Thursday, August 19, 2021

50 years later

 I am quite the older man now than what I was at the tender age of twelve. At that age I didn't live very near anyone I went to school with. I was caught in a sort of in-between zone between two Catholic schools. Up until that time, the majority of my playtime was taken up by my brother, North of 50.

But then a funny thing happened. Those times lessened and I began to roam the neighborhood with two friends that lived on my street. For the next couple years we were nearly inseparable even though they went to different schools. When we all came home or during the summer months, it was on! We were everywhere, playing basketball at the end of the street (or in my case, trying to do so), playing football, buying fish for our aquariums or what took up most of our time, riding our bikes. 

It was a different time and almost a completely different era. We rode for miles! We explored not only our neighborhood but those that touched ours and touched those and touched those and even further out. What bonded us was the sense of adventure and the fun of just being with each other out in the world. Back then, it was fun to be twelve.

The world since has changed, some for the better, some, not so much. But often one looks back and sees those things that make a difference in the world that carries on to this era. My two friends were named Billy and Gary. Gary is white like me, and Billy is black. What we didn't see was the color of each other's skin. My mother treated them like she treated me and their mothers treated me that same. It didn't matter. 

So what makes me look back on this and smile today? Well, my grandson Cage has a friend over. they are both about that age. The young lad visiting after school is a very tall for his age and towers over Cage, a thin black youth, much like my lifelong friend Billy who towered over me. 

There are good things in this world and good people and they come in all colors and sizes.

Oh, and the young man's name is...William.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

For June

 Social media is a weird, wild, and sometimes wondrous thing. Each form it takes whether it is facebook, Twitter or other gathering site has its supporters and its critics, and all can be well deserved in their own right.

I started this rambling blog over a decade ago to just chronicle my thoughts, hopefully sell a couple books along the way and generally track the journey of the latter half of my life on this blue marble. I also have a presence, although be it small on other social media sites. One of which is Twitter. I thought I might be able to raise my presence so I joined several years ago. Quite frankly I didn't know what I was doing on it and did not actively participate for several years.

That began to change about a year ago. I started diving in and following people. You don't build a presence simply by yelling, hey! buy my books! You have to let people see who you are, what your thoughts are and what you believe. I do agree that there are elements of Twitter that I completely avoid. I tend to stay out of religious or other overly divisive threads. 

But there is another element of this site that doesn't get talked about and is often just ignored. It's about meeting people. And over this past year I have met (online) and interacted with an absolutely wonderful group of men and women. They are funny and passionate about each other in almost every way, so much so that a large group this past weekend celebrated the wedding of two of them. For several, it was the first time they had actually met in person and if you believe you can't become great friends over the internet, you would be absolutely wrong. These men and women are family. The pictures coming from that even were proof of that.

So, where is this leading Robert? I'm here to tell you.

Sometimes you find out there are other reasons to use the tools we have. One of these terrific people who have made me laugh over this past year is June. She is a wonderfully lively woman to follow as is her close group of Twitter friends, "LadyTwitter". Unfortunately, June has relapsed and faces a diagnosis of cancer. This group has started a gofundme page to help with her medical expenses that, as we all know can be quite difficult. 

With this in mind I am using what little presence I have online to ask that anyone who is able to contribute even a dollar or two go to  https://www.gofundme.com/f/medical-expenses-for-june 

Keep in mind that every dollar anyone contributes makes a difference. This is a world that needs people to come together to help one another. This is my attempt to offer my help for June.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Beneath the Angel's Wing

 It is with sadness that the long sleep has touched the family. My mother-in-law has flown beneath the protection of angel's wings and her soul rests with those she has loved and lost.

For me it is a time of reflection on a woman as gentle and loving as any I have known. It was said she was someone who gathered people as others gather precious things and mementos to themselves. But that is what she does. That is who she is. Mostly, I do not speak in terms of 'did', or 'was' of people who have died. In memory, death does not dismiss their spirit or who they are. She is still who she is and to those who know, the memory is still alive. As is for my parents and North of 50, they are still a living memory to me and I will not denigrate their lives to 'was' or 'were'.

I awoke to a day as bright and beautiful as any I have seen in some time. It will be difficult for many to see its beauty, and I fully understand what has gripped their emotions. For me however I see what she would have wanted us to see, wanted us to embrace. Love each other in her memories and the joy of her spirit. 

