Of course it sounds kind of strange to say I have had several lives; I should probably say periods, stages or phases etc but things were so unrelated that they seemed like totally different lives. When my last life came to a painful end I decided I wasn’t going to have a plan and just take life one day at a time, it was the smartest thing I ever did. Life slowed down allowing me to gain insight I never had before and appreciate things which use to have little meaning or value to me.
Ok, if I am going to do this there needs to be a starting point, so here we go. I had what would be considered a typical childhood, statistically speaking. We had a house in a suburban community in upstate New York, two parents and 2.5 children. That would be me, my sister Jennifer and the .5 child, our dog Casey.
The dog was named after Charles Dillon “Casey” Stengel the Hall of Fame baseball player and manger. He is a legend in the baseball world and beloved by the fans in New York City. Next to his family, baseball was the most important thing in my father’s life. My mom told me that as soon as I learned to walk my dad began to teach me how to catch and throw a baseball.
It wasn’t long before I started to appreciate baseball as much as my dad did. I was fortunate enough to make the all-star team in high school and get a full athletic scholarship to a good university. My name is Jefferson William Travers II with my dad being the first, to my family and friends I am Jeff. However, if you mentioned my name to a baseball fan they would know me as “Slider”. This is a type of baseball pitch between a curveball and a fastball and I was one of the best at throwing it so that became my claim to fame.
Luck followed me to college and I made honorable mention when the college All-American list came out my sophomore year. Things kept getting better and life sure got faster. My father suggested that if I ever made any money playing baseball I better learn how to manage it so I majored in business and finance. College was class work, sports and living the life of a pampered athlete but not always in that order of priority. I had a girlfriend that I spent time with but also saw other girls, many other girls. Romance was a word I learned in freshmen English and love was something that happened in the movies.
My senior year I made second team All-American and was taken in the third round of the Major League Baseball draft by the New York Mets, I was starting a new and exciting life. My father began living the dream with me the day I signed my first contract and I have never been more thankful for anything else until…..wait a minute I am getting ahead of myself.
I spent a good part of the next ten years in the major leagues but time had caught up to me physically and mentally so I decided to retire, plus my mom pointed out I was 32 years old still living the life of a fraternity brother.
My mother was right but I had come to that conclusion on my own some time ago. It was one long party in the major leagues. Many women came and went while I was playing baseball, some of them were really great ladies that moved on because I couldn’t or wouldn’t make a commitment. I often thought of my parents and the life they made for their selves and their children, I wanted that and was ready for it too.
The financial center of the world is in New York City and that was where I headed to start my new life. After careful consideration I went to work for a well established company where one of my closest friends was recently promoted to vice-president. I had been with the company for almost two years and things were going very well. My career was now well established and I was seeing someone exclusively for about six months. Her name is Allison and she works for the company as one of the staff attorneys. She is very beautiful, easy going and ambitious. We dated for almost two years before we got married. It was the happiest time of my life and I loved Allison very much. It seemed to be something that was destined; at least that’s what I thought.
I went up to Boston with two of my fraternity brothers to watch a weekend three game series with the Blue Jays. It was a great time and I got home early Sunday night. I got out of the cab from the airport and started walking up the stairs to our front door. As I was about to put my key in the door and I didn’t realize there was a guy standing behind me on the sidewalk.
He called out my name, “Mr. Travers?”
It was not that unusual, I would occasionally get asked to autograph a baseball or some other item “Yes, can I help you?” I replied.
“I have something for you,” and handed me papers folded up and said “you have been officially served.”
I had no idea what he was talking about and said “What is this? Am I being sued?” I was trying to process everything.
The guy was actually very nice and seemed uncomfortable, “No Mr. Travers your wife has filled for a divorce. I strongly recommend you speak to your attorney first thing tomorrow.”
I can’t imagine the look I had on my face when I said “That’s not possible my wife loves me, you must have the wrong person.”
“Mr. Travers the law firm I work for makes very sure we have the right person before papers are served. Is your wife Allison Travers?”
I managed to say “Yes that’s right, Allison.”
“I’m very sorry Mr. Travers the service was correct. As I suggested you should contact your attorney as soon as possible. Maybe you could stay with a friend tonight.”
