The fragility of life has been an overarching theme throughout my life. My dad passed away in 1994, when he was 43 and I was only 10 years old. I remember his helicopter Life Flight from Meridia Hospital in Mayfield Heights (now Cleveland Clinic Hillcrest Hospital) to the main campus of Cleveland Clinic. To this day, when I see a medical helicopter flying over our city, I think of my dad and how he was cheated. A severe lung infection wiped him out in six weeks. I remember he was healthy on Rosh Hashanah and walked alone to get the car after services in a torrential downpour, so my mom and I could stay dry. By the time Yom Kippur came around, he was already in the ICU.
My parents were the biggest cheerleaders for the city of Cleveland, yet neither of them showed much of an interest in sports. We took advantage of every festival, event and destination in the region as I was a kid. We loved Memphis Kiddie Park, the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, Riverfest in the Flats and The Powerhouse. Day trips were our thing, and I loved our time as the three of us – my mom, dad and me. Sadly, life for our trio was cut short when my dad died.
My mom and I were left shocked and damaged. We looked at each other like, “Now What?” About six months after his death, The Cleveland Indians (now Cleveland Guardians) began their winning season of 1995. This team was a significant reason we were able to get back on our feet. Following every game of this amazing season made us feel like people again, and the team made us fall even more in love with Cleveland. Before the luxury of mobile phones and recorded television, my mom and I made sure to be home for every game that season. Kenny Lofton was the leadoff hitter, and we knew the rest of the lineup too. Our favorite player was Carlos Baerga. I remember my mom wanted to know the meaning of all of his gold chains. We followed all the human-interest pieces on the players. We felt like we won the lottery if we scored tickets to see them in person at the brand new Jacobs Field (now Progressive Field).
I distinctly remember being gifted club section tickets for a Friday night game. The temperature was hot that day, so I wore a navy tank top and red jean shorts since I didn’t own any Indians merchandise, but once that beautiful sun set I was freezing. My mom had to splurge on an Indians hoodie for me that I still have 28 years later.
I have no clue what drew us to this team and to baseball that year. But the two of us really needed something positive to hang onto. We needed a win and the Indians gave us that. We watched them play into the World Series. Earlier this summer, I took my 10-year-old son to a Guardians game and after losing for eight straight innings, we scored three runs and beat the Oakland Athletics, 3-2. I hugged and squeezed my son so many times during the game and gave him so many high-fives. I felt the spirit and love from both of my parents as I shared my passion for baseball, the Cleveland Guardians and the city of Cleveland with him that evening.
My mom and my son didn’t have time to cherish life together. She passed away at the age of 60, when my son was only 1 year old and my daughter wasn’t yet in the picture. Guardians baseball and this city are great ways to bridge my family together. I see my parents wherever I go as I continue to fall more in love with my city – visits with my family to Little Italy, the zoo, Playhouse Square and Corky & Lenny’s are constant reminders of my parents. This city paints a picture for my kids about my life here with my own parents.
As the High Holy Days are upon us, we spend time reflecting on memories of the previous year and sometimes even further back in our lives, too. I think about my parents often during this time. It’s a tough time to be a parentless parent. I wish my parents could dunk apples in honey with my kids and kvell over their cuteness as they dress up for synagogue.
Sometimes, the snow is aggravating, but I could never leave. There are too many memories and emotions tied to this city with these two people I loved. I feel like I can carry them closer as I raise my own children here. My roots are Cleveland.
Marcy Young is a writer and aspiring author. Her manuscript, Grateful While Grieving, is being shopped to literary agents and she hopes to be published soon. She lives in Solon with her husband and two children.
Publisher’s Note: Marcy Young is a member of the Cleveland Jewish News Foundation Board of Directors.