Each day is a day passed and every sunrise a time to embrace what we may not have seen yesterday. I envision my life as seeing the world through someone's eyes who has new things to discover be it in a sunrise, a snow-filled winterscape or a day filled with rain, for even the rain brings new birth and new life to the world around it. 

As I see this day in its infancy, I will look only to discover its joy, see its fascination as it unfolds before me. A new life has touched my soul, and my eyes are open to the world again.


Wednesday, July 14, 2021

The Steps

 Last evening I had the opportunity to check out a group of youngsters trying out for a little league travel team. One of them was Ragin' Cage. It is his first, and possibly last depending on his mood, attempt at something like this.

We stood outside a block walled building as the tryouts were held inside due to poor field conditions at the diamond they usually use. Young boys were running back and forth, hitting off tees in cages, pitching off mounds and fielding off astroturf floors.

Toward the end several boys were throwing some sort of round weighted bags against the block wall and it brought me back to a time when I was their age and younger. We didn't have much as kids but we had baseballs and a glove or two. I originally started out living in a half double next to a very large church. We were so close you could touch both the church and our house at the same time.

The memory made me smile. We lived in the inner city and there were no open fields nearby, plus North of 50 and I were too young to go there by ourselves. But we had steps. In front of the church where two sets of concrete steps, if I remember, 5 high then a short few yards to another set. What these allowed us to do was to throw a rubber ball against them and catch it with our gloves. We would literally do this for hours. The only hiccup was if you missed the first set of steps the second set really didn't help much and whoever threw the ball had to go get it. Then it was the other's turn until he messed up.

North and I did this daily. We rarely had a true baseball and the rubber ones were cheap and took a lot of abuse. When we finally moved out a little further east to a single house, I actually lamented losing the steps as the only ones we new had were up against the back porch, and bouncing those rubber balls off the metal screen door wasn't something my father put up with for long.

It's amazing how boys and baseball bring back those types of memories, but it was a childhood filled with great memories and baseball moments.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

To Fall Asleep

 This is a short I wrote a couple years ago. I may have posted this before but I'm not sure. A few have read it recently and made some great comments about it so I thought I would share it again. It is also included in a book of shorts I have out; Tales in Time.

Hope you enjoy.

