Maybe it was an earth tremor

Published 7:52 am Thursday, September 24, 2009

One of the nicest gifts I received after retiring as a full-time reporter for the Austin Daily Herald was four tickets to a Minnesota Twins baseball game.

The game was played Sunday, Sept. 13, at the Metrodome in downtown Minneapolis. My son, his wife and their son joined me for the game.

They have accompanied me on many trips, some of which turn out to be misadventures. This was no exception.

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Their son, Zeke, is 4 years old and, like many other grandchildren, so precocious and cute that he can charm the pants off anyone with his remarks and antics. Whenever I’m with him, I frequently check to see if I’m still wearing pants after his latest escapade.

His mother — I’ll call her “Melissa” to avoid any backlash from the in-laws — doesn’t trust me.  After her son was born and a few months old, we all went out for dinner at a downtown Austin restaurant.  After parking the car along Main Street, we exited and, eager to please, I volunteered to carry the little bundle of joy in his infant seat to the restaurant and his parents agreed.

He weighed more than he looked in his pictures and that became quickly apparent as we walked along the city sidewalk.

My low vision failed to notice a deep crack in the sidewalk.  I stumbled and nearly dropped the bundle of joy strapped in the infant seat and stumbled to the sidewalk alongside my grandson.

I was embarrassed.  My daughter-in-law was horrified.  The grandson was unscathed and his father thought it was hilarious.

I was never allowed to carry my grandson again and anytime I asked, I was reminded of that close brush with personal injury to her baby.  Meanwhile, my son — I’ll call him “Ryan” — laughed like a loon whenever the story was retold.

During our Sunday trip to the baseball game, the DiL and her son rode the light rail train, while I clutched a pole.  They walked from the train stop to the dome clutching each other’s hands, while I walked behind. They walked through the crowd together and I stumbled along, dodging people carrying trays of food and drinks.

It was obvious she would take care of her son and I was on my own.

My son reminded me of my “fifth wheel” status by frequently stopping the family parade to inquire at the top of his voice, “Can you keep up with us, old man?”

I was excited about the day:  My first light rail train ride, I hadn’t seen a Twins game since Kirby Puckett played centerfield. We had great seats, only 10 rows from the playing field, and we had a chance to see Austin’s own Mike Wuertz in the opposing team’s bullpen. I could also enjoy all the other benefits that America’s pastime provides its fans.

Sure, it wasn’t a perfect experience. A beer cost $6.75 and the Dome’s Kiss Kam, which invites two fans caught on camera to share a smooch, was a danger.  Nothing like having 15,000 people see you sneaking a kiss.

I was sitting between a pharmaceutical salesman from Mankato and my son.

The DiL strategically took a seat with her son in front of us.

But before that came “The Fall.”

Because of the history between the DiL and Yours Truly and the sidewalk trip with her then-baby, I have tried earnestly to avoid a recurrence of that mishap four years ago and build her trust and allow her to carry her next child.

She, on the other hand, takes delight in reminding me of my inadvertent dropping the ball.

Winning her trust and a future opportunity to carry another grandchild was not to happen on this trip to a baseball game.

It happened as we descended lower level steps to our seats behind the Oakland A’s bullpen.

The DiL and her son went first.  My son followed.  I came last.

Midway through the descent, as I recall, a rare and vicious earth tremor shook the stadium and I toppled forward, falling on a man sitting on the aisle.

The DiL and grandson kept walking to their seats oblivious of my predicament.

My son, looked back to see his father sprawled on the back of a startled fan.  He came to my rescue … sort of.

“What are you doing?” he scolded me.  His words didn’t sound comforting to me as I extracted myself from the fan.

I apologized to the man and asked him not to press assault charges.

I made it to my seat and stayed there the rest of the game.

If you’re scoring at home, it was E-clumsy guy.

On the way home after the game, there was only one topic of conversation:  the fall.  Even the grandson got into the act.  “What happened to Papa?” he asked at one point, while his parents laughed.

Nobody mentioned Joe Mauer’s homerun or the 8-0 Twins win or saying hello to Mike Wuertz.

It was all the fall.

I still say there was a vicious earth tremor.  That’s my summer vacation story, and I’m sticking to it.