LATE LUNCH

The Old Ball Team, by Rich Paschall


When they started the monthly get-together it was almost 15 years earlier.  There were a dozen of them then, and two of the “boys” had already retired.  They had all known each other since childhood and were within a few years of one another in age.  They went to the same park as kids and most played on the same teams.

They had decided years ago to meet once a month for dinner, so they could be sure to see one another regularly.  Over the years dinner changed to lunch, as some of them did not want to drive or be out after dark.  The sessions remained as lively as ever.  It seemed none lost their boyhood personalities.

With the passage of time, the group had dwindled in size.  While the first ten years saw no loss of participation, recent years were not kind to the group.  Three had passed away and another three were no longer well enough to attend.  One just seemed to disappear.  No one could ever say what happened to Roger, although a few tried hard to find out.

nationals in DC baseball

The meeting was now on the first Tuesday of the month at 1 o’clock.  Most of the lunch crowd was gone from the Open Flame Restaurant by then and the old guys could sit around and reminisce for as long as they wanted.  Today they wanted to hang on just a little longer.

Raymond had arrived right on time which was his way all through life.  Like the others Ray was retired now.  Unlike the others, he carried a secret with him he would not tell, even to his best friends.

Bob came with Ray.  He was no longer able to drive and in fact needed a good deal of help to get in and out of Ray’s car.  Ray always allowed enough time for Bob, so that they could walk slowly together and get in and out of the house, the car, and the restaurant safely.   To Ray, Bob was like a rock, the anchor of the team.  Now Ray was Bob’s rock of support.  There was a certain irony in that, and Bob would never know it.

Frank still worked a little.  It is not really that he wanted to do it, but he could not shake free of some business obligations he had over the years.  He did not need the money and tried to steer any business to someone else.  If you asked, Frank would tell you he was retired.

Bill was always late.  Everyone would have been surprised if he had been on time.  He maintained an active life and was always finding more to do than he had time.  This seemed to keep Bill healthy and robust.  Perhaps he was the only one of the remaining members in such good shape.

Without any doubt at all, Jerry was the talkative one of the bunch.  If others wanted to tell a story or share some news, they had better do it before Jerry showed up.  He was likely to dominate the conversation from the time he arrived until the time the check came.  It was guaranteed that Jerry would tell his favorites stories, although all of these guys knew them just as well as Jerry.  In fact, one or more of them probably participated in whatever episode he was recalling.

At every meeting, Jerry was sure to get around to the championship baseball game.  “What were we Bob, 12 or 13?  What a summer that was!  I remember when Bob dove for that ball in the last inning.  If that got through the infield we were screwed.  Raymond was so damn slow out there in left field.”  They all would laugh, even Ray.

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Usually the boys would be planning to leave around two, but they told stories and laughed their way past 2:30 in the afternoon.  Finally, Ray called for the check.  Over the objections of the others, Ray paid the bill. They had always split the check evenly.  No one ever paid for everyone, but Ray was a diplomat and a businessman and knew how to get his way.  The matter was settled.

They all made it out into the warm spring day together and stood on the side-walk for a moment.  Raymond gave them all a long hard look, but said nothing.  He knew Bob could not come out any longer.  Bob’s wife had strongly objected to Raymond continuing to take him to lunch.  This would be the last time, for sure.  Raymond was dying of cancer, but kept it to himself.  He looked well enough, so the others just did not know.

As the two walked to Raymond’s car nearby, the others said goodbye to Frank.  It seems that Frank’s wife had been insisting that they move to Michigan to be nearer to the kids and grandkids.  Since Frank was the practical one of the group, he also realized it was better to have a safety net of younger people nearby if the need should ever arise.  These old guys may have promised to always be there for one another, but that now came with the heavy reality that it just could not be so.

As Frank wandered off in the other direction, Bill and Jerry stood looking at one another and big, knowing smiles came across their faces.  Nothing more had to be said.  It was all right there before them. Words, tears, hugs would have been out of character.

Finally Jerry left Bill with the same words he issued for years, “I’ll see you at the next game.  I’ve got the ball and gloves, you bring the bats.”

“OK, captain,” Bill said and walked away.

SENTIMENTAL JOURNEYS

SENTIMENTAL AND ROMANTIC

My husband considers himself quite the romantic. He weeps at old movies and love stories. He always roots for a happy ending.

Golden Sunrise March 7, 2016

To me, that’s sentimental, not romantic. It’s sweet and that’s certainly an attractive quality in a man. Candy, flowers, candles, and music. All nice things to make a courtship memorable.

But, on the whole, sentimentalists don’t have a long game. No need to be a constant lover. The occasional grand gesture is fine and fun. Dinner and a good movie … with flowers on the side.

It’s fine. More than good enough. I doubt a relationship could get through the weary years wrapped in romance — not without a lot of financing to smooth over the lumps and bumps of the modern life.