To Fall Asleep
 
The wind that had punished me throughout my walk lessens, the snow now falling softly from the black, night sky. How I miss the stars of summer, their warm light both a blessing and a curse to my eyes. Would I have had a different path on life’s walk, I would certainly have wished to count the stars among them. But it was not to be; such was not my road, a farm boy from the Midwest who dreamed of greater things.
My tattered coat surrounds me in warmth, shedding the chill that swirls about the street corners, their asphalt surface hidden beneath soft powder. My boots push through it easily, though it clings to me just below my knee. I feel its presence against my skin, a touch, a kiss to let me know it shall invade my world should I hesitate. I pull my cloak tighter as I trod these sullen, winter streets of a place I now call home, a place I have no attachment to. It is only the place I live, the place that shelters me.
The barren streets are sparsely lit by the occasional lamp that throws its soft luminescence into circles upon the shadowed snow. It is only the hidden rolls, the curbs of this urban environment that take my attentions from my meandering path. Much like the varmint holes of an unplowed field in the days of my youth, they alone conspire to slow my progress, to press me to falter. I shake the powder from my hair, my beard now as white as that of an old man at the end of life’s journey.
My thoughts drift back to this day, this day a year past. It is but a carbon copy of what was; the brisk winds rambling down the city streets as winter’s white laid its blanket again across the cityscape.
My hands caress her warm cheeks as I brush away the snow from her face. I lift her head as gently as I would a newborn, held within the touch of a mother’s grace, and cuddle her softly upon my lap. I pull back her tangled, pepper-black hair, letting her face glisten in night’s stillness. Her eyes search for meaning as she looks past my face into the dark sky. I shelter her from the cold flakes as I hold her head.
“Who’s there?” she whispers.
Her lips tremble as her words slip into the night. Her breath rises in a soft cloud and I feel its warmth upon my cheeks.
“Is that you, Peter?”
“It is, my love.”
“Oh Peter. What has become of me?”
“It’s okay. I’m here. I’ll always be here. We’ll always be together.”
“It won’t be that way for long. I won’t be here.” Her eyes focus on my face for a moment, perhaps a last fleeting memory before she looks again to the heavens hidden behind the overcast night.
“I’ll be here with you always,” I reply.
“Peter, do you remember that day we went down to the shore? It was such a lovely time.”
“I can still feel the warmth of the sun on my face. You were so beautiful.”
“You make me blush, Peter. I was never that pretty. But, but you always made me feel that way.”
“You were always my first love. You know that.”
“I wasn’t though. There was another before me.”
“There was never anyone before you.” I brush the flakes from her dark eyelashes as I peer into her eyes. “Once you find your forever person, there is no one before, no one after.”
“Peter, do you see the sun? I feel it. It feels so warm.” She rolls her head toward me. I see the strain it takes for her to do so. “I’ve missed the warmth, Peter. I’ve been cold all day.”
“I’m holding you now, love.” I press my cheek down to hers. Her skin is flush with night’s chill. I will hold her life little longer. “Just feel the warmth of my touch, that touch we have shared for a lifetime.”
“Do you hear the water, Peter? Can you see it? See how it rushes to our feet? It makes my toes feel numb.” She blinks, her lashes depositing a white dusting on her cheeks. They linger for a moment before her fading warmth turns them to a tear rolling down her cheek.
“I wish our daughter’s wedding would have been on the beach. I tried, you know.”
“I know, my love.” I wipe the remnants of the tear from her face. “I remember.”
“Such a day it was. God had given us that day, Peter. She should have been married at the beach.”
“You would have gotten wet in the surf.”
“I wouldn’t have minded.” Her eyes find me once again, an inquisitive look on her face. Her lips relax as a smile embraces her. “Remember how beautiful she was?”
“I’m cold, Peter.”
“I know love. You’ll be warm soon.”
The darkness that surrounds us begins to reflect a new reality, harsh and penetrating. The azure lights create a pattern of chaos in our once silent world. Commotion fills the void that encompasses us.
“Peter? What’s going on?”
“Just the lights of the city, my love.”
I turn as I hear the sounds of footsteps rushing through the powder, shoes scraping against the pavement beneath. A dark figure now looms above me as I cradle her in the soft snow.
“Is everything all right?” The police officer kneels down beside me as he tilts his cap away from his face. “Is she okay?”
“Peter? Who’s here?”
“Just a friend, my love.” I brush my fingers against her cheek as she looks again to the night sky, the falling flakes blue against the flashing strobe.
“Is there anything I can do?”
I shake my head, knowing it is only a matter of time.
“Peter? What is that light?”
“What light, my love?”
“It’s beautiful. It’s warm, Peter.” She rolls her eyes to me again, scanning my face. “Are you coming with me, Peter?”
“Not tonight, my love. But I will join you soon.”
“I love you Peter.”
I watch as her face turns to the side and her eyes close for the final time. I am at a loss, a numbing sense of emptiness begins to overtake me as I feel a hand upon my shoulder.
“I’m sorry for your loss.” His voice is strong, but I know his words ring true. “I’ll call and we’ll get her moved inside.”
“Thank you.”
“What’s her name, Peter? I’ll need it for the reports.”
“I don’t know her name, and my name isn’t Peter.”
“But ... “
“I’ve never seen her before tonight.”
I remember that night a year past so vividly. It was a night like any other winter’s night in a cold city. I push through the snow, the soft powder that covers a harsh world nothing more than the blanket in which we wrap ourselves to fend off the night.

Friday, June 18, 2021

Spider Tack

 Major league baseball has had its share of controversies these last few decades. It seems now that the hitter's cheating with performance enhancing additives has now switched to the pitcher's mound. If you've never heard of 'spider tack', welcome to baseball today.

It was years ago (okay, showing my age) that pitchers used slick or oily substances to add to their grip. They hid it on their belts, caps, inside the glove, anywhere they thought it couldn't be found. The difference is what happens to the ball. With a slick side the ball comes off the hand differently and causes the ball to have a different flight pattern of curving, etc. Advantage, pitcher.

In today's game the opposite is the case. The 'stuff' of choice is called Spider Tack. It is a super sticky substance that allows a better grip on the baseball. It used to be few if any were able to throw a pitch 100+ miles per hour. So rare you could count the pitchers on a single hand over decades. Now, nearly every pitcher is in the high 90s or low 100s. Breaking balls that used to travel in the upper 80s to low 90s now come close to 100 mph. Randy Johnson and Nolan Ryan used to be special in their abilities. No longer, at least for the moment.

So what's the issue Robert? 

I'll tell you. 