I was in a daze and said “I’ll be fine, thanks anyway.” I had this rush of emotions, disbelief, fear and then anger. I went in to the house and turned on the lights. Allison had removed some of the furniture and all of her personal belongings. This was a well throughout plan that must have taken weeks or maybe months to figure out. She lied to me and pretended everything was fine the whole time, how stupid I had been. She didn’t even have the decency to tell me herself. It was like an out of body experience, I was watching it happen to somebody else.
I didn’t sleep much that night and called my attorney at 9:00 am and told him what happened, he asked me to meet him in his office at 1:00 pm. I arrived a few minutes early and Bobby was waiting for me, he was my lawyer and also a very good friend.
“Jeff I don’t know what to say other than I am so sorry about this. You didn’t have any idea something was wrong?”
“Thanks Bobby, I appreciate it. No, I couldn’t imagine Allison would do something like this. There is nothing I am aware of that would cause this Bobby.”
The legal proceedings were very easy, I didn’t contest the divorce and we arrived at a fair distribution of our assists. The emotional part, for me anyway, was much more difficult. Allison spoke to me briefly at our last court appearance and tried to explain why she wanted a divorce. I only remember bits and pieces of it and didn’t say much…….”Jeff I am sorry things ended this way (like she had no control over how it ended)…….I still care about you (you sure have a strange way of showing it)…..I felt we were growing apart (and you waited until now to tell me that)…… I wish the best for you” (that’s odd because I feel the worst I ever have in my life).
My lawyer said Allison got a job in Los Angles as the head of the legal department at a major movie studio. I always knew she was ambitious but I didn’t realize how much and never imagined it would become blind ambition. What she wanted was more important than anything she already had and it would always be like that. When I walked out of the court room I felt as if my life had ended and in a way a large part of it did. The song ‘Chain of Fools” by Aretha Franklin was playing when I got in my car and it seemed very appropriate for the occasion.
What would I do now? Well I had a few months to think about it while my divorce worked its way through the court system. I decided I was going to make some serious changes in my life and really felt I was done with love. When love was there for me I was slow to respond, when I accepted love it was fast to leave. I quit my job, sold my house in Manhattan and moved back in with my parents. I needed to find my center again and get in touch with who I use to be when I left my parent’s home for college. My mom and dad were retired and welcomed me back with open arms.
It has been several months since I moved back home and I was starting to feel better about life in general. My dad and I went fishing every chance we got and talked baseball all the time. Mom cooked frequently even though I offered to buy them dinner. I finally figured out that dinner was a chance for my parents to talk to me like they did when I was younger and I took great comfort from them. Someone smarter than me might have said it was a part of the healing process but I was sure that the pain would always be with me somewhere deep inside.
By now almost everybody close to me was aware of what happened and got in touch even if it was a brief phone call. My dad and I had just finished lunch and on were our way out the door to go fishing when my mom called me.
“Jeff there is a phone call for you.”
“Ok mom, who is it?”
“He said just to tell you it was Lefty.”
I said “What?” It took me a second to realize who it could be. It was an old friend from college, Louis ‘Lefty’ Lopez. Louie and I were the two ‘specialists’ that any manager wanted on a baseball team, a great left hander and a guy with a certain pitch that always worked.
“Louie, it’s good to hear from you. What’s new?”
“Well Jeff I called to offer you a job. Let me tell you a little about it before you say anything ok?”
“I’m the Athletic Director at a Division II college in New Hampshire and we need a coach for our baseball team. We won our conference the last three years and just missed making the World Series this year. Because of that success several other colleges recruited our coach and he accepted an offer. I have a couple of weeks to fill the job so I want you to come here check things out as a favor to me. I am confident when you do you will take the job. You can recruit the northeast and know baseball better than anybody I ever met. Besides that I would be your boss.
I laughed and said “You really had me interested until that last part Louie. How does next Monday sound?”
“Great Jeff, get here about 9:00. I will e-mail you the directions and some pictures of the college, ok coach.”
I arrived in town an hour before I had to meet Louie so I could look around. I really liked what I saw and when I stopped for gas I found out the fishing was great everywhere in New England but especially here. My reunion with Louie went very well and it was nice to see an old friend.
