Friday, November 3, 2006

Johnny Bardelli and Memory

One of the reasons I started writing this blog was to write things as I remember them. I have also hoped that I would hear back from others who might either add to my memory or correct how I remembered things. This has happened. In the month I've been writing this blog, I've had stories and recollections about life in Kellogg emailed to me and I've enjoyed this very much.

I am also happy to be corrected when I get things wrong.

On Oct. 09, 2006, I wrote about travelling the Oregon Coast for the first time as a baseball player and how, after that trip, our coach, Johnny Bardelli, quit.

Johnny posted a comment to that blog correcting my memory of what happened and I deeply appreciate having the story set straight. He has a much more mature memory of the incident than I do. I was sixteen. He was an adult. Looking back, I now remember the whole thing the way he writes about it. I now remember that he did talk to us in the grandstand of Teeter's Field. I was mistaken when I said he didn't.

If you are at all interested in the blog I wrote, please take the time to read Johnny Bardelli's detailed comment back to me. It tells a compelling story of a man and a coach's energy and good will being exploited and a man with a vision for improving the lives of Silver Valley boys being rebuffed and told to stay in his place.

I have a larger question for myself. Why did I remember things the way I did? Why have I remembered Johnny Bardelli as a quitter?

It has a lot to do with the way memory and emotion shape one another. Over the years, I have shaped the events of the summer of 1970 through the filter of my disillusionment. I am remembering now how much I looked forward to playing baseball for Johnny Bardelli and how very disappointed I was when he quit.

That disillusionment and disappointment shaped a story that I have lived by for thirty-six years now. In other words, the way I felt about Johnny Bardelli's resignation took over. The disillusionment became more powerful than the facts.

When I write entries in this blog, many of them looking back, I always wonder if I am remembering things "correctly". By that, I mean, if a documentary film were being made of my life, would the documented images tell the same story that I remember. I know it wouldn't. The documentary film would be telling one truth; I would be telling another.

The truth I tell in these blog entries is the truth of my inner life. I am living out a story and I know that that story can be changed. Looking back, I regret that when I was sixteen years old, I lived by the story that Johnny Bardelli had quit on us, the ballplayers. That disillusioned me and poisoned my attitude toward playing sports for the next three years. (Because of the injury I suffered at the Zinc Plant, I couldn't play sports after that.) It's too bad I didn't have the maturity to see that Bardelli's resignation was part of a larger failure of the Silver Valley mining community and of the high schools. I now can understand how Johnny had had it.

That said, these memories we live with and that shape how we see and remember the world are more important to our lives than the facts. The facts are not going to explain to Johnny Bardelli why I wrote what I did on October 9. It can only be explained by my disillusionment and disappointment which made my memory of the facts selective. I have always thought, and now I'm reassessing my thinking, that if we had had a successful baseball trip to Oregon, Bardelli would have remained our coach. He says that's not true. I take him at his word and the whole thing not only feels different, I now have a changed memory.

It's the best we can do: listen to each other. Assume difference. Stand corrected. Self-examine. Investigate the record. Be honest. Recgonize that we all have stories we live by. Our stories are more powerful than our values. Stories contain our values. We see the world with narrative eyes. In this way, we are myth-makers, shaping a world that is our story through the stories we live by.

We try to fit the world to our stories, stories of how things have been and how we think they should be. Our stories are shaped by what happened, but even more so by how we feel.

I know this as I write and so I write my stories as I remember them, knowing they are more subjective than objective. But, then, I prize subjectivity over objectivity. It's why I'm not a journalist and why I write poetry and stories and memories and why I find the deepest truths in Shakespeare's plays and the parables of Jesus.

Their stories don't tell what happened. They tell what happens. Bardelli's comment helps correct the story of what happened in 1970. I told the story that what happens when a sixteen year old suffers the resignation of a baseball coach he'd wanted to play for for about five years, it disillusions him, and the memory and the story of what happened gets told, and is lived out, through that disillusionment.

Thanks to Johnny's comment to me, I'm less disillusioned. I have a different story to remember that time in my life by.

I'm deeply appreciative.

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