Sunday, November 10, 2013

A Chat with Dad


In my first book, Sowing My Father's Garden, I have this amazing new ability to simply call up my long deceased Father on a screen and hold conversations with an artificial simulation of him.

I didn't really plan to write this story this way. When I came up with the concept, it simply sounded like a cool little aspect to the story.

But after I wrote the first interaction with my Dad, it took me a long time in the story before I went back to it. It was just too real.

In the story, I find my main character to be in a position where he (he who is me) getting advice from a lot of people. But no matter how much I respected the others feeding me their insight and opinion, I found that I still had to go back in the story and run it past my artificial Dad.

And it felt good to me, writing these conversations, these pretend dialogues with the man I respected more than any other in my life, focusing on my memories of every little nuance about his mannerisms, his speech cadence, his sincerity, and how he always balanced his rational with humor. How thoughtful he was, and how he could dissect the simplest idea to find it's real intention and meaning.

And I realized how much I really truly miss him. I didn't really know this until I delved into trying to resurrect him in this artificial simulation.

Below is that first excerpt from Sowing My Fathers Garden … where I discover inside this amazing network the Planter's Society had built, that my Father – the founder of this society – had been artificially modeled so that other members could "bounce things off him.

Tomorrow is Dad's birthday. He would have turned 81.

Ironically his birthday falls on a day we call Remembrance Day.

Happy Birthday Dad. You are indeed remembered.


14 – A chat with Dad

I quietly re-entered the bedroom so as not to wake Anne as she was sleeping. I picked up the remote control and went to the front of the room where the video screen stood. I moved a comfortable chair to a location in front of the video screen, and worked my way through the menus back to the Angel flying into view.

"Let me talk to my Dad, please." I said, just – if for nothing else – to see how smart this thing really is.

"Certainly", responded the Angel.

The screen went black.

After a couple of seconds, a little orange glow appeared near the middle of the screen. As I looked closer, I could see the outline – the silhouette of a figure, lying on the couch, the orange dot grew brighter – then dimmed, and a puff of smoke drifted past. The dot then moved in a fashion to a lower position and stopped – as if set down in an ashtray.

Even though the screen was nearly pitch black, I could still make the silhouette out to be my Dad. – laying on the couch in a pair a tennis shorts – a tee shirt on, laying on his side with one arm propping up his head.

"Dad?"

"I've been wondering when you would get around to coming to see me", said the silhouette.  "How was your flight?"

"Great", I said.

"How are Anne and my two granddaughters, Alex and Rae?"

"They are great too".

"I can't wait to see them". It was indeed my Dad's voice. Same professional speaking voices, a little tired, with a touch of gravel from smoking.

"Dad, you quit smoking, remember?"

"I started back up.", said the voice. The orange dot lifted into the air – grew brighter as it sat in front of the face of the silhouette, then grew dimmer. It landed to a position on the side of the silhouette's hip.

Just like Dad did as he laid on the couch in the dark smoking and thinking.

"So where do we start, then?", I asked the silhouette.

"How about asking how I am?"

"Okay, I'll bite, how are you ... Dad?"

"Dead, pretty much." Said the silhouette, with a dead pan delivery of a joke.

Just like Dad.

"Yes, and I don't really find all this very amusing", I replied. "I'm kind of pissed off that Mom would let you be … well … reverse engineered I guess is the best way to say it."

"Capiche", said the silhouette.

"But I will say this, you sure do look and sound and act like my old man."

"I told you, I hate the term 'old man'."

And Dad did, too. I referred to him as my old man one time, he reached over and cuffed me good in the head.

"At least you can't reach me now", I laughed, "And I'm too old for a whooping."

"You would be surprised at what this thing can do", replied the silhouette. And for a second I considered he might be right.

"I don't think I can let the girls see this … see you … this way. Do you understand?"

"Not only do I understand, but I agree with you a hundred percent!" replied my digital silhouette of a father. "At least not yet … when they are older … that's why your mother agreed to put me in here."

"So you have a pre-recorded message to play for them then?", I asked.

"Not pre-recorded – but a script I guess you could say. Your mother made a collage of video clips for the girls to see, and some instructions for me to … well … show my best side to them. Some day they may want to meet me."

"We'll cross that bridge when we get to it", I replied. "Do you have anything scripted to say to me? This is a lot of … shit … to grasp. I could use some guidance."