“You have been here two days Jeff what do you think?”
“I really like the area and I was impressed with your baseball program Louie.”
“Man that’s what I wanted to hear. I need to know something by next week.”
“Well Lefty I don’t need anymore time to think about it, I’ll take the job.”
Louie was as excited as I was or maybe more and so were my parents when I told them. I went back up the next weekend to look for a house. Louie gave me the name of a real estate agent and we spent the day looking at houses. I found something I really liked just outside town on a river and not far from the college. It has an all season porch on the back and a covered deck that connects to a dock. We went back the next day to speak with the owners and came to an agreement. They both told me the most significant thing they would miss about the house was sitting on the back deck during the summer and watching the sun set slowly.
I went back to the agent’s office to complete the paper work and I asked him some questions about nearby services and the neighbor. I had a neighbor about a few hundred feet to my left and a school about a half of a mile to my right. My agent Jack said my neighbor, Lisa Bridges, was divorced with kids in high school. He grew up here and graduated from a local high school. Jack told me he has known Lisa and her ex-husband, Tim Owens since they were in high school. He said Lisa, who is called Lee by her family and friends was Tim’s college girlfriend. Tim comes from a wealthy family that owns several construction businesses in the area. Lisa and Tim were married for about 15 years when he started a relationship with a woman 10 years younger than him, when Lisa found out they got divorced and Tim got remarried to the women he was seeing. Lisa got the house and a large settlement. She teaches at the school down the road from the house.
I moved in and after several months adjusted quickly to small town living. The people looked out for each other and it was easy to get around. Jack introduced me to my neighbors the day I moved in. I met Lisa, her daughter Julie and son Wesley briefly. I had started recruiting and was surprised to learn that my neighbor’s son Wesley was one of our top recruits. I had spoken to Wesley and his sister a few times since I moved in to my house but not their mom. I saw Wesley and his mom outside their house one day and decided to stop by and pulled in to their driveway.
As I got out Wesley walked over and said, “HI coach, how are you?” His mom didn’t say anything just kind of smiled and nodded her head.
“Good, I am doing some recruiting and getting ready for our open house Wes. Did you hear about that?”
Wes responded quickly, “Oh yeah, I have friends on the team. I am definitely going. Wes said “excuse me for a minute I have to make a phone call” and went in the house.
I was having a casual conversation with his mom and she didn’t seem to be very interested but saw an opportunity to tell me something. “I think this is a good time to explain something to you. As our neighbor and the baseball coach we will see each other occasionally. I didn’t want there to be any misunderstanding so I decided to let you know I don’t socialize much and have no interest in getting emotionally involved with anyone.”
I was a bit surprised by Lisa’s comment but I understood the emotions a divorce leaves, plus Lisa was an attractive woman and probably gets more attention than she wants. I responded “Great that makes us the perfect odd couple.”
“She looked confused and said “what do you mean?”
I told Lisa, “I appreciate your honesty. This is a good opportunity for me to explain something to you too. I don’t socialize much and I have nothing left emotionally to give to you or any other woman, so you have nothing to worry about. I am here to see your son about baseball and that is my only interest. I don’t have children so I guess this is how I compensate. I am not sure who I felt sorry for, Lisa or myself.
We weren’t aware but Wes heard everything through an open window. Lisa walked into the house and saw Wes by the window, “Did you hear all of that?”
“Yes mom, I did and I am concerned about you.”
“Really, because it looks more like you are angry than concerned.”
“I am angry, are you losing it mom? You needed to tell the coach that for what reason? Help me understand.”
“I’m not sure Wes, I am so sorry. Did it sound as bad as I think?”
“No mom, worse. You hit what they call in baseball a grand slam. You embarrassed yourself and me, you got our new neighbor very upset but more importantly you probably ruined any chance I had of getting a scholarship from the hometown team.”
Julie came home a little while later and asked Wes, “Where’s mom?”
“In her room crying,” Wes said.
She wasn’t sure what was going on and said to Wes, “she hasn’t done that in a long time,”
Her brother shot back sarcastically, “yeah, well if you came home 10 minutes ago you would have found both of us in our rooms crying.”
“What did I miss?”
