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The Days of Cheering on the Tribe

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The Days of Cheering on the Tribe

Several months ago, my dad was diagnosed with a form of dementia known as Lewy Body Dementia or LBD. Looking back, we should have recognized many of the signs that are often associated with this debilitating disease. However, as is often the case in medical diagnoses, we simply didn’t recognize the symptoms, until we knew what we were looking for.  If you are not familiar with LBD, it can be like Alzheimer’s or other forms of Dementia in which the patient loses their memory, but may also have visual hallucinations and many cognitive changes.  For my dad, this has been especially debilitating and we recently had to move him to a special care facility as he is no longer able to care for himself.

I wish I could say that my dad and I have always been incredibly close. Instead, we have both had to work hard at understanding each other’s point of view in many areas of life. Whether it was our generational differences, or that we were too much alike, each of us felt misunderstood by the other. This is not to say that we would often argue with each other, instead, it was more a feeling that we lacked the intimacy to disagree with each other. In many ways, our relationship was like sitting next to a stranger on an airplane, we could always exchange pleasantries, but after a while, we were both ready to reach our destination.

As a child, our home did not have a radio or television. However, by the time I was in elementary school, my dad had taken a somewhat relaxed view regarding sports on the radio. Any music on the radio was out of the question, but the sound of Herb Score making the call for the Cleveland Indians was a pleasure that would not be denied. This meant the sound of a game playing on the radio became a part of my youth and would provide my closest connection to dad. As my childhood turned into adolescence, our shared love of the Indians and my consistent begging finally convinced dad that perhaps it was time for my brother and me to take our first trip to Cleveland Stadium. I don’t remember the exact date, and although the Indians lost that game to the Detroit Tigers and the mighty Cecil Fielder, it further strengthened our fragile relationship. In the years following that baseball game, our home would see a lot of changes, but our shared interest in the Indians continued to be the primary common ground that dad and I worked so hard to find.

As my teenage years faded and I married in my early twenties, my parents decided that it was time for them to move to Florida and avoid the cold Ohio winters. Although dad continued to be an Indians fan for the first few years in Florida, he eventually gave in and started to cheer for the Tampa Bay Rays. While I understood the change, it often meant that our occasional Sunday afternoon phone we could no longer talk about the Indians since he no longer knew much about the team. Instead, we would talk about work or family and the conversation would soon start to fade. As the years continued to pass and we seldom talked about baseball anymore, I too lost interest. Sure, I would listen to the occasional game and the 2016 playoff run was fun, but the truth was that I had primarily followed the Indians because of dad. I still loved the idea of being a baseball fan, but I had cared about the Indians because it was my common ground with him. Without dad, baseball was just a game that had a winner and a loser and no longer represented a relationship.

Last September my parents moved back from Florida and I began to think that perhaps dad and I could again connect over baseball. With the Indians season coming to an end, and the Rays set to make the playoffs, I was excited about the prospect of helping him cheer on the Rays. Instead, it was soon apparent that dad was no longer the person I knew before. He could no longer understand baseball with its mundane rules and he had lost interest in trying to watch any games. The months following baseball season were difficult as dad’s health continued to deteriorate and I was met with the realization that dad and I would never talk baseball again. As winter slowly moves closer to another spring training, I often think back on those memories, and hope on a good day, dad can remember the days of us cheering on the Tribe.

Ken Hochstetler

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