I swore on purpose. I was never allowed to swear around my Mom or Dad. Not even as a young adult.

"You mean 'Stuff', a lot of stuff to grasp."

"Sorry, just testing you".

"I know." The orange dot again drifted from the silhouette's hip to his face, grew brighter then dimmer, and another puff of smoke drifted across the screen.

"The only advice that I have for you is to use your best judgment. These are very good people. They sincerely are trying to do the right things. They are trying to carry forward on a mission I left them with over twenty years ago."

"I think I need a history lesson, Dad. How did all this come to be? Where did you get all the money to fund all of this? "

"Tonight is not the night for a history lesson, kid. The Angel can tell you the history. She can probably play it back for you like a movie." .. there was a pause … then the silhouette continued .. "Yes, I just checked, and the Angel has the order and sequence of this to unveil to you all queued up, but not tonight, it's still too new to you, all this … shit."

I laughed. That was my dad.

"But this I must tell you. I am not the one who brought the wealth to this group. That was Abercrombie. John is a genius. He built all of this. I just provided … well … the inspiration I guess. That's why they wanted Mom to let them put me into this thing. So they could remember what they are here for."

"Oh".

"You are an invited member. This is not some family legacy left to you. This is serious stuff and you better treat it as such. What John has asked you to join is his – the Society's. What they expect of you is … well, a little bit of me. Got it?"

"I got it."

"Good."

"Remember …." Said the silhouette.

"The old man's always right", I said, beating him to the punch.

"That's right".

"I miss you Dad."

"I know."

The orange dot floated over to the silhouette's face, again grew brighter, then dimmer, then floated to the ashtray, the hand of the silhouette putting out the orange glowing dot as a puff of smoke again floated across the screen.

"That's enough for tonight … we'll talk again tomorrow. G'night". And the silhouette got up from the couch and walked out of the picture.

"G'night Dad".

 

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Change Is Inevitable


I think Mother Nature must be going through menopause.

Hot flashes one day, cold flashes the next; and the gusty winds and thunderstorms.

But this morning the air is still and the sky is blue. And the sun light is bright with a slight tint of orangey yellow.

And it's chilly.

The dew that dropped out of the sky has coated everything on the ground with a thick coat of wet.

Even though I pulled out my heavy black woolen sweater from the closet that stores winter coats, I'm still chilled by the slight breeze as I sit on the back deck by the still waters of the swimming pool.

I guess it's time to consider that summer is over and fall is starting.

It's time to close this swimming pool down. It's time to give it one final vacuum, empty the water to the half-way point, poor in the winter doses of chemicals, and put the black tarp on.

But not yet, at least not today.

We still have ball practices to attend, and the Major Leagues still have two weeks of the regular season left. But then, ball always starts before the pool opens and ends long after the pool is closed.

Many have told me that they feel ripped off by the summer we had this year. Too cool, too wet they all say. But I disagree.

This has been a fantastic summer.

There's a humming bird hovering next to a bush of blue flowers in the garden, sipping the dewy nectar that lies on the tiny petals, oblivious to the fact that it's forty seven degrees outside. But he is in the sunshine while I sit here in the shade.

I wonder if he thinks the summer was too short.

Maybe.

The trees don't think so. For all the maples that I see in my surroundings, only one has leaves starting to turn orange and red. And he always starts early, as though in a rush to be first. The first with leaves in spring, and the first to change colors and fall in autumn.

The impatient one, while the rest still stand high and sturdy with lush green leaves in no hurry to see the season end.

It is still summer you know.

My eldest daughter Alannah has ball practice shortly at noon. Still a practice / tryout of sorts for a new team with another club called the Wildcats, having been cut from the next age group up at the Turtle Club. The experience left me questioning the concept of loyalty – and how do I convince her to hold the value true when the club she was so loyal too was not loyal back to her in return.

But you have to earn your spot to make the team. And this year the competition came from every nook and cranny of our peninsula of a county nested between the great lakes St. Claire and Erie. I watched most every moment of those practices, and I thought Alannah did terrific.

But I must have misjudged her competition.

Last year, my youngest Ashley-Rae missed the cut to play on the same team Alannah did. She spent the summer watching from the side with me, and together we went through house league and all stars. And together we had a ball. Now this year, she made the team that Alannah grew too old to play for anymore. She won her spot in convincing fashion. And so as a family we now get to remain with the other families who will still travel together next year from tournament to tournament, while we make new friends on the new team that Alannah seems certain to earn a spot on. Families from a different club who may not hold the Turtle Club in as high esteem as we do, out of loyalty.