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Constant romance would make it difficult to take care of the daily dilly-dally, unsympathetic bosses, bills without money to pay. Growing children into good citizens. Making hard choices. Coping with loss. Illness and recovery. None of which are even slightly romantic.

Life is messy. Yet, if you do it for love, perhaps that is enough to make it a romance.

I think my romance synapses have grown mossy from lack of use. Hugs, kisses and a bouquet of flowers — and a nice sushi dinner — will do it for me. Throw in a movie with a happy ending? I’m stoked for at least six months.

sen·ti·men·tal (sen(t)əˈmen(t)l

Adjective
Of or prompted by feelings of tenderness, sadness, or nostalgia.
“She felt a sentimental attachment to the place creep over her.”
Synonyms: nostalgic, tender, emotional, affectionate More
(of a work of literature, music, or art) dealing with feelings of tenderness, sadness, or nostalgia, typically in an exaggerated and self-indulgent way, such as “a sentimental ballad”
synonyms: mawkish, over-emotional, cloying, sickly, saccharine, sugary, overly sweet;
(of a person) excessively prone to feelings of tenderness, sadness, or nostalgia, as in: “I’m a sentimental old fool.”


In the opposing hand, we hold “romantic” stuff:

ro·man·tic rōˈman(t)ik

Adjective
1. Conducive to or characterized by the expression of love.
“A romantic candlelit dinner.”
Synonyms: loving, amorous, passionate, tender, affectionate; Informal: lovey-dovey: “He’s so romantic”
2. Of, characterized by, or suggestive of, an idealized view of reality, such as: “A romantic attitude toward the past.”
Synonyms: idyllic, picturesque, fairy-tale;
Noun
1.A person with romantic beliefs or attitudes: “I am an incurable romantic”
Synonyms: idealist, sentimentalist, romanticist.


yellow roses anniversary bouquet

Reality ain’t so bad. Add a few flowers and a night out? I’ll call it romance and be content.

SIBLING REVELRY – ELLIN CURLEY

I was an only child and I loved it! I felt bad for all those poor kids with siblings who had to share rooms, toys and above all else, parental attention. The world of my parents and grandparents revolved around me and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. When I decided to have a second child, I was pretty much in the dark about what it meant to grow up with a sibling and how a parent was supposed to handle this, to me, alien situation.

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When I was pregnant with my second child I worried how I would handle sibling tensions. I wondered if I could avoid identifying with the older child who had been an only child for almost five years. I felt guilty about destroying his monopoly on adult love and attention and also about bringing a child into the world who would never experience being the sole center of the family’s universe.

In the early years, juggling the needs of the two children turned out to be easier than I had imagined because of the large age difference. For example, for several years I could give exclusive attention to my baby daughter when my son was at school. In fact, my kids got along amazingly well throughout their childhoods so I was spared a lot of the sibling rivalry and hostility I was so afraid I would mishandle.

Then they grew up and all Hell broke loose!

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They reversed the usual sibling process. Just when they should have stopped fighting and butting heads, they started doing it. I don’t know if it’s easier to be in the middle of this bickering and sniping with young adults than with young children. I know I obsessed about what I had done wrong that prevented the great sibling bond I had heard so much about from forming in my children.

It took years but the anger and tension seem to have ended. Lo and behold, my children have found that incredible adult sibling bond that surpasses parental approval and attention in importance. When one of them has a problem, the other is there in a flash with unquestioning loyalty.

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Sisters

They have very different interests and lives, but at 30 and 35, they have a connection I envy. For the first time I my life, I wish I had a sister or brother to share memories and family responsibilities.

I wish I had the special bond you can only get from growing up with someone, day in and day out, in the same house with the same family, sharing pets and friends, secrets and jokes. I don’t have that special person who shares my genes and childhood. The person who will always be there for me in a unique way no one else can.

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My long deceased parents and grandparents made me the center of their world, but now I have no one with whom to share those memories of my cherished only childhood.

BABY YOU’RE THE BEST

When I married Garry, it was my third marriage, his first. It wasn’t because he hadn’t had relationships. More than enough of them. Just never married any of them.

43, on our honeymoon. At Loch Gill, Isle of Innisfree.

43, on our honeymoon. At Loch Gill, Isle of Innisfree.

So, there we were. Me at 43 and he at 48 years old. Really getting married. Wow. We had a not-so-small advantage in that we had been friends and lovers for more than 25 years, but married? I never thought he would marry anyone.

Scene: Epiphany Lutheran Church, Garry’s home church in Hempstead, New York. His brother was singing as were two of my friends. A bagpiper was there to pipe the guests in, open the ceremonies, and pipe us on our way.

Garry In Cong

Twenty-five — almost 26 — years later. We old dogs have learned a whole lot of new tricks. Garry — the fussy bachelor — has turned into a great husband and a pal. He shops, launders, and lots more. All the things I can’t manage, he takes care of.