“The baseball coach came to see me. I have to go to practice.”
When Wes got home from practice Lisa was waiting for him. “I would like to talk to you before you go to bed?”
“Do I really have a choice mom?”
“No, I need to try and explain. I want you to understand Wes, I really do.”
“Sure mom, but I think Julie and I understand what you have been dealing with.”
“You might understand what happened but not how I feel.”
“What does that have to do with this afternoon mom?”
Lisa was having a hard time talking, “Everything Wes, Two years ago yesterday I got divorced and lost a part of who I was. I don’t know why I said that to the coach. He seems like a very nice man and is going to be around us; maybe I was afraid I might like him. I can’t be around any man Wes; I am scared I might feel something.”
“I’m not sure what you’re saying mom. Do you want to be alone for the rest of your life?”
“No, that’s the hard part. I feel so lonely sometimes I cry but I can’t get myself to take a chance, again.”
“You have to mom,” Wes said in a reassuring voice.
“I don’t know how I am going to do it but I will talk to Coach Travers for you and straighten things out. I’m sorry son; I love you and you sister more than anything else.”
The following Saturday, I was sitting on my deck by the water early in the evening and heard somebody walking toward me. I turned and saw Lisa carrying a bottle of wine.
“Hello neighbor, I was hoping I could have a little bit of your time?”
“Of course Ms. Bridges I am always happy to talk with the parent of a player I am recruiting. Please sit down and call me Jeff.”
“Ok Jeff, do you like wine? And please call me Lee.”
“Yes Lee I enjoy wine very much. I grew up near the Fingers Lakes region in central New York which is wine country.”
I went in to the house for two glasses and a corkscrew. I opened the wine and filled both glasses. “This is a very nice wine.”
“Thank youf,” Lee laughed and said “it’s a California wine.”
We made small talk for a few minutes and she seemed a little nervous. “I want to apologize for my behavior Tuesday afternoon Jeff, it had nothing to do with you. I’m sorry for what I said to you and that I let my personal concerns become so obvious. I am divorced and still haven’t resolved all my feelings.”
“It’s alright, I understand more than you might think. I am divorced too and never saw it coming.”
“I’m sorry to hear that Jeff, I know how difficult life becomes. Things are never the same again.”
“You’re right, life will never be the same but hopefully it can be better.”
“How do you make the pain go away, the humiliation you feel?”
“MY mother told me you replace the hurt with new love. Mom’s theory is that if it didn’t hurt sometimes we couldn’t appreciate love when it’s good.”
She smiled and said “It sounds so simple.”
I laughed and told Lee, “That’s what I told mom and she said it’s not simple but it’s not complicated either. If you open your heart to love it can happen, you will be able to see it and hopefully be wiser when you do. I think what she was trying to make me understand is I shouldn’t take such a discouraging view of life so I try to be optimistic every day.”
“Your mother sounds like a wise woman Jeff and she understands your struggle.”
I nodded my head and said told Lee, “Yes, that’s true Lee, I think she can understand what both of us are feeling. You can meet her if you want she is coming up to visit soon. Dad said she wants to ‘inspect’ the house.” We both laughed.
The sun started to set slowly behind the horizon, bits of crimson and gold reflected off the water. It truly was beautiful and I felt a sense of inner peace that had not been with me for a long time.
Lee was sitting next to me, she reached out and touched my arm with her hand and said “I should probably be going, it’s getting late.”
I gazed in to her eyes and asked with a smile, “did the sunset look any different from my back yard then it does for yours?”
She hesitated for a moment and said very softly, “yes, tonight it did.”
“Then please stay a little longer.” She nodded her head yes and we sat quietly with our thoughts for a little while.
We talked well into the night about everything, drank another bottle of wine and smiled frequently. Something happened but I am not sure how to describe it. I spoke to a woman much different than the one I met several days ago and there was a sense of intimacy with our interaction, not like lovers but more like old friends who have shared a common experience. Lee was able to finish my sentence when I was searching for the right words and knew exactly what I was thinking. I noticed how she tilted her head slightly when she laughed and it seemed so familiar to me.
When we realized what time it was I walked Lee to the front of her house and we stopped under a large shade tree, “this has been one of the most peaceful evenings of my life and I enjoyed talking to you,” I said.