Next year we will be both inside – and on the outside looking in. On both sides of the window.

Alannah's new team does look like it will be very strong though. I haven't seen a single weak player on the team. And two of her old team mates from Turtle Club will be there to, both Lilly and Rachael suffered the same breakdown in what they presumed to be a two-way commitment.

I'm very proud of my two girls – both equally – as they grow up with fast pitch softball as one of their anchor points in their development into young ladies. In fact I am very proud of all the girls I have had the pleasure to manage and coach this year – and those that I simply rooted for on Alannah's team.

There isn't a bad apple in the whole group.

And so, with Ashley's experience of being cut behind her, and now Alannah, the older sister, just learning the experience now – and moving on with a maturity that inspires me, I reconsider my position and understand that relationships, be them with people or with organizations, are more often than not fleeting. They are ever-changing, growing like the huge maples that grow around my yard.

And some change colors early, while others stay green as long as they can.

It's been a fantastic summer for me and my family. Travelling to play ball and watching them step up to each challenge and conquer their own self-doubts. Both Alannah and Ashley-Rae grew up a good bit this year in the most positive ways any father could ask for.

And now they are confident in their own abilities and in each other's as well. They know how to face obstacles, how to meet challenges, and how to succeed.

It's been a fantastic summer.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Winning for Losing


Sometimes it's just inevitable.

Sometimes you just can't win for losing.

But, then again, sometimes the line between winning and losing is blurred.

Last night, my little Gold '99 fastpitch team was in the semi-final game to see who would go one to play in the championship game. It was a very close battle.

We were in the top of the final inning, and down by only two with one out and knowing that if we could hold them to a couple of runs, we could come back and win it in our final at bat.

The first out was made at first base, the player picking up a ground ball down first base line and the runner beaten to the bag.

But then with only a runner on second, their team hit a hard ground ball to our third baseman who looked up and saw the runner on second heading to third.

So she ran to third base and touched the bag first.

But she didn't tag the runner.

I know this because I was chatting with the other team's third base coach and was standing only a couple feet away, watching intently.

"OUT" screamed the umpire – all of fifteen years old – from left field.

There was no way he saw the play.

"She didn't tag her" screamed the fans from the opposing team's bleachers.

They were right.

With my scorebook in hand, I trotted out to left field. And I explained to the umpire that this was not a force play at third.

"But she tagged her", he said – while the fans of the other team were screaming the same thing at the fifteen year old Umpire.

"No she didn't. She didn't even make the attempt to tag her".

That was my fault. I didn't teach my young third-baseman well enough.

I waved to the other team to bring the runner back to third.

That runner scored on the next play when we achieved another out at first on the next batter.

That would have been three outs right there.

And the rest of the inning was a comedy of errors by my infield.

Balls thrown over the first basemen's head, dropped catches on pop-ups. And a dropped ball at first.

My closing pitcher, who I adore as a person – who always gets the job done – then had a hard time finding the strike zone. After eight runs I switched pitchers – even though this admirable young girl had done so such a great job to that point. As I pointed to my little centerfielder to replace her on the mound, my admirable young closer's face started to crumble under the emotion.

And my heart sunk into my stomach for doing that to her.

My next little pitcher came out to warm up – while my admirable young closer walked out to center field. The whole team except for the catcher went out to centerfield with her. And while my next little pitcher threw her practice pitches – the rest of my team consoled my admirable young closer – apologizing for their mistakes – and telling her how great she was – and telling her jokes until she finally laughed.

My next little pitcher struck their batter out with three pitches to finally end the inning.

And we couldn't make up the ten run deficit in our final at bat.

In the huddle after the game where the girls sit on the grass in left field while I stand and talk about the game, I explained to the team what happened at third base. And why I called back the other base runner to third and gave the other team back the second out.

"We don't want to win that way, do we?" I asked.

The girls all said nothing. But they all shook their heads no in agreement.

"You don't want to hear all your friends from the other team tell you we won by cheating or by a really bad call by the umpire, do you?"

"No way coach!" replied my sturdy catcher who is the oldest on the team, a fantastic leader on the squad and top in her class at school.

And the others all chimed in as well muttering "Nope" and "Uh. Uh".

"And we still won the regular season, right?" I continued. "We know in our hearts we are the best team, right?"

