Throughout our lives, we hear more sage phrases, more ironic parables, more downright clichés, regarding the word "change" than any other lone word I can pry loose from the corroded cast iron that is my brain matter.
Whoa, that was a long sentence.
Our parents begin bludgeoning us with lessons about change almost before our cranial soft spot closes up. My mom and dad were no different in doling out enlightened nuggets.
When I was three:
"Nothing's permanent, little Timmy. That's why your mother accidentally backed over the cat. Rusty felt no pain, especially since the station wagon has a V8 and rear-wheel drive."
When I was thirteen:
"Look, Tim, in the next few years your body is going to experience some changes. You'll get hair under your voice and your arms will get lower. Oops, well you know what I mean, buddy. Anyway, listen. A lot of things you'll want to do are totally normal, which is why your mother and I have decided that now is a good time for you to start doing your own laundry."
When I was twenty-three:
"Hey, listen, Tim, congratulations on graduating from college. Things are going to be a little different now. How do I put this? You need to get a job. That's how people get money to pay for stuff."
So, yeah, we're inundated with advice about how change is part of life, so we'd better be prepared. Here's a photograph of some pennants I've tacked up to the wall in our basement stairwell:
These were my favorite pro sports teams from the 1970s: the Seattle SuperSonics, the Los Angeles Rams and the Baltimore Colts. For those who aren't familiar with the fate of these storied franchises, I'll try to sum it up succinctly—gone, gone and gone.
The Colts bolted for Indianapolis in 1984, the Rams moved to St. Louis in 1995 and I'm not exactly sure where the Sonics ended up. I think it was someplace around Fargo called Mooseknuckle or something.
Not shown, but lined up to the left of these pennants are three others, from my elementary, junior high and high schools. Chances are that they would've eventually flown the coop as well had they not been purchased by a local casino chain.
Throughout all these years of unmitigated flux, however, every blue moon I'm a bit gob smacked by something which, on the surface, wouldn't have seemed like much of a big deal. And it happened again a couple of weeks ago.
Ichiro Suzuki— thirty-eight-year-old all-star right fielder for the Seattle Mariners—was traded to the New York Yankees. The transaction was beneficial to both parties; Ichiro had spent the past thirteen seasons with the Mariners and, after determining he's become slightly more useful than a three-inch floppy disk, requested to be traded to a championship contender before calling it quits.
It's just seeing him in those pinstripes that chafes my sweetbreads. Sure, lots of players have ended their careers on other teams. Here's Joe Namath in a Rams uniform:
By this time, his knees were held together with that old dental floss that always ends up breaking off, so then you have to floss it out, too.
Michael Jordan had a cup of coffee with the Washington Wizards:
He was still pretty good, even though he couldn't do this anymore:
But watching Ichiro in a Yankee uniform is uncomfortable. Maybe it's because his first year with the Mariners was an incredible ride, but culminated with a loss to the Yankees in the American League Championship Series.
Perhaps I'm feeling my own creaking mortality. In the beginning, Ichiro was a wide-eyed greenhorn and I was still thirty-something. Now I'm twenty-one days and a few unplanned naps from hitting fifty.
Whatever the reason is, whichever is the underlying cause, I must meet life's ointment flies with the same resolve as I did upon learning that my wife was pregnant with our first child:
"Oh, my God. That's awesome! You don't think it's a big deal if I go ahead and leave my pennants up in the baby's room, right?"