1988 - Communion, Nintendo, and Without Daddy

1988 – Communion, Nintendo, and Without Daddy

I was 7 and attending 2nd grade at Saint Thomas Aquinas Catholic school with the somewhat cold Sister Jareth as my teacher, yes, a nun. In January the US Supreme Court ruled that public school officials have broad powers to censor school newspapers, plays, and other expressive activities. School was generally not something any kid I knew looked forward to.

Something we did look forward to though was television. TV was a very big deal and a crucial part of daily life. I and many of my peers were tuned into the weekly rhythms of our favorite TV shows. There was nothing fun on TV before school started. However if I stayed home sick from school I could catch some of the shows that played later in the morning such as Who’s the Boss?, Wheel of Fortune, and Win, Lose or Draw. When I was with Nana, she would always watch the daytime soap opera General Hospital in the early afternoon, which I would have to endure.

As far as I could tell all kids looked forward to Fridays in general. There was the Friday evening TV timeslot on the ABC network from 8pm-10pm called TGIF. TGIF was a welcome and heartwarming time to anticipate during the week. It featured some great shows, it meant that two full weekend days were ahead of us, and it was a hard-to-argue excuse to stay up until 10pm, which was otherwise not easy to get away with. This winter-spring lineup of TGIF featured Full House, Mr. Belvedere, and Perfect Strangers among others. Later in the fall Just the Ten of Us was also added to the lineup up making the fall of 1988 one of the best TGIF lineups ever in my opinion.

And then for the main event - Saturday Morning Cartoons! A prolonged escape into one fun fantasy world after another. A Pup Named Scooby Doo was a favorite. The modern and hip-looking art style with vivid colors and exaggerated shapes as well as fresh-sounding music always brightened my week. I also really enjoyed The Flinstone Kids for similar reasons. Another whimsical and wonderfully weird favorite was The Completely Mental Misadventures of Ed Grimley

In February the media was talking about Nicaragua, Panama, drug trafficking, amongst other issues. What is Nicaragua? What is Panama? What are drugs? The mind of a 7-year-old tunes those things out, but residues are nevertheless left behind as are associated low-vibrational energies that came with those news reports. The newspaper NY Post was purchased for $37.6 million. Dad used to occasionally pick up a job over at NY Post for some extra money. I wonder what he would have thought about the change in ownership. 

On the leap year date of February 29th, DC comics legendary superhero Superman celebrated his 50th birthday as a published comic title. While my father’s comic collection was vast, he only owned a handful of Superman-related issues. However, I did hear that he had owned and later sold his very own copy of Superman’s first appearance - Action Comics #1. Even when he sold it in the late 1970’s or early 1980’s he was able to obtain $10,000 for it[1] and used the funds toward loaning his mother the money to put a down-payment on her house. 

March had some glimmers of a potentially bright, expansive, and peaceful future. The first African American Catholic archbishop in the U.S. was named by Pope John Paul II. The U.S. Senate ratified a treaty to protect the Earth’s Ozone layer. In Nicaragua, the Sandinistas and contras signed a cease-fire. Things were looking up for a moment. 

My grandfather John Francis Sheridan died on March 30th. This was just 8 months after he lived through yet another death of one of his sons[2], his firstborn John Brian Sheridan, my father. Personal memories of my grandfather are slim to none and photos of him are also few. I am eternally grateful to him for being my grandfather and therefore partly responsible for my existence. And I will never forget his financial contribution to our family which gave my mother the opportunity to buy us one of the most exciting and fun gifts ever, a Nintendo Entertainment System! Thanks Grandpa!

April came, and baseball was in the air. Pretty soon kids on the block were taking out wiffle ball bats and tennis balls to play. Mr. Lanza, Jack and Joe’s dad, would sometimes play catch in the middle of the street with his sons using gloves and a hardball. I didn’t watch from the sidewalk long before their dad told me to get my glove and come join them. I would run inside and say, “Hey Mom, I’m gonna go play catch in the street with Mr. Lanza, ok?” And before she had a chance to respond I was out the door. Mr. Lanza was a cop and a respected neighbor so I knew she wouldn’t mind. This offered some relief from no longer having a father to play baseball with. On April 20th, the New York Yankees became the first MLB team to hit more than 10,000 home runs. My father the Yankee fan would have been proud.

The 2nd grade was a special year for Catholic school children as we would be receiving the sacrament of Communion[3] in the church. At the time, most Catholic kids I knew associated Communion with a big party and receiving gifts such as money. This was an undeniably exciting prospect for a young boy, especially one now in possession of a Nintendo! Despite my materialistic inclinations, I was very much a Catholic boy and saw no reason not to take my faith seriously at this time. On that warm, sunny day in May when we received this sacrament the prayers we recited and the songs we sang were simple and spoke of peace, joy, wholeness, and love. What was not to like about that? Sprinkled throughout these joyful sentiments were words about devotion to God and the “sacrifice that Jesus Christ made for us”. While I may not have understood it at the time, the seeds of a future spiritual awakening were being planted in my life. An awakening that would be tied into my devotion to Jesus and his message of peace, joy, and brotherly love as well as his dying to his former self. 

