Nobody has accompanied me to Cubs games at Wrigley Field more than my grandfather.
Pops took me to several games each season. He took me to my first Jacket Day in 1976, he made sure I was at the Friendly Confines the day in 1982 that they retired Ernie Banks' No. 14, and in 1988 he took me to the first scheduled night game at Wrigley Field It was at that game that he bought me my first Wrigley beer.
"Would you like a Pepsi, Chris?" he asked.
Before I could answer, he looked at me mischievously.
"Or do you want a beer?"
He appeared very pleased when I told him I most definitely wanted a beer.
As he passed the cash to the vendor, he said, "Don't tell Mom."
I got to go to a 1989 playoff game with my grandfather and we were there in 1993 the day that Jose Guzman lost a no-hitter with two outs in the ninth.
He taught me how to keep score. He bought me smoky links and frosty malts. He told me the stories about the old days. The time in the 1950s that manager Frankie Frisch almost called the cops because of him and his heckling buddies, and how Ernie Banks' line drive home runs would land in the left-field bleachers before you could even turn your head. Stan Hack and Phil Cavarretta were the greatest.
When I became an adult, there were occasions when I would treat him to games, but far more often I preferred the company of my friends. In retrospect, it wasn't as fun.
Before I knew it, Pops was slowing down. I took him to a game on Sept. 11, 2002. He had trouble climbing the stairs and the ramps, but he still had a great time. After the game, we went to the old Sports Corner at Addison and Sheffield. He flirted, he danced, he bought rounds, he was the life of the party. Ted Rewers ended his Wrigley Field career with a bang. I had to beg him to go home with me.
Pops can recall the Cubs' glory days of the 1930s when they played in the World Series in 1932, '35, and '38 but he missed the 1945 World Series because of military service.
Selfishly, I fantasize about the day when my faith in the Cubs is rewarded. Instead, my hopes should be for my grandfather.
Pops will turn 90 this year. He can't make it to Wrigley Field anymore, but still follows the Cubs on TV. He deserves to witness a world championship and I hope he lives long enough to see one.