Lee smiled and took a step toward me. She reached out put her hand on my back and pulled me close to her. Lee then kissed me in a very soft gentle way and said, “Jeff thank you so much for reminding how to feel like this again.” I slowly inhaled her fragrance, felt the embrace of human comfort again, an instant later I exhaled the fear and loneliness that held me in its grip for to long.
I paused for a moment, the moonlight was behind her and she looked like an angel. I told Lee, “Thank you for taking away the doubt that keeps me from feeling anything.” After this evening Lee and I waved every time we saw each other and spoke like close friends whenever we met. There was trust between us now and this was an important step forward but we didn’t talk about our kiss.
A couple of weeks later my mother made a visit to see my new house and tour the local area. Mom liked my new hometown and said she fell in love with the house as soon as she saw it. Mom had the same response I did when I saw the house by the water so I knew it was the right place to live. I was busy with work and still learning my way around so I suggested, “Mom I have someone who knows the area well that offered to show you around.”
“Oh that’s fine Jeff, who is it?”
“My next door neighbor mom, Lee is going to take you sight seeing. She grew up here and knows where everything is.”
“What a good idea, I am sure it will be fun.”
Lee picked up my mother for a late breakfast and they spent the rest of the day visiting local places of interest, including the small shops tourists enjoy. We all agreed to meet later for dinner and have some wine out on the deck during sunset. We met at a local restaurant and they both told me how much fun it was today. I had a hard time staying up with the conversation because they were talking so fast. We got to the house a little before sunset, Lee said she wanted to check in with the kids and would be right back.
Mom and I walked out back and sat down and enjoyed a glass of wine. “I really had a good time today Jeff and I am happy things have turned out so well. Lee is a nice person, have you known her long?”
I agreed with mom, “yes, she is great and so are her kids. I met her when I moved in and we have become friends.”
Mom looked at me, smiled and said, “That makes me feel better Jeff, Lee is a good friend to have. She didn’t say anything specifically but I am sure she thinks a lot of you too.
I nodded my head and said, “She is easy to talk to and we are good friends.”
“Yes Jeff, I know. It’s my impression things have moved past that. Lee had this far away look whenever she mentioned you. What do you think about Lee and don’t tell me she is your friend dear.”
“I don’t know what to say mom, honestly.”
“Say what you feel Jeff. I am not trying to involve my self in your personal life but if you care about Lee in anyway you need to tell her. Both of you are coming back from bad relationships and I am sure Lee is too afraid to say anything.”
“And you think I’m not mom?”
“Jeff some people never know true love. Others can’t or won’t embrace it and let it slip away, forever.” I had to look away when mom said that. “Do you care about her?”
“Yes mom, I have been afraid to admit it but I care about Lee a lot.”
“Then you need to tell her Jeff, soon and have faith.”
Just as mom said that Lee walked up and said, “Is there a glass of wine for me?” and laughed.
Mom said, “Yes Lee I already poured it.”
Lee sat on the other side of mom and we watched the sun set. A short time later mom said “It has been a great day and busy. You will have to excuse me because I’m going inside and get comfortable, goodnight.”
She looked at me and said, “Your mother is an amazing person Jeff, I really like her.”
I turned my chair toward Lee, smiled and told her, “That’s what mom said about you too. She also told me how lucky I was to have a friend like you.”
She looked away and put her hand up to her eyes. "What’s wrong? Are you crying?”
“Yes, I’m so sorry.”
“No, please don’t be sorry. I think I understand.”
“Oh god I hope you do.”
“Are you scared?
“Yes” and she really started crying. “I don’t want to be just your friend.”
I stood up and walk over to her, “I’m scared too.”
“Because I love you Lee and I prayed you would love me back.”
“I do love you. I knew it when I kissed you. Hold me, please and never let go.”
I held her tight against me as she cried on my shoulder and said, “I will never let you go.”
I had breakfast with mom the next morning and told her about my conversation with Lee.
Mom smiled and said, “I am so happy for both of you,” and started crying.
Lee and I have been keeping close company now for almost a year and are engaged to be married. My new step-son will be our starting first baseman. The final chapter had a happy ending.