"Right", the all replied.

"Sometimes girls you just have to do what's right, even though it's not in favor", I said. "And that, I really believe was the right thing to do".

I doubt the other team really thought much about the out we gave back.

And I doubt very much that our sense of right and fair play will go down in Turtle Club lore – in fact the other coaches would likely think me nuts for not taking advantage of a really bad call by the Umpire in left field.

But all the girls on my little Gold '99 team will remember it. And as the pain of losing washes away as it always does quickly with kids, I think as they grow up, they will remember that call, and that decision, and be proud.

And I think they already feel like winners.

Even though we lost the game, we won.

Perhaps sometimes you can win for losing.

Because sometimes the line between winning and losing gets blurred.

But I sure will miss my little team of Gold '99s.

Monday, July 01, 2013

My Turtle Club Gold ‘99s


It's July 1st – Canada Day to us Canukians.

A cool morning with the sun hidden above a thick layer of cloud that is spitting fine droplets of rain as my faithful black lab Suzy and I sit on the back deck this morning.

The hot summers of years before do not seem to be the plan so far this year. Instead today it feels more like May.

I am pouring over the spreadsheet that is my roster and line up for my Turtle Club house league fast pitch softball team of twelve girls aged from ten to fourteen years old. I'm looking over the combinations of our players for innings one through five, who works best with whom in which of the nine available positions, and the order they will bat in.

You might think that having a team of girls with such a broad age range is too much. That the older girls play too hard – to fast – for the younger ones. I know I did when this season started.

But I was wrong. Dead wrong.

The older girls, at least on my team, are all mentors to their younger team mates. And the younger girls have learned so much more this season than they would have simply by playing against teams exactly their age.

The younger girls' skills have risen so much faster. And the older girls still continue to improve.

The older girls, almost young women about to enter high school either this year or the next have all been fantastic role models.



I am so proud of each and every one of them that I cannot tell you in words.

My best pitchers come from both the older and younger girls alike. And the older girls give the younger ones tips and tricks.

And while our little league has only four teams in total, the talent appears to be pretty evenly spread across the pool the players. And we still play under the rules that all girls must bat in a game, and all girls must play both infield and outfield in a game – and all girls must get a chance at pitching – a very hard skill indeed to hurl a yellow eleven inch leather sphere bound in red threading with a cork center as fast as they can underhanded consistently in a strike zone that changes as the size of the girls change.

But all my girls are up for the challenge – eager for their next opportunity to stand at the center of the diamond and do their best to throw strikes across the plate thirty five feet away.

It's so much fun to be a part of a team that is stepping up to each challenge as well as my little team has done. We are turning double plays, and making the throws from third to first to get the fastest of base runners.

Our team is in first place so far with a third of the season left to play. And I do admit that while the premise of house league play is to be fun, with winning being a secondary, perhaps a tertiary thought to skill improvement and a love for the game, I always tell my girls that while winning isn't everything, it is funner than losing.

They seem to like that mindset.

And when we do lose, they do not like it.

We live in a very competitive world, shrinking day by day as our technologies make our experience on this planet one of a global community. It's not a place where an indifference to winning will help you succeed.

There are no participation trophies given in life. You have to get them and earn them. There are no rewards for simply showing up. And that is what sports can teach our children, if we use the metaphor correctly. Honor and integrity and fair play and justice must all be equal key ingredients for this magic potion to really teach our kids the lessons they so desperately need to learn.

No video game console invented yet can replace sports for teaching our kids true competitive drive. And no game where there are no losers and there are no winners – can help our kids evolve into the kind of kids that help keep our community, our society strong. But it has to be an equal mix of all.

There is no social network they can belong to online – chatting to the world that is more influential than that of a ball diamond dugout – when the team is down by four runs and you need a rally – and the cheers the girls sing together for their team mate at the plate gets louder … and more inspiration.

And you have to learn how to take the unfair with a smile that only makes you try harder the next time. You can't blame the umpire because they made a bad call. You can't say the other team got lucky on a fantastic catch.

I guess that's what I love about all these girls the most. They already seem to know this. And they all want to strive to be better. They are not looking for handouts, or easy solutions. Instead each time they step up to the plate – they want to drive that ball into the center field gap for a double or a triple or even a home run. Each time that ball is hit to them, they don't step out of the way in fear, hoping someone else behind them will make the play. No, instead they charge the ball and take ownership of the opportunity to get the out. And if they bobble it, they fight harder to get it back and still attempt the play.