On June 3rd, kids big and small were treated to a fun new blockbuster movie. Big, starring Tom Hanks delighted audiences with a playful story of a boy being trapped in a man’s body. All the kids on my block and in my class anticipated summer vacation. We couldn’t wait to wake up without having to go to school. I could foresee lots of TV, video games, movies, baseball, and hanging out with friends in my near future! 

I had become engrossed in baseball card collecting. It was a natural turn of events. I was entering my 3rd year of playing little league baseball. The kids on my block and I had been playing baseball in alleys, driveways, and streets for probably just as long. Some of my friends were also beginning to collect. And cards were both available and affordable to us kids. Just a brief two-block walk away, and we could buy Topps, Donruss, and maybe even Score baseball cards at the nearby Jackie’s Delicatessen on Avenue S. A pack of 1988 Topps cards was 50¢. It was a regular joy to buy a pack or two and excitedly come home to rip them open. Once the thin wax paper wrapping was undone, there was the question, Should I eat this dusty, hard, and broken piece of pink chewing gum?

Perhaps it was a part of my constitution to be a collector. Dad was a great collector of books and comic books. Before long I was the most avid collector of baseball cards on the block. This would also happen with other collectibles as the years went on and I suspect that this was made possible by the situation that I and my brother were in as young boys without a father. I sensed that my mother and perhaps other family and friends had a soft spot for the two of us due to our unfortunate loss and were often more than willing to ease the situation in any way possible. As wide-eyed kids in a materialistic society and culture, it was only natural as we were growing up, for my brother and I to ask for various material items. Perhaps more often than many of our friends, our wishes were indulged and both he and I ended up accumulating large collections of various things over the years.

Collecting baseball cards came to occupy a point of focus and energy for me. It was fun to always be on the lookout for the next pack of cards, to expand my collection and to learn which ones were considered valuable. It was every baseball card collector’s fantasy to come into possession of one of various coveted and rare collector’s items that were “worth money”. Most common cards were “worth” about 1¢ or nothing. Then there were some mildly coveted modern cards that might be worth a few bucks, which were exciting to find and not too hard to come by. Most collectors could end up accumulating a small pile of these relatively valuable cards with some persistent collecting and a bit of luck. But boy, wouldn’t it be cool to own a rare gem such as a mint condition Mickey Mantle rookie card which, to our understanding, was worth an incredible fortune.

On September 29th, the U.S. space shuttle Discovery launched its first manned mission since the Challengerdisaster of January 1986. The following day was Dad’s birthday. He would have turned 38. In October, the Los Angeles Dodgers won the World Series. I imagine most old-timer Brooklyn Dodger fans (such as Dad when he was a kid) could have cared less. 

I was beginning to become aware of the existence of some scary horror movie characters. Mainly the knife-gloved, warp-faced Freddy Krueger with the red and green striped sweater and the brown derby hat, as well as the large and looming, hockey mask-donning, machete-wielding Jason Vorhees. So now, in addition to the typical imagery of vampires, werewolves, ghosts, and witches Halloween season was also filled with images of Freddy and Jason. This lent an extra creepy element to Halloween which I wasn’t exactly a big fan of. 

On election day in November, George Bush wiped out Michael Dukakis and won the presidential election. I was disappointed because I thought Dukakis was more handsome than Bush. The first World AIDS Day was observed on December 1st. The day before my 8th birthday a terrorist bomb destroyed Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland in mid-air. Bampa faithfully watched the evening news and so, as much as I had no interest in current events, I could not avoid catching glimpses here and there of unsettling news on TV when I visited Nana and Bampa’s house. This always compounded my fears as a little boy and self-appointed “man of the house”. With Daddy gone, the house felt bigger and scarier at night especially around bedtime. Before bed, I would often kneel and pray to God to prevent various disasters and unseemly crimes which I would list one by one, aware of them as I was. 

Dear God, 

Please bless my family. Bless Mommy, Billy, Nana, and Bampa, Grandma and all my family. Please don’t let there be any robberies, murders, fires, kidnappings. And don’t let anyone die. I love you.


[1] At the time of this writing, Action Comics #1 sale prices are astronomical.

[2] My grandfather and grandmother lost their second eldest, William (21), in 1974.

[3] Communion is a ceremony through which the faithful may symbolically receive the body and blood of Jesus Christ during the weekly mass. The body of Christ is represented by a wafer while the blood is represented by wine. Kids under drinking age either skip the wine or occasionally would be offered grape juice. While communion is typically offered at mass celebrations during the weekdays, the most popular time to receive communion is during mass on Sundays.

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