Archive for the ‘Getting Old is Stupid’ Category
Ten packed a wallop of melancholy. It turns out that Atticus was as sad about taking one more step into the big unknown as we were watching him go. All we wanted was for things to stay small and huggable. Is that too much to ask?
Apparently so, and with that we have accepted our fates and looked into the big, bright future. There is adventure there, and it is his for the taking.
Happy birthday, Atticus. Make all the wishes you can carry.
According to the birds in the pink-covered trees, spring has sprung. But they’re just dumb birds, what the hell do they know? I wore a sweater this morning.
Seriously, I’m writing about the weather. It has come to that.
Also, I’m writing about birds and how they aren’t nearly as smart as they think they are. At the end of the day they all taste like chicken.
The thing about spring that makes it worth mentioning is that a young man’s heart turns to baseball. However, my heart is old. It pumps coffee and bourbon and stops on a dime at least twice during every greasy dinner. My boys’ hearts have turned to other flights of fancy, and our family schedule has filled with stress accordingly. The fun kind.
Every week we have multiple sessions of gymnastics, swimming, Spanish, soccer, and piano. Plus school, homework, and random PTA crap. Frankly, it’s time-consuming.
I’m going to need a bigger DVR.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to have the boys involved in any number of activities. When I was a kid such options weren’t readily available to me. Sure, there was baseball, 4-H, and Cub Scouts, and I know that each took a commitment of time and money from my parents, but I didn’t know it then so I didn’t appreciate it. I make sure my kids know. They are living in the now.
For the most part my sunny days (and there were a lot of them growing up in Arizona) were filled with the same activity: Outside.
We had adventures in the desert and the dry riverbed. We rode in huge tractors and jumped for hours in the itchy awesomeness of raw, freshly-picked cotton. Our playground stretched, literally, for miles. We traveled by bike and horseback. We packed heat (BB guns) and strapped knives on our belts (official Rambo survival edition with matches in the handle). There was always a pack of neighborhood dogs panting loudly at our side.
I look back fondly and I can’t help but wonder, what the hell were our parents thinking? Then I remember they didn’t have NCIS and CSI:Wherever back then. They were ignorant of the dangers that we surely faced.
It is spring. My boys and their time are both accounted for. Their schedule is full and tiring. On the weekends they put on their coats and their gloves, strap sticks to their sides and face the well-known.
Sometimes we walk to the edge of the neighborhood where the forest waits, and with it the lure of danger and adventure. The woods stretch, literally, for miles. The boys run around bends and down paths forgetting that we are, relatively, far behind them. They are alone and they are free. Their dogs pant loudly at their side.
There are echoes and there is laughter. It is the song of spring, and the sound of moments to remember.
The birds pale by comparison.
A version of this post first appeared in 2011 on DadCentric
Skip: You guys. You lollygag the ball around the infield. You lollygag your way down to first. You lollygag in and out of the dugout. You know what that makes you? Larry!
I wasn’t an athletic kid. Sure, I played a few seasons of little league, but I was so bad, and my confidence was so shaken, that I spent most of my time feigning migraines and moping about the dugout. Those seasons, in hindsight, seem more romantic now—the beat-up glove and wooden bat, the brand-new pair of shoes. It was a moment in the sun and it burned me accordingly. It instilled in me an early sense of failure and doubt, which, for the record is the opposite of what it had promised.
I realize now that a lot of what I accepted as goofiness wasn’t really my fault. I was tall and skinny and had the coordination of a one-legged drunk. You couldn’t see me if I turned sideways. My legs went up to my neck, a breeze could knock me over, and my mother forced me to get a perm, which isn’t really relevant but still fucked up.
Luckily, for me, I had other strengths to fall back on and I made it through my childhood nearly intact. By the time I finished high school I was actually becoming quite the sports fan and could spend an afternoon shooting hoops or tossing around the football without looking like a total schmuck. Of course, I had missed the years of coaching and development that my peers had, but I had fun and I was no longer embarrassed.
This just in, being a kid is harder than it looks.
And so I was little hesitant when my son expressed interest in playing baseball. By interest I mean that the neighbor mentioned it to me and the boy wasn’t against it. The neighbor was the coach and by the time we had our first practice I would be his assistant.
Why? Because baseball is what happens between yesterdays and a good stretch, and watching a little league game is like watching children act out poetry. A boy in a ball field just feels right.
I couldn’t help myself, and it wasn’t long before the old fears became new again—I was afraid that I’d look like an idiot some 30 years later. I was afraid that my son would be just like me. I was afraid of not letting him try.
He had never played baseball. His two visits to Dodger Stadium had seen the game overshadowed by hot dogs and cotton candy. All he knew of bases consisted of Hoth and Echo and random games of tag. He had a used glove that he hadn’t worn in over a year—the last time I had tried to engage him in a game of catch, and the last time he had made it clear that he didn’t find it fun. I promised myself that he would not feel the pangs I once had.
The other coaches showed up with bags of bats and balls. I showed up with baggage and a box of granola bars.
