almost non functional.

I spent about 2 weeks in the VA Hospital in Dallas and they told me a few things...

with this form of colon cancer, chemotherapy could actually make it worse and after my reaction to it in Korea, I am not doing anymore chemo.

they can not do anymore surgeries on me due to the fact that they cant cure the cancer at all and they fear that after all of the surgeries that I've had that this could actually make it all worse with more surgeries.

I have moved to my own apartment in Sherman so I can get hospice care and the nurses can take their time with me. I sure want a dog but with the illness that is no longer a viable option anymore.

I have told my church and they will keep praying for me and help when they can.

My spirit is high and the dr's commented that I am not negative with my feeling for this horrid cancer that I have.

I have tried to find my daughter online so I could tell her the news but I never could so I emailed her the story of what's going on.

Please keep me in your prayers and if anyone has an extra washing machine, I sure would like to have one at my new place.

Please remember...But I know Jesus and I talk to God And I remember this from when I was young
Faith, hope and love are some good things He gave us And the greatest is love

I am not angry with all that has come and all that will come.

Mike McStay