But more than any tasks or work he may do, he has become my rock. As my health declined … I’d have thought I’d bottomed out, but apparently not … he was, is there. Always.

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How do you say thanks for that?

You’re my better half, so much better than I ever dared hope. Baby, you’re the best.

GATHERING PEARLS – EPISODE 1

NO DRAWN BLANKS, NOT TODAY

I’ve been finding pearls of wisdom all over the place. A few from television and movies, others from fellow bloggers. Today’s gems (and I’m not kidding, I mean gems — no sarcasm) come from Cardinal Guzman.

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Let me start with the Cardinal. His “life game” guidelines resonated with me:

  • Take care of your loved one and loved ones.
  • Have fun, but don’t get addicted to it.
  • Their shit stinks too, so it doesn’t matter what they think.
  • Improvise.

Taking care. I take care of my loved ones — friends and family — to the extent that they allow me, and I am able. I no longer believe I can fix everyone’s problems — or mine. Within the limits of money, time, health, and distance, I do what I can. It’s pretty good. If I won the lottery … but that doesn’t look likely, especially considering I haven’t bought any tickets. (Maybe I should buy tickets.)

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Have fun. I do. It’s different fun than I had years ago, but it makes me smile and laugh. I get some good pictures too.

Their shit stinks too. Not only does other people shit stink, but some of those other people have bigger problems than me. None of us never knows how difficult someone else’s path is. If they are nice to me, the will have my support — even if I don’t have much beyond moral support to offer.

Improvise. He or she who cannot roll with the punches, change with the seasons of life, adapt to the stuff that is constantly assailing us from every direction, are doomed. If you don’t change, you ossify and die in place.

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Living means changing. Many people declare “they can’t change because they are what they are.” That’s never true. They are convinced not changing will save them from getting hurt or having to learn new and uncomfortable skills. Instead, ceasing to move in life becomes a recipe for death before burial. Only the dead are frozen in time.

Improvising also means reinventing oneself. Often. As we age, we don’t so much give up things, as we adapt to the limitations we encounter. If I can’t ride horses, I can take pictures of them. I can enjoy being around them.

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I can’t hike long distances, but I can walk shorter ones. I can take pictures, write, read, and talk. I can laugh. And I’d better do it now, because tomorrow has no guarantee. As far as I can know, this is tomorrow.

Grab a handful of life and get on with it.

I’d like to add that the entire experience of living would be greatly improved by people being kind to one another. By not walking around so fearful of getting hurt that they hurt everyone else. Self-protection is overrated.

Be nice, be kind. Help where you can. It’s free. It’s easy. It makes you a better person and the world a better place.

PLAY NICE AND PUT DOWN THE SHOVEL

It’s one of the first things every mother teaches her kid. Or should.

“Play nice. Don’t hit little Jimmy with that shovel. Don’t take Ellen’s doll. Play nice or other children won’t want to play with you.”

Apparently, mom’s lesson went in one ear and out the other. Because no one remembers how to be nice anymore. Civility has vanished. Everyone seems to be on some kind of weird narcissistic power trip where only their needs, their opinion, their feelings matter. Screw everyone else. It’s all about me. Only me.

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Mother — yours and mine — had a point. If you don’t play nice with the other kids, they won’t like you. They won’t invite you to their parties. They may not like you anyway, but if you’re mean and hit them and take their toys? They definitely won’t like you.

We’ve been binge-watching “Scandal.” As we head around the bend into the final few shows of the fourth season, I looked at Garry and said “If they weren’t so horrible to each other … if they weren’t always spying on each other, threatening each other, torturing and killing each other … they wouldn’t have so many enemies. They wouldn’t have to watch their backs all the time. If they were just nicer to each other, a lot of problems would vanish. All it would take is simple civility.” Of course it wouldn’t make a very interesting show, but that’s a completely separate issue.

Which is not, apparently, all that simple.

Love in theory

And not just on the TV series. In the real body politic. On a national and international level. Everyone is so adversarial, nasty, cruel, ugly, dirty, mean-spirited. They’ve forgotten the old “you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar” thing. Not that I ever understood why you’d particularly want to attract flies, but obviously, that’s not the point.

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What it — and all our mothers — meant is that being nice often works out better, gets you what you want in more situations than being unpleasant and contentious. When I watch television and they show reporters attacking the people they are supposedly trying to interview, I remember that Garry never attacked anyone … and he always got his interview. Because he knew that some chit-chat — friendly conversation — would get him a better interview than an attack.

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We should all get back to basics.

Please. Thank you. Excuse me. Like that.

Not hitting each other with shovels, verbally or otherwise. Our world could be a fine place if we would just play nice. We are in the sandbox together. We might as well make an effort to get along.

You think?