This… is a simple game. You throw the ball. You hit the ball. You catch the ball.
Practice started on a sunny morning on cool, green grass. The team practiced this and they practiced that. The coach coached and I assisted, and in doing so I learned things about the game I had never known. Turns out I had never been taught proper fundamentals and technique despite three years of showing up to do so. I felt the stirring of confidence in a hole long left empty. I felt ghosts slowly fade away.
Walt Whitman once said, “I see great things in baseball. It’s our game, the American game. It will repair our losses and be a blessing to us.”
You can look it up.
My son took the field and he threw the ball. He hit the ball. He caught the ball. He rounded third and headed for home, a blue-eyed handsome boy.
On a sunny morning I stood on cool, green grass and felt my losses repaired. It was our game and a blessing to us.
A group of boys ran by me, my son among them. They smiled and laughed and turned left along the baseline.
There wasn’t a lollygagger in the bunch.
With apologies to Bull Durham and John Fogerty.
A version of this post first appeared in 2010 on DadCentric
It is an hour flight—up the hill, down the hill, a bag of peanuts and a pail of water. The descent never changes.
From the window the ground is dry and chapped, breaking in the creases, and the heat rises above it in thick translucent waves. The view is always the same, a sky clear and blue, an endless land that is cracked and growing blurry.
From the curb it is more of the same, but now you can feel it and the shirt stuck to your back. The parking lot is checkered by empty spaces and clusters of cars haggling for shade. A tree grows in Tucson and the locals bow beneath it. The dust is quick upon them.
This is where I came from, a leap from a postcard across the pages of a scrapbook, faded equally from time and sun. I don’t miss much, but for twilight streaking from mountaintop to mountain on rays of pink and amber, and then nights too warm beneath a quilt of stars and friendly margaritas.
And some of the people even more so.
It is Friday morning, and I have returned to bury my grandfather. It seems I only fly home for funerals.
When the phone rang I was sitting in a ritzy hotel in a fancy town, surrounded by people I barely knew and those I hold quite dearly. There was wine, a fireplace, and much in the way of laughter. The phone was buzzing in my hand, my father’s name printed across the screen, and I let time linger there for a moment—one last second in a world posh and filtered, full of glossy promise, where I had never been told that my grandfather was dead.
“He’s gone,” said my father across the line, and then he talked of specifics and things for the better. I answered in careful whisper, said what I could, then walked down the hall with the help of a shoulder—feeling pale, weak, and an awful lot like crying.
Clifford “Ray” Honea was born in 1925. He had been a pioneer in a western town, one that his son, my father, still serves as mayor today. He had been a police officer, a fireman, a business owner, a politician, and a soldier. He bowled, loved birds, sports, and the art of the argument. He was loud, opinionated, and quick with a joke. He was my grandpa, and I loved him fiercely.
It had only been a week since the stroke and heart attack, but his seemingly quick departure had actually been years in the making. It started the day my grandmother died, when he had buried his spark and gave way to a life of longing, pain, and frailty. Each day without her was another day of cruel survival, a staring contest with fate that left him always waiting, always hoping it was over.
But even then there were still times when he forgot himself and would let the carnival of childhood bounce through his door and find ways to entertain him. The boys would surround him with affection, recharge him with bits of perk and playfulness, and let the dust fall from his smiles. His eyes would twinkle then, with a little boy holding tight to either side, and he would let himself be happy, if only for a moment.
His life was long, packed with love, and filled with grand adventure. There are many stories that should be told of Ray Honea and the years that I spent with him, and someday I will share those with my children, but today I can only tell the boys that their Grammpy is gone—another broken heart in search of someplace better, and we will remember always how they made him laugh in the days that passed between them.
This is the official obituary for C. Ray Honea:
C. Ray Honea
Our dad, grandpa, and great-grandpa, C. Ray Honea, passed away May 4, 2013. He was born January 21, 1925 in Tempe, AZ. Ray was the third of eight children and was married to Wynema Steele Honea (deceased) for 62 years. Ray and Wynema started the Honea Heights Neighborhood and Honea Water Company, respectively, both in Marana, in 1953. They had three children: Ed (Jan-deceased), Wayne (Cathy), and Pam. They had seven grandchildren: Whit (Tricia), Tiffany Phoenix (Wynter), Gary (Jo), Charlene Hugo (Tim), Curtis (deceased), Wayne II, and Nema Shapiro (Steve). They also had 12 great-grandchildren: Atticus, Zane, Avery, Jessica, and Brianna Honea; Jordan, Sydney, and Ethan Shapiro; Anneliese, Evan, Emma, and Ava Hugo. Ray was a member of Marana’s First Town Council (1977). He is the former chair of the Marana Planning Commission. Ray also served 29 years on the Trico Electric Board of Directors. His passion was racing (homing pigeons) in which he won two All-American Awards. In lieu of flowers please make a donation to the Huntington’s Disease Society of America. Services will be held at Marana Community Christian Church on May 18th at 10 a.m.