He hadn't called his three children from his first marriage in weeks. He barely touched his 23-month-old daughter by his second wife. He and his wife barely saw each other. They hadn't separated. They just weren't together for a while, while he tried to figure things out.
His family kept begging him to open up, to share his pain. If he told them, if they knew.... No. All for him. Only for him. He was sorry about what it was doing to them, but do you want the truth? He felt so numb, so hard, it didn't really matter.
There were two people in the world he could let in. They talked on the phone every couple of days, he and the wives of his dead friends, sometimes for an hour or two. Anything they wanted, he kept telling them. Name it, he would do it. Money? No, the Players Association life insurance policy would take care of them well. A nanny? He knew a great woman, he would send her there next week. No, they already had help. Him? He would fly there in a minute, take the kids anywhere, let them be around a man.
No. They both wanted only one thing of him. The same thing Tim's mom had asked. The hardest thing. They wanted him to pitch again. To come back.
He flew to Cleveland, moved into a rented house and got the plastic surgery done on his head in late May. He still refused all interview requests, read no newspapers for a while. He waited until late in the afternoon, when nearly everyone in outpatient physical rehab at Lutheran Medical Center was gone. He would give it a try for a few days. He stretched the left shoulder that had undergone arthroscopy in April. He walked on the stair machine. His sweat dripped. He looked out the window. He had always read and heard that when you narrowly avoided death, you cherished the things you used to take for granted, you wanted to smell flowers. Why had they lied?
His physical therapist was ready to have a catch with him one day. She wanted to go outside. It was beautiful out there. He shook his head no. Not outside. They took the ball and the gloves and went down to the cellar. Down with the pipes and the bricks and the shadows.
For the first time since March 21, he gripped a baseball and cocked it behind his car. It felt so trivial.
Looking back on the memory of
The dance we shared 'neath the stars above
For a moment all the world was right
How could I haw known that you 'd ever say goodbye?
And now I'm glad I didn't know
The way it all would end, the way it all would go
Our lives are better left to chance
I could've missed the pain
But I'd of had to miss the dance.
Holding you I held everything
For a moment, wasn't a king?
But if I'd only known how the king would fall
Hey, who's to say, you know I might
Have chanced it all.