by Hugh Gilmore
Twenty-seven years have passed since 1988, but I still wince whenever I read or hear that year said. For example, I was watching a Phillies game recently and one of the announcers referred to the 1988 team. That year, Harry Kalas, Rich Ashburn, Andy Musser, and Chris Wheeler were in the TV booth. Mike Schmidt missed the last six weeks with a torn rotator cuff. I remember because I’m very sensitive to many of the bad things that happened that year.
In 1988 the Philadelphia Eagles went 10-6 and won the NFC East championship under Buddy Ryan, with Randall Cunningham at the helm. On Dec. 31 of that fateful year, the Eagles played the Chicago Bears in Chicago in the division playoffs. An all-enveloping fog descended on the playing field. No one could see much of anything. The Eagles lost. It was typical of that bizarre year 1988.
Veterans Stadium, where both the Phillies and Eagles played back then, also hosted a number of notable outdoor concerts. One of my son Colin’s favorite bands, Pink Floyd, played there on May 15, 1988. Colin had died two days before that, killed by a drunk driver. Pink Floyd finished the regular part of that concert with “Another Brick in the Wall Part 2” and the aptly chosen “Comfortably Numb.” Colin was 18. His ashes were being scattered in the Pacific that week.
In 1988, the U.S. President was Ronald Reagan; Michael Dell launched Dell Computer Company; Michigan State won the Rose Bowl, and the Supreme Court ruled against Jerry Falwell in a defamation suit against Hustler Magazine.
On May 14, 1988, while I was still in Hawaii, attending to my son Colin’s affairs, a different drunk driver rammed a converted school bus near Carrollton, Ky., and killed 27 members of a church youth group. The Olympics were held in Seoul, South Korea, that summer. In November of 1988 the American actress Emma Stone was born. On Dec. 21, Pan Am Flight 103 was destroyed over Lockerbie, Scotland, by an on-board bomb.
The year 1988 is probably not mentioned or referred to more often than, say, 1987 or 2006. It’s just a typical year (as compared to 1776, 1941, 2001 and a few others). Mention of it is not made more often than mention is made of most other years. But when it is brought up, it has the power to provoke me.
What I want to do, on the inside, is yell, pound the table or sofa arm, or kick a rock. But what I have learned to do instead is to Flick the Switch. Accept the jolt of adrenalin that stabs my heart while I switch my mental TV to another channel. I do not dwell on my negative association. I do not need to prove my love by viewing that twinge as an obligation to renew my mourning. Or as an invitation to revive my memories. We all have our private associations – whether good or bad – they are always there. We don’t have to act on the negative ones.
More: Our missing ones had beginning dates too. Though 1988 stings me more, 1969 waits at the other pole. During the first Moon Walk, July 21, 1969, my boy was safely tucked in his mother’s womb, in weightlessness, tethered to life support – just like the astronauts as I watched them on TV. Colin was due in seven weeks then. What a thrill it was to have a child coming to full term when such wonderful things were happening in the world. The Age of Aquarius had arrived. Colin was born a few weeks later, on Sept.10, 1969.
Here are some more 1969 things that register with me – some pleasant, some ironic, some awful – Woodstock; the Manson Family rampage; “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” the Chicago Eight trial; the first Gap store opens in San Francisco; the “People’s Park” is formed in Berkeley, Jennifer Aniston is born.
It’s a wonder we all get along as well as we do because each of us carries around our personal associations with words and numbers we hear everyday, many of them carrying private triggers. For all of the explosions we hear about in the daily news, I truly believe we humans, somehow, luckily, are masters of restraint.
Written in memory today, Wednesday, May 13, 2015, of my son Colin’s passing on May 13 in 1988.
Hugh Gilmore is the author of the acclaimed, recently published hilarious and sad memoir “My Three Suicides: A Success Story.” It describes his ascent through son-hood and fatherhood to a tenuous wisdom. Available most easily though Amazon.com in both paperback and e-book formats.