They say death comes in threes. Well it came to my family three times in the summer of 1979. First my maternal grandmother died. Then, seven weeks to the day, my father. Then, seven weeks to the day, again, my wife's uncle passed away. Even without being superstitious, I couldn't help but wonder.
Anyway, I know why my dad decided it was time to move on. He had had a string of heart attacks and he was very close to my grandmother. I remember sitting on the pew at her funeral, looking down at him sitting next to my mother, the look on his face, the pained, scared look in his eyes. My grandmother lived in the apartment below ours since I was a young child and helped raise me and my brother and sister. She and my father were very close friends, and he took her death very hard.
That summer, my son and I took my father to Shea Stadium to see the Mets. It was one of those things that fathers and sons do. Three generations of us together at Shea. My father had always loved baseball, but he was always working and he rarely took me to games as a child. We all had a great time, even if there was a little too much walking for Dad.
We were going to take him to see the Yankees later in the summer. Now, you should know that my father hated the Yankees. With a passion! We had always been a National League family, going all the way back to Jackie Robinson and the Dodgers, and the Yankees being one of the last teams to use black players. But I convinced my father that he didn't have to root for the Yankees. We would all just root for "Reg-gie, Reg-gie, Reg-gie!" At least I thought I convinced him. But he died on Tuesday before the Saturday game. I've said he would rather die than go see the Yankees!
What brought that memory back to me was a television show, "Miles Davis and Friends," I caught on public television Friday night. I don't know what Miles thought of baseball, but I know he, like Satchel Paige, never liked looking back. He changed musical styles several times in his career, always refusing to play the music he had made famous earlier. But in 1991, at Montreux, Switzerland, he returned to the music he made with Gil Evans. And that show presented Miles playing some old favorites -- "All Blues", "In A Silent Way" and "Watermelon Man" -- with his band, augmented by the likes of Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Joe Zawinul, John McLaughlin, John Scofield, Dave Holland, Al Foster and Darryl "The Munch" Jones. It was good seeing and hearing Miles play some wonderful old material with the guys he had played with earlier. But it was also sad. Very sad. We are all going to go, and most of us won't get to call the time and place. As with my father, Mile's death came too soon. But maybe he knew death was coming soon and decided to honor us with one last look into his past. Maybe he decided to take that last look for himself.