Point of View: The Joy Department

One has to take the chaff with the wheat

   When one of my tennis partners the other morning asked what I did, I told him I wrote sports for The Star, and had worked at the paper for such a long time, going on 45 years now, that I was probably fit to be embalmed.
    “But first,” I said, “I’m to be enshrined!”
    I have thought seriously lately of changing the greeting on my voice message machine from “I’m either at a game, going to a game, or coming from a game” to “I’m either being enshrined, going to be enshrined, or coming back from having been enshrined,” but Mary and my eldest daughter, Emily, have turned thumbs down on that.
    “I couldn’t believe that no one could think of anything but nice things to say about you,” Emily said, after she’d read the piece Cailin Riley wrote about my East Hampton High School Hall of Fame induction in The East Hampton Press which I’d sent her.
    “Well, you have to suspend your disbelief at times like this,” I said. “I may cheat at backgammon, making me a candidate for the Hall of Shame, but you have to admit I do write well. One has to take the chaff with the wheat — assuming there is any wheat! As to the piece, I’ve always depended on the kindness of sportswriters.”
    “I like what you said about being in ‘the joy department,’ ” Emily said. “I am too. It’s a joy to teach first graders. They’re little experts when they come to you. Each one’s alit passionately on subjects in preschool that they love — trains, dinosaurs, bugs, whatever. I was reading them “Charlotte’s Web” the other day and was saying that Charlotte had gone off to lay her eggs when one of the kids began sobbing. We all looked at him, and then he said, “When spiders lay their eggs, that means they’re going to die.”    
    “A future entomologist,” I said.
    Teaching first graders and then having the summer off puts Emily in the joy-squared department, I guess, while plain old joy will have to suffice for me.
    Getting back to Cailin’s article, Claude Beudert said he had hoped she’d put in the nice thing he’d said about Mary, who, he assured Cailin, had quickened my pulse and got me breathing again. (These weren’t his words — I’ve been writing lately about Jean Carlos Barrientos’s brave save of a drowning man in the ocean off Napeague, but it’s dawned on me that these medical terms describe well what Mary did . . . cardioimaginative resuscitation.)
    I would have continued on living, yes, and working ably, and being cordial, but I would not have experienced the joy that I have in these past 27 years were it not for Mary. It’s because of her that I can say blithely that I’m in the joy department, and can promise solemnly never no more to cheat at backgammon.