We started this game when my father first got sick. It was a time where my brother and I could talk about what was going on with Dad and we could discuss what was best to do for him. After our dad died we kept the tradition because we just like to be with each other and the kids seem to really want that Golden Egg and the bragging rights that come with finding it. They hang on to that egg when they win it.
There are a few special totems in my world. In the train master’s desk that my wife lovingly gave me in the first year of our marriage, I keep two baseballs. One was signed by Sweet Swinging Billy Williams, former player for the Chicago Cubs. Ever since I was a young man he was always my favorite Cub. The other is a signed ball from George Brett. These are those balls.
When the neighborhood kids, or even adults, come into my studio in the garage they often remark that there are always stacks of quarters sitting everywhere or scattered on the floor. Here’s the story of the quarters, which will tie into the baseballs.
When I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease I started doing some things ritually. Every morning when I wake up, I take my medicine, and before I do anything else I go to my desk, take my two signed baseballs, and I juggle them between my hands. Juggling two baseballs is not really that complicated but it does loosen stiff and shaky hands, provides balance, and lets me know that I am doing OK. If I can get a rhythm going, I feel better that I can go and face the day.
Totems and rituals, like those associated with Easter, are important because they give us comfort, hope and courage. There are two other totems I have that do that for me. One is a leather-bound book I keep on my nightstand and pick up to read frequently when I need to. It was given to me in 1972 on the occasion of my first communion. Not everyone needs a Bible next to them but like the Lightbrite Christmas tree, but sometimes I do...it's another way to fight off darkness.
The other totem sits in a lacquered, velvet lined wooden Chinese box that my sister-friend, Cheri, found for me when we were visiting an antique fair in the town where our families always camped. In some ways that box is a totem for me as well, but what is contained in there is what I am most fond of. Along with a watch of my grandfather’s, there sits a little silver Celtic cross that was given to me on my confirmation. I used to wear it on a chain around my neck up through college and then I got scared I might lose it, so it went in the box. Now I only wear it on Christmas and Easter, and other times when I want to feel close. There are other times that I just sit on the floor, take it out, hold it, and think.