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The Uncivil Servant: Longer than the Jews Wandered in the Wilderness . . .
WHEN JOSE ALTUVE of the Houston Astros threw out Corey Seager of the Dodgers around midnight on November 1-2, bringing the Astros the first World Series championship in their history, I expected to cheer and well up with tears of joy. I have loved the Astros since their founding as the Colt .45s in 1962, so it’s been fifty-five years — fifteen more than the Jews wandered in the desert — that I’ve been loyal to them. But I didn’t cheer. In fact, I couldn’t cheer. Instead, I found myself sobbing uncontrollably. When a series of sobs would stop and I thought I’d be able to shout with glee, another wave of sobs hit me, and another. . .
Fifty-five years is a long time to wait for this reward, almost my entire conscious life, and it hit me that I was sobbing over the life for which my love for the Astros had been the basso continuo.
I realized I was sobbing over the 10-year old me, whose father took him and his brother to see his beloved team on June 22, 1962; over the colors of the grass, of the Colt .45s uniform when we walked up the ramp at the Polo Grounds; how it was the most perfect moment of my life, one I still cherish, one I would choose to live forever. I was sobbing over the father now dead who never properly appreciated me and who I never properly appreciated; over the brother I seldom see.
I was sobbing over a child’s love for his favorite team; over the life of pleasure and disappointment ahead of me.
I was sobbing over the blown lead in the famous 16-inning game against the Mets in 1986, and how in those dark, waning days of my first marriage only my son Pascal and my love for the team gave me relief. Over how a few months later my then-wife said to me, “You have Pascal, your books, and the Astros. I don’t see what you need me for.” Over how she was right, and how we soon split up.
I was sobbing over taking Pascal to Florida to see the Astros in spring training the weekend his mother moved out, and how when we got home he said, “I want to see Maman,” and I told him she didn’t live with us anymore.
The sobs were over the team’s long years of mediocrity or near success, when I came to realize that the team’s failure to ever live up to its potential was a perfect reflection of my life.
And I sobbed over the fact of their victory coming at a time in my life when, finally, like the Astros, I’m who and what I always should have been, with a wife I adore and who doesn’t quite get my obsession, but who accompanied me to Houston just to see the Astros play a few years back, reading Henry James all the while.
My sobs were also tears over the loss this year of two of my dearest friends, who wouldn’t have cared about the Astros, but would have been happy to share my joy.
Finally, I was sobbing over irretrievable and mysterious time; over how odd and wonderful it is that there’s never been a day when that 10-year-old at the Polo Grounds with his father and brother, goggle-eyed with wonder at the sight of the team he loved, has not been me. How I still carry within me all his hopes, and how I’ve remained faithful for more than half a century to what he loved so purely.
Mitchell Abidor, a contributing writer to Jewish Currents, is a writer and translator living in Brooklyn. Among his books are a translation of Victor Serge’s Notebooks 1936-1947, May Made Me: An Oral History of My 1968 in France, and I’ll Forget it When I Die, a history of the Bisbee Deportation of 1917. His writings have appeared in The New York Times, Foreign Affairs, Liberties, Dissent, The New York Review of Books, and many other publications.