One husband's greatest moment

April 03, 2000|By Joe Taylor

SO, JOE. What would you say has been the greatest moment of your life so far?"

My wife had reached for my hand and looked me straight in the eyes when she asked me this very dangerous question. I knew how a good husband would respond -- "It was the day I first looked into your eyes and realized that we would be spending the rest of our lives together."

But as romantic as these imaginary words sounded, she would know this response was hardly characteristic of her husband of 18 years. After all, I still laugh at the Three Stooges and frog-in-the-blender jokes.

Perhaps an even better response to my wife's question would have been to say that the greatest moment of my life was when our three children were born. Now don't get me wrong. I do love my wife and kids very much. I just never got into the whole labor thing. I tried to be the loving coach, but every time she hit the seven-centimeters-dilated point, I suddenly became the anti-Christ in her eyes. Once, she grabbed the collar of my Oxford shirt with both hands and began shredding.

I miraculously managed to avoid the shrapnel, but the anesthesiologist was less fortunate. I'm sure he still carries a button fragment deeply imbedded in his skull. But suddenly I realize that my wife will not let this question go. She wants a response. A loving response. An honest response. And she wants to know now. And suddenly the words leap out of my mouth, before I have any time to edit them or weigh them for damage control.

"The greatest moment of my life would have to be the day I met Brooks Robinson."

Visibly hurt, my wife withdrew her hand, rolled over on her side, and turned her back on me, a man who had spurned her affections for a 30-year-old memory of meeting his boyhood hero, Brooks Robinson, third baseman for the Baltimore Orioles. I then made a feeble attempt to win back my wife's affection.

Brooks never gave up on anything that came his way, and I wasn't going to give up either.

"Come on Amy," I pleaded. "I was 12 years old. Little League baseball was my life, and Brooks represented everything I wanted to be. I even played Ping Pong every day just because I had read that Brooks credited his legendary agility to his skills with the paddle."

It's a shame that she wasn't even listening to a word I was saying because she missed hearing about that day in the June 1970 when I went to see the Orioles play the Twins with my Little League team.

An hour before the game started, I spotted Brooks signing autographs at the corner of the Orioles dugout, an interminable distance from the upper reserve seats at Memorial Stadium for a kid on a quest to meet his hero.

Several minutes later, I found myself in a mass of other young pilgrims each trying to vie for a holy relic in the form of an autograph.

Brooks must have been proud of the stretch I made to get that Sears and Roebuck baseball to him because he reached into the swarm and took my offering.

"Mr. Robinson," I stammered. "Could you please sign my baseball?"

"Sure, son," he replied in that warm Arkansas drawl of his.

And if my wife had awakened, she could have then heard about how I shook hands with Brooks.

At least I think we did. At least that's what I have convinced myself happened next on that day so long ago. And then I could tell her about the play he made that same day on a running bunt by Tony Oliva. Or about how he robbed Killabrew of at least a double.

But these stories would have to wait for another day.

As I drifted off to sleep I suddenly wondered what had been the greatest moment in Amy's life. I suppose there was no need for this question considering the fact she actually met Cal Ripken Jr. several years ago.

Joe Taylor is an English teacher who lives in Cecil County.

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