They don't give up.

And when they step up to the challenge, our whole team is on their feet to congratulate them – to make them feel as special as they deserve to feel at that moment. And then that moment is over and the next challenge is faced.

And when they make a mistake – or they don't do as well as they think they could do, there is no blame chided by their team mates. Instead the whole team is there to tell them …
"it's alright, it's okay we still love you anyway!"

I think that's my favorite cheer of them all.

There is not a kid on this team that I am not incredibly proud of. And while I and my two fantastic coaches might have taught them just a little teeny bit about playing softball, they in return teach me so much more.

Our little Gold '99 team is a fantastic group to be a part of this year. And I am so happy that I and my youngest daughter Ashley-Rae – only ten herself – have had the opportunity to share this experience with them together.

"Hey one-zero, come be my hero, and hit the ball, over the wall"
"Seven seven, hit it up to heaven"

I love those sing-song cheers.

And to all the parents of these exceptional young ladies I have the privilege to manage, I sincerely want to thank each and every one of you for the outstanding job you have done so far.

Because I'm here to tell you it's not easy raising kids today.

But I think these girls are all the cream of the crop.

I can hardly wait for our game tonight against that dastardly Red team. To watch these girls go out there and try their best. And while I hope we win, I know there is a another great lesson out there just waiting to be learned.

What a great way to spend a July First Canada Day.

I just hope it doesn't rain.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

I got a buddy, eh ...

I don’t care much for self-proclaimed experts.

For all that I have met, there is one guy who sits at the top of my list.

When I was a younger man, still living in London, I played on a fastpitch softball team with some friends and we were a pretty good team.

The guy who coached us was a bum of sorts. And we dismissed him and usually coached our team by committee. If we all agreed we did it. And this guy would always say that it was his leadership that brought us to our conclusion.

Anytime this bum needed to sound authoritative on any subject, he would always preface his next statement by saying “I got a buddy eh, …” and he would go on to tell us what this expert buddy told him.

And for every subject there seemed to be a different buddy.

This guy was not so likeable that he would have that many buddies. Or that they would all be so incredibly knowledgeable, and more so to be so generous with their knowledge to share it with this bum of a coach guy.

It drove me nuts, and the tripe that spewed  out of his mouth after declaring his buddy status was usually quite useless.

So I have never really held much credence to those who start to impose their wisdoms with the sentence “I got a buddy, eh …”

Until now, because you see …

I got a buddy, eh …  a fellow I work with who over the last two years who is a coach of a much older team than my girls play on. His daughter plays on this team and he has always described her as very good. And we would talk about softball, usually with me asking questions and he giving answers. His answers have always been very good ones.

One day this spring I was telling him about our upcoming trip to a tournament in Toledo. Let me first say that the level of play in Toledo is fantastic, with clubs that that recruit players from up to a hundred miles away. Their coaches are paid instructors – not the volunteer parents and neighbors our leagues here offer. Not coaches like me, who try to work with the basic knowledge of a fan.

So I was telling him about our Toledo trip and he told me to try to get the girls ready to be beaten badly – mercied  if you will –  every game.  Then he told me “spend the remaining part of your time teaching your girls how to defend against the bunt. These teams will test you early, and if you can’t make the right plays, they will spend the whole game simply bunting on you and taking your defense apart.  Train them every scenario with runners in every combination – runner on first. Runner on third, runner on first and third – bunting up and down the first and third baselines – teach them all of those until they know it cold.”

So I shared this knowledge with our team manager, but I prefaced it by saying “I don’t know what level of authority this is coming from … but here is what he told me …”

Our next practice was devoted entirely to bunting – just as my buddy Len had suggested. And it paid off. While we did get beaten badly every game - losing by ten runs easily as we entered the third inning of each – the other teams only tried bunting on us once or twice, maybe three times a game, and our girls handled most well enough that the other teams just resorted to hitting home runs and line drives to every open spot they could find on the field. And when batting, we only had one base runner that entire tournament.

The next week, when I saw Len, he asked how we made out. I told him how humbling the experience was, but that his advice about bunting was great advice that worked, and even though we got completely annihilated, it wasn’t because they bunted us to death,

Our second tournament in Toledo we won a game from a Toledo team, and played close in a couple others, but annihilated by the best teams.

He smiled and told me that was great progress.