This week a pitcher in the majors complained about how he wouldn't be able to throw the way he wanted to now. He would have to put the ball back deeper into his hand and that would affect his pitches. My response to him is, well, obviously you really never learned how to pitch. Pitching isn't only about throwing a ball past a hitter as hard as you can. He never learned to control the ball, never learned to paint the corners, never learned to change speeds, never developed an array of pitches. Some of the best pitchers I followed were masters of the art of pitching. In their youth they had strong arms with significant fast balls but knew how to 'pitch'. Among my favorites were Tom Seaver and Greg Maddux.

Sure, this pitcher is an athlete that can do something I could only covet, but my physical abilities do not compare to his. But the state of baseball is at stake currently. Hitting is at an all-time low and all that seems to happen in a game is either the ball goes out of the park or the hitter strikes out. That isn't much of a game to watch. Few steal bases these days and the strategy of baseball has all but vanished.

I'm fine with MLB policing the game to make it even for both pitcher and hitter but it's time to enforce the rules so baseball remains baseball and not a circus act.

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Memorial Day

 For those who don't understand what this day means to this country, I hope this helps for it is the remembrance I hold.


I look above at the gray skies that have not yet fully seen the light of day. It is filled with death to our enemy as the shells from the fleet continue its bombardment of the shore. It is hours old yet still they rain down from the skies. I can only pray it has the effect we all hope for as our small craft chugs toward the shoreline.

I look around at the faces that stand beside me. There is no expression. Are we all the same, are we all resolute yet fearful as to what is about to happen to us? These boats that carry us forward seem nothing more than giant tubs that flail against the tides. The seas are heavy and we do whatever we can to stand. The closer we get the more they rise and fall to the power of the ocean. My stomach long ago relieved itself of what little breakfast I had. And I am not the only one. The sea that lurches above us and drenches us with its cold hand adds to the slickness of the deck. We are nearly piled on top of each other.

We have been given the order and I feel the grip of fear rise within me. I am shaking like never before. I have never been so afraid in my life yet for some reason fierce in my determination to fulfill my duty. It is what I must do; it is what we all must do. That is why we are here. There has been no attempt to hide from us what we will face yet it seems so more real now that I ever could have imagined.

The horn sounds and the door drops as our lander slams to a halt into the sands. The sea rushes in as we hear the stinging pelts of bullets pepper the metal around us. We rush forward with the screams of warriors, the rifles of the first rows of my brothers attempting to answer the enemy but they are little more than the sting of a bee against the onslaught.

I push forward behind the backs of my brethren and I am aghast at what has befallen them. Our first wave lays dead or screaming in agony in the sea, now stained red by the blood of hundreds. I charge forward now silent as I struggle to survive. My weapon is nothing more than a crutch to help me get to the next barricade. These few seconds off the boat are a lifetime as time stands still, a new reality that is a soldier’s fate; my fate. As I surge forward I am dropped into the muddy surf as something slams into my legs. I roll to push it away and am wide-eyed as I realize it is what is left of my bunkmate from our quarters. My voice screams into the heavens only to be lost to the sounds of the rockets still streaming overhead. They have done little to soften the blow.

My rage begins to build and I will not let the fate that has come to my brothers come to me. Now free, I turn and lay on my stomach and fire blindly onto the shore as the returning surf blows back across my face stinging my eyes. I feel the salt enter a bloody wound on my arm, a gash torn into my flesh I did not know was there. My anger builds and it is the first time I have returned fire in anger. I push forward and fall again as another from behind falls on top of me. Another casualty that has come from my boat, another call to me to push forward.

At last I am able to rise to my feet and run; run to survive; run to live and face another day. As I dive forward my back comes to rest against a barricade of wood and steel spikes that have been driven into the shifting sands. It is my refuge this moment as I look out to where I have come from. Before me the world is filled with ships and hosts of men rallying to me. I look down and see now a bloody rip in my trousers as the salt and sand continue to pour across my body. But it is not time for me to rest. It is not time to fall. I look around and the sands are strewn with death, the lifeless bodies of those now torn beyond recognition at the barbarity of this day.

I breathe deeply and take measure of myself for this is my fate, for I have chosen it. I surge forward with those that now overtake me. It is a day I hope to remember if I live through it, yet still forget.

 

Now, what seems a lifetime ago for it is in years and also memories, I stand here in remembrance, looking out across the shore where my life nearly ended all those decades ago. This ground is nearly sacred to me and I remember those I stood beside and those I lost on that day. I may never again see this sight as my world slowly comes to an end and I will likely not see this day again in my lifetime, for there are few of us left. My only prayer is there will remain someone to remember me, to remember them and all that we fought for.

This day is a remembrance for the fallen that we may live in peace.