By Izabelle Torres
Michael Steven Downey. Rock and roller, music enthusiast, marathon runner, dog lover, Yuengling lover, and concert goer. These are six things I would use to describe my step grandfather, D.
I grew up with my mother, brother, grandmother and my grandfather. They all shaped me into the young adult that I am today. I am forever grateful for their guidance, love, and support. It was not always the easiest thing having to grow up without a father figure and questioning who I could bring to “Donuts with Dad” or “Father-Daughter dances” in elementary school. Would I be judged by other kids for bringing D? Will people question if he is my father? These are a couple of many questions I would ask myself back in the day. Now I would say: who the hell cares? The things I would do to just spend even one more hour with him.
D and I were always ones to butt heads whether it be over me thinking I knew more about baseball than he did or his music playing too loud. He always had jazz, rock, or metal blaring through the house on his record player. He even had his own music room with over 10,000 records on the wall. Some nights I would come to just watch him switch out the records once they played all the way through. We would even put on our own concert and play air guitar like we were the real rock stars. D’s love for music made me love my music just as much. He has been to almost 15 concerts with me throughout the years. I knew he never wanted to sit through a Justin Bieber or Shawn Mendes concert with screaming teenage girls, but he always did. He even met Shawn Mendes with me, and D thought Shawn was a cool person. I enjoyed seeing two different parts of my world mesh together for one night.
Music was not the only thing we bonded over. The Orioles also played a large part in our relationship. We went to more games than I can count, met multiple players, and even met Boog, the owner of Boog’s BBQ at Camden Yards. Third baseline at Camden Yards became our second home in the summertime. Third baseline put us by Manny Machado, my favorite player, and let us look straight into the Orioles dugout, my grandfather’s favorite view. One time, we stayed for a five-hour rain delay against the Blue Jays and were interviewed on television for staying the entire delay. At one point we fell asleep in a restaurant waiting for the rain to pass; one could say we got our money’s worth. The biggest reward for waiting was watching the Orioles beat the Jays.
D and I would always talk about music and baseball, but I could never forget about sriracha. Yes, the red spicy sauce. This sauce changed my life, and I have my grandfather to thank for that. I use sriracha at least one to two times a day because of him. His most cherished cuisine was Thai, with the use of sriracha of course, and soon became one of my favorites as well. Specifically, Bangkok Kitchen Thai Restaurant in Odenton, Maryland.
This was the place I was able to have a dinner with my grandmother and grandfather before he passed away. Before that, my grandma told me how much it meant to him that I was able to drive him to his favorite place to eat one last time. At first, the thought of that being the last time we would ever eat together hurt me more than anything. Yet, over time I realized I finally was able to give back to him in a way that showed my love and appreciation for him.
The doctor told us we had a few months left, which then turned into less than a month. D had Gastro-esophageal cancer that soon spread to his liver, lungs, and possibly brain. I watched him turn into a different person, and there was nothing to be done. The hospice nurse knew he was a fighter, and so did we. He was never ready to leave this Earth so soon. The details of his passing are still hard for me to discuss, so for now, I will focus on the impact he left on me.
I have our memories, his wedding ring and band shirts left. Each piece leaving a thought or scent of him behind. Now, I keep up with Orioles on my own and remember the baseball terminology he taught me. The days are not the same without him, but I make do.