Monday, July 12, 2010

Playing Catch

Do kids these days ever play catch with their dads? Obviously, they still do but you don't seem to see it much. The boys and girls play a lot more games than we did when I was growing up. I think our little league team played twelve, maybe fourteen games during the summer. Now days they have leagues organized from tee-ball to regular season to select leagues. With so many leagues and so many games do the kids get much time with just playing catch with their dads? One of the most poignant scenes from the 1989 movie "Field of Dreams" was when Ray Kinsella's dad shows up on the magical field. There are some obvious hurts from the past that were never resolved before Ray's dad died. Ray asks his dad, John, "do you want to have a catch?" For a few minutes they play catch. I understood that moment. There is something about occupying the same turf, and concentrating on the same sphere with the intent to snatch it from the air like an escaping dream, and then voluntarily sending that sphere back that brings connection like few things in life can. With each throw coming at you, you get to prove you're good enough, big enough, skilled enough to handle it. With each throw you fling away you are proving to yourself and your dad that you can be on target. And the idea renews itself every few seconds. With a game of catch two generations are brought together in the same moment. The old man gets to impart some wisdom of "how to" to the younger generation. In time, if the pair keeps playing catch year after year the young one can show the old one "what he's got" and the old one can show the young one "he's still got it" himself. But mostly its about the connection, the connection that grows with each silent throw and catch as if the ball were a needle pulling some invisible thread between the two players. The simple act of playing catch draws each one to the other as they participate in a game that is bigger than both of them but can be enjoyed on even a small patch of dirt in the backyard. The best times of catch are mostly silent with just the rhythmic "pop" of each one's glove. "Pop"...silence... "pop." "Pop"....silence...."pop."Some throws are hard, some are easy. Some throws are on target and some way off. Most are caught but some are missed. Sometimes an easy throw is dropped and at times a great catch is made of one that should have been missed. Life itself is like that, too. Occasionally, right in the middle of catch, the son or daughter may even ask a question about life, its' whys and wherefore's. It's a good time to talk a little and learn a lot. At some point the younger will eventually surpass the elders skill whether it is from athletic ability or simply age and strength ebbing in one and rising in the other. The wise ones will absorb the change and keep on pitching and catching. One day the younger will find himself gearing down quite a lot so as not to hurt the elder, much like the elder did when the younger was a toddler. Hopefully, by then the connections are so strong that they can find a different way to catch each other's hopes, dreams, and fears that once flew back and forth into each other's glove. But do dads play catch with their kids much anymore? Probably not enough, the kids have too many games and Dad works too many hours. There's a sadness to that which once was but now is lost but the saddest part is that some were too busy or too blind to ever have it in the first place. With so many games, so many leagues, so many practices do kids ever connect with their dads by simply playing catch? Perhaps God wonders the same about all of us to whom He has been pitching truth for years only to see us too busy to grasp it, handle it, and throw it back just in order to connect with Him. One day He may bring the high heat, will we know how to handle it? Cos

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Connie, Did You Have a Good Life?

I literally hadn't thought of Connie Stubblefield in probably forty years. But Mom sent some old yearbooks home by son Clay when he was here visiting recently. She said to keep them but not throw them away as she would take them back if I didn't want them. I kept them. I looked up ancient pictures of my classmates but oddly, remembered the ones who weren't there. I remembered David my good friend from early grades, actually only two. But we remained good friends through high school and kept up with each other through college. But he wasn't in those year books. I remembered Daryl Wayne. Daryl had a playground accident when we were in the fifth grade. He hit his head on some concrete during some rough play. The blow caused a clot, the clot swelled the brain and he remained in comatose state for three years until his death. Daryl wasn't in the yearbook either. Philip Becker wasn't there. His family moved to Ennis so they could attend St. John's Catholic school after about the sixth grade. We kept in touch through sports until I lost track of Philip after high school. He was probably the nicest and smartest of the bunch. Well, maybe David, too. Then there was Connie. Connie started the first grade with all of us. She was different in some ways but all of us were in our own ways I guess. Connie had skin that was different than the rest of us. She wasn't black, she wasn't Hispanic, but her skin was darker. I heard later someone say she had an "olive" complexion. I thought olive was green and Connie wasn't green so that didn't make sense to me then. Connie was also poorer, I think. She lived with her grandmother. That also made her different back then. I seem to recall she had a little brother, but I'm not sure. Her mother would show up on occasion for some big event at school. I never knew nor was it my place to know what was going on with her family. If I ever knew the particulars of Connie's family situation I couldn't really say for sure but they would have been wasted on a six or eight or ten year old like me anyway. Her grandmother didn't speak much English if my memory serves me correctly. She looked like Mother Teresa, covered head and all. She was old and slow and I remember thinking Connie may be taking care of her grandmother more than grandmother is taking care of her. Connie may have been pretty, I just don't know. She didn't have anyone to work with her on those sorts of things. I think she was thin, had pointed features and something called high cheek bones. I never thought of Connie as pretty-never thought she was ugly. She was kind of a tom-boy and liked baseball. When you know someone at age 6 until just before puberty awakens new realms of reality, well, Connie was just Connie. I'd see her for nine months of the year for five days a week, only once or twice during the summer at a baseball game or the store, and no where else. Then after our eighth grade year, I think, it could have been seventh, something happened. I can't recall if her grandmother got too old and sick to keep them or if circumstances changed with her mother, but Connie left Milford and I never saw or heard from her again. When those old yearbooks showed up I saw old classmates' pictures and I remembered the ones not there. So, did you have a good life Connie Stubblefield? Did your mother show you how to put on make-up and dress like a lady? Did you finish high school and maybe college and get a good job? Did you have a career, a family, a divorce? Did you come to know Christ? Did you get to have little money and maybe travel some? Did you ever go back to Milford and did you look in your old yearbooks and wonder whatever happened to those people not in yours that you left in Milford? I lost track of Connie. No, that implies I tried to keep track. School ended. Connie left like every summer only when it started up again in August, she wasn't there and I never thought too much about it. That is a bit sad, maybe a lot sad. People drop in and drop out of our lives. They can be there for a long time and then gone. That's the way it is and we don't think much about it but if we stop long enough to think about it, we find something gnawing away at our souls leaving the impression that the way it is is not necessarily the way it should be. I suppose this gnawing is really a fear that maybe we are the ones who have been lost in life's shuffle. God, do you know where I am? Do you know what I've been doing? Do you remember my name? But God's word assures: O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Psalm 139: 1-3 Connie, I hope you lived and laughed and loved. Mostly I hope you know this God who knows you. He never lost you for a moment. Cos