This week, I ran into Len in the hallway again, and he told me with beaming pride about how his team actually won that weekend’s tournament in Toledo.

“Really?!, That’s fantastic!”, I said.

“Yes, but we have a lot to work on still he replied”.

That struck me.

Thursday, our coach mentioned that we were going to have one of the other clubs coaches come to one of our practices. I was curious, so I looked at the other clubs website to find out about this other coach. As I was weaving my way through the teams on their site, I tripped over their under 18 girls team. And there was my buddy Len as the coach.

And below in the list of players – his daughters name was listed. And above that list there was another list of accomplishments.

Ontario Provincial Woman’s Softball Association Silver Medalists

Len’s daughter was listed as the PWSA Top Batter from two seasons before, and the PWSA  most valuable player last year.

And I realized the true quality of advice that I was getting.

And I felt kind of silly in my boasting of my own two girls, who are both doing very well and I am very proud of, but not anything like Len’s daughter.  We are truly just beginning.

All of Len’s advice had been excellent advice, and I did take and followed it when given. But I did not realize the level of authority that my buddy held when he told me.

But now I have this conflict. I really don’t want to sound like that bum of a coach that we all dismissed on that team from long ago.

But I’m afraid I probably will now.

I can just hear me during our next practice, standing at the fence with the coaches, and saying ….

“I got a buddy, eh …”

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Summer Of Insanity


It's a breezy June morning on the back deck of my little family home.

There is just enough wind to cause one to worry if the patio table will blow away, lifted by the umbrella like some campy Disney movie scene.

But when the sun does appear between the clouds blowing across the sky, the rays dance off the waters of the pool as though I were in some tropical paradise.

Ahh, my poor pool still has no staircase installed to let the kids climb down into or out of it yet. It's still in my shed under the deck. Perhaps today, out of some Father's Day sense of duty, my daughters will help me pull it out and drop it down into the summer waters of our back yard.

There's just so little time anymore. With three ball teams consuming our time, and the chores of home and the duties of work, the back yard deck has been sparsely populated this year.
My faithful black lab Suzy let out a deep groan of contempt as she lied curled on the deck beside me at such a thought.

But this will change.

It has to, it's summer you know.

There is just so much ball.

I am managing a house league team that my youngest Ashley-Rae plays on, a ten year old playing with fourteen year olds and she is one of the best on my team. And now Ashley-Rae has made the All Start Select travel team. My eldest daughter Allannah's traveling team of selects – where I coach only on an as needed basis – still takes me to the diamonds every other night, and off to distant locations like Toledo on the weekends.

The fast-pitch softball this year has been great. What every ball loving dad dreams about once his daughters start playing t-ball. Line drives and double plays and strike outs and balls caught over the shoulder as they near the fence. Pitching clinics and three-two counts with the batter getting caught on a change up to swing at strike three before the ball gets to the plate.

It's great stuff.

Memories for a lifetime.

But it sure takes up all the time for everything else.

My lovely wife Darlene has had enough, and tells me each night as we come home around nine o'clock that we had better enjoy this year because next year will be different!

I only hope she is bluffing.

And my poor golf clubs sit on their stand beside my pool table downstairs – looking at me as I pass by as if to say "remember me? You used to love me you know … what ever happened to us?"

This year I feel in the best shape that I can remember over the past decade with all the exercise that softball brings. It would have been a great year to golf. Maybe in August as the ball teams wind down.

I barely have any time to even write. My last headstuffing post was in February.

I refer to fast-pitch softball as merely ball. It's not quite baseball – but it's just as good. The mechanics of pitching – of which I found myself becoming quite knowledgeable on from countless pitching clinics and practices with my own teams – is more complex than that of pitching a baseball.

Pitching a softball - be it eleven inch as used in Canada or twelve inch as played in the U.S. – is very much like a golf swing. It is a series of complex and intricate moves that once put together in one fluid motion allows the body to consistently hurl a projectile at very high speed exactly where the player is aiming.

But learning to do either takes years of endless practice and often results spotty occurrences of success until consistency finally appears, almost out of nowhere, threatening to leave as quickly as it came should the practice give way to complacency.

My lovely wife Darlene proudly wears a t-shirt that exclaims "my daughter can pitch faster than your son!"

I love that shirt.

But my golf clubs are not so happy these days.

I used to crush a golf ball off the tee. And there is no greater satisfaction than hitting a short iron from a perfectly placed drive to within a couple feet of the waiting flag pin on a pristinely maintained green.

