The Boston Red Sox winning the World Series was a little different this time around. Much like saying ...this time around is different. Three rings within ten years, John Henry you're the man! But, no, this time I ended up having to deal with life and ultimately death. Oh, I stayed in touch with what the Sox were doing. Every morning before work, I wasn't just turning on the tube for the weather, I was checking the scores of the last night's game. However, I had something else to deal with that kind of took my head out of the game, as they say.
My good friend, Ray had been dealing with a genetic disease called Alpha 1 for the past ten to fifteen years. I suppose being genetic you could say he was dealing with it his whole life. However, it's been the last five years that this thing has really taken hold of him.
Ray and I go back a long time. We met when we were both in the Army back in 1972. That first summer together we both volunteered to be stationed at Natick Laboratories in Massachusetts. It was a big deal for us being stationed in our home state. As a couple of kids, we were just out of our teens, we made the most of the situation and had a hell of a summer. When it came time to move on to our next duty station we said our good-byes and felt we'd never see each other again. Fate changed all that and we kept connecting several times over the next few years. Then, five years after we met we found ourselves sharing an apartment in Lynn and attending Salem State College.
A couple of single guys going to school on the G.I. Bill and both with full time jobs, yeah we had some more great times. It was through Ray that I met the girl I married. Ray would sometimes bring a crowd back to the apartment after working his bar tending shift. That is how I met Karen at 2am after being awakened by a small gang in my living room.
That's how it was, though. Ray and I stayed in touch throughout the years. We talked about the times we had in that flat, our days in the service, going to school, playing darts at the Blue Note, all the shit that friends have to talk about. A lot of times we did just talk. He would call me or I would call him. Many times during games, Red Sox and Patriots. A good play would make one of us pick up the phone and start dialing. Ray was at my place for two Superbowls. We both caught Janet's nipple. For the World Series runs in 2004 and 2007 the phone lines stayed open even though the games went late into the night.
This time there were no phone calls. Oh, back in August we talked. We joked about how this team might even go deep into the playoffs. When it got to the playoffs though, Ray wasn't doing well. When he went into the hospital, I would visit and we looked at each other, and baseball or football was no longer on our minds.
When Ray was in his last few days, through Facebook I learned of another friend who was suddenly in ICU. I grew up in the same neighborhood as Kevin Doyle. We hung out with the same group of guys. I don't ever remember Kevin saying a bad thing about anyone. He was the type of guy that even though I wasn't real close with him, I respected him.
Kevin was part of the same group of guys that I get together with every year for a weekend of golf, kayaking and friendship. As we all grew older, he was one of these guys who stayed in pretty good shape. So, hearing that he was in critical condition came as a shock. However, as the outlook for Ray got dimmer, the news about Kevin improved.
I was at Ray's service when I got the news that Kevin had passed. That was last Sunday, both the Sox and the Pats were playing. I didn't see either game. I knew the Sox were coming back to Boston with a 3 to 2 lead. I watched game six of the 2013 World Series in my living room. As I watched I wish I could have picked up the phone. I thought of both of these guys, Kevin and Ray. They both loved watching the Red Sox. In the ninth inning with two outs, I picked up the phone and texted my friend Ray, "This is it, Buddy". It's different, but I don't think I'll forget this World Series.