The problem with opera is that is is this big, huge sport of kings and queens, but it is also terribly intimate. You get to know people in it, very much like baseball. In fact, there’s not much difference between baseball and opera. It’s also the time of year one waxes poetic about both. Friday was Dmitri Hvorostovsky’s birthday. It was a day to say a prayer of thanksgiving for his continued recovery. A year is a strange thing. I never realized how strange it was until this past year. I’m writing this late on the 17th. By this time, a year ago, my father was no longer all that lucid. His last real moments were after dinner. I’d worked for hours, fixing a dinner I thought he might eat. He’d stopped eating all that much, except for junk food. He wasn’t eating. My mother wasn’t eating. She had already been told, by both her GP and cardiologist, if she did not start eating, she would not make it to Christmas.
I had cooked, for several hours. I was pissed. I was throwing dishes in the dishwasher, trying to get things cleaned up so I could go watch Eric Owens doing Porgy & Bess. I was tired. For the past two weeks, I swear, all I had done was cook, and argue with my mother, trying to get her to eat. I wasn’t sleeping, had not slept more than an hour or two a night, for ages. I was staying down at their house, sleeping on the sofa on the porch. I was tired and cranky. My father hadn’t been feeling good. We had noticed he was gradually phasing into Late Stage 6, which was approaching the end game. We knew something was wrong. He sat down at the kitchen table and said that he wanted to pray. Impatient I told him I was saying a prayer thankful for opera. He then said, “I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back.” After that he went to bed.
My father loved Gershwin. Even as he was slowly phasing into Stage 6, AD, he loved his music. He still read his cowboy books, and spent the summer living off fig newtons, Cheetos, and sweet cucumber pickles I kept in the fridge. He had been getting restless at night. My mother was sleeping on the chair near his bed, I was sleeping in the other room on the sofa – when we slept. Long story short, 26 hours later, he was gone. It was quiet, and peaceful. He died doing his very favorite thing, napping.
One of the things I noticed as the AD took its course was that my father paid less and less attention to baseball. He loved baseball. With the Mets back in the play-offs, I started thinking about the 1986 play-offs where they beat the Astros. I’m trying to figure out why he was pulling for the Astros. I think it was because he hated the Mets so much. My mother and I were puling for the Mets. We had just been up to the city for our Tuesday subscription for Walkure. He was ticked because won our bet. If the Mets won the NLCS, he was to send us to the City for the World Series, even if we did not have tickets. He was so pissed because we were hounding him about the Red Sox, that he actually paid for plane tickets, and the Plaza for my mother and I. He flew us up on Friday, for the Saturday matinee of Tosca with Placido Domingo. We were up there 27th while they were playing Game Seven, to see Thomas Hampson in his debut season, debut role in Le Nozze di Figaro. By the tie we reached the airport, around eleven or so the following morning, the World Champion Mets souvenirs were already on sale at LaGuardia.
It was a lot of fun, especially because my father had to pay for the entire trip as the bet. If the Mets has lost the World Series, my mother and I were paying for the the weekend at the Plaza. We won. He paid. He never bet against me, again.
He has been gone a year. The Mets are back in the World Series. The 1986 World Series started on October 18 – which is the anniversary of my father’s death. As part of our bet, I saw, for the 2nd time that fall, the sensational new baritone Thomas Hampson – or as my cousin, Julie calls him – the Handsome Baritone. Funny that. The world did not even know who Dmitri Hvorostovsky was at the time. This September and October, he has literally owned the Met.
Opera, like baseball, and life, is a strange game.