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Alexa Moved. Patti woke. Oh god. Another day. She rose and went downstairs to the compact disc player. It was all set. Push a button and that Garth Brooks song The Dance played over and over. They had never really talked about death, but one day Steve had turned to her and said, "When I die, play that song at the funeral." She was still playing it, every morning. A hundred straight times, it played one day. This is what you do with pain.
Nearly everyone in Cleveland knew her face now. They asked her for autographs, they wanted to comfort her. She hated the helplessness, the thought that any moment she could be ambushed by grief in front of anyone. She hated crying in front of people. She hated anyone feeling sorry for her. She hated knowing that they were thinking, There goes poor Patti Olin—nine-month-old twins, three-year-old daughter, a 26-year-old widow.
The song, in a funny way, gave her power. She pushed the button. She listened. She cried. She turned it off. She decided when and where and how to grieve. Just a tiny bit, she took charge. "I'm in intensive therapy," she would tell people who wanted her to see a psychologist, "all by myself."
Bobby wanted her to see a movie called Indian Summer. That would be therapy, he thought, but he wasn't in Cleveland, and he told her she couldn't go alone. "Why?" she asked. "Is the movie too close to home?"
"It is home," said Bobby. "Don't you go alone, Patti. You hear me?"
O.K., O.K. She longed to be as strong as Laurie, and without even knowing it, maybe she was. Four hours after the accident, with the police lights still glaring off the lake a few hundred yards outside Laurie's house, Patti ordered Fernando Montes not to change the channel when the body bag came on the screen. She faced 77 reporters in Winter Haven three days after the accident. She kept that note on the refrigerator door that Steve had scribbled to her: WELCOME TO OUR NEW HOUSE! But Laurie was 33. Laurie knew who she was. Laurie had been a schoolteacher, a mother for nine years, and now a ranch owner—hell, a cowgirl! Patti was a...a baseball wife.
A great baseball wife. She loved being that. She was proud of it. A few days before Steve died, there she was, standing in the rain, watching Steve give his arm a workout in a minor league game. Pack up another apartment, haul the kids: she never complained. But who was she now? Where did she live?
She packed everything after the accident in Florida and went home, back to her family in Portland, Ore. But what was home? It wasn't just her, was it? A long time ago, when you left home to live in places like Colorado and Florida and Ohio, it was to prove you could make it on your own. Home was all right for a week or two, but after that, sometimes it almost felt like failure.
She put the kids and all their belongings in a plane and flew back to Cleveland. The house was brand-new, empty. She and Steve had bought it in the off-season but never lived there. She went back to the meetings of the Indian wives' organization, as she had before. Back to the wives' Bible-study classes. Back to the wives' section to watch ball games. That was her family, wasn't it? They were rootless, like her. Always looking for a new set of baby-sitters, grocery stores and doctors, like her. Always at the mercy of their husbands' last streak or slump, like her. It almost seemed unfair to lean on the neighbors who had nothing to do with baseball, because you could be gone tomorrow and not be able to pay back the loan. But among teammates and their wives, it was O.K., because it was all understood.
She went on a road trip to Chicago in May with the other wives. The only woman without a husband on the plane, and on the bus, and going back at night to the hotel rooms. She found herself, in the seventh inning of games, looking to the bullpen to see Steve warming up. Sometimes she had to stand and leave the stadium, barely able to keep her legs from running—all the same old tired goblins, all the whys and what ifs from that day at the lake roaring in her head. What in hell am I doing? she asked herself. I'm not a baseball wife. I don't belong here. Why am I pretending?