But this year I would almost be scared to swing a club. I am so out of practice. And while I used to think it's like riding a bike, I have found that now in my fifties I might have to retool that swing that the younger me used to execute almost effortlessly.

If only there was more time in a day. And more days in a Canadian year. More opportunity to go outside and play. Or sit on my deck by the pool with my laptop … and write.

Summer days in Canada is a precious commodity.

And since I am not yet financially independent enough to retire from my work that provides the luxury of these wonderful pastimes, well the days dwindle to even fewer.

Maybe I should focus more on my book. It's done and I have it ready in the ebook form. I just haven't taken the time yet to get the thing printed – then marketed. But even the chance of such success to retire off the return on that two years of invested effort seems as likely as winning the lottery.
It's a pretty damn good book though, if I do say so myself.

But my book has no sex in it though. And I notice that all the novels written lately, the ones that sell really well, that would allow such a comfortable retirement, well … they all use sex as the main hook to keep the reader interested.

But my book doesn't use the terms "throbbing" or "glistening" once … at least not in a sexual context.

And I have yet to win anything by playing the lottery.

But Albert Einstein once said that the definition of insanity is "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

So something has to change – for the better.

I just hope the change doesn't mean giving up softball, or golf, or writing.

Or my family.

If it does, then I might as well be insane.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

My Looks Are Deceiving

It happened again the other day.


It happens all the time, and it never bothered me. But lately – since turning fifty last year – it … like me … is starting to grow a bit old.

It seems that anytime I take my daughters anywhere, somebody we run into always makes a comment to my girls like:

Isn’t it nice that your grandfather brought you out today

This time Alannah and I were at a walk in clinic.

Alannah had gotten in the way of a team mate's swinging bat during a soft-toss station during fast pitch practice. It cracked her hard on the right hand just below her wrist. I turned my head from doing something else to see what the commotion was and there was Alannah with a group of coaches and parents around her as she held her thumb in pain.

She wasn’t paying attention, and reached in to grab a loose ball for the coach running that station. She wasn’t aware enough of what was going on around her. It was Alannah’s own fault, not the player who was swinging the bat.

So the next morning, I took Alannah to the clinic to get it x-rayed, just to make sure nothing was broken. And in the end, nothing was. It just hurts to get hit by a bat.

So as the good doctor entered the patient room the nice nurse lady had placed us in, he said …

Ahh you must be Alannah and this of course is Grandpa

Uh … that’s my Dad”, replied Alannah.

I just smiled and nodded.

Okay, I’m grey. And right now my hair is a lot longer than I like it – because it’s so cold. And right now my beard is fuller than I usually keep it, again because it’s cold. So both these facial features – along with a few more wrinkles than I had the year before - make me look like a little old man.

But in my brain I’m just a hair over thirty.

When the grey first started showing on me a decade ago, I tried those hair and beard coloring products – to restore my natural color. But even I thought it looked pretty fake. So I quit coloring it and instead started cutting it really short.

Okay, I shaved it.

My lovely wife Darlene usually does it for me – using only a number two clipper. Ten minutes later and I look a decade younger, except the wrinkles of course.

But this year, my lovely wife pushed back. “I like your long curly wavy hair”, she repeated again last week.

But it’s all grey”, I replied. “I look like a groupie of the Grateful Dead. Like a lifelong roadie for the Rolling Stones”, I protested.

You’re so lucky to have all your hair. So many men don’t, especially at your age”.

Especially at my age?

So I relented. And now as I sit here and write this post, my head looks like a ruffled feather duster that used to be black but is now covered by the dust it just collected.

Long hair doesn’t make you look younger.

I run a pool league at our local Legion. I am one of the youngest members. But the other night, talking about retirement – one of the older members looked at me shocked when he found out I had not yet retired!

Well how old are ya?” he asked.

I’m only fifty”, I said to the sixty eight year old captain.

Really, my goodness, I thought you were older than me?

Okay. I get it. I look old.

But looks alone won’t get me an early retirement.

And I play a lot of ball – practicing with the girls twice a week. Running drills is usually more work for the coach than it is for the player.

But I don’t look older than sixty eight.

In the summer it’s a little better. The sun on my skin and the swimming in the pool makes the skin look a little younger – at least it hides the wrinkles – but in the long run it probably contributes more to the problem.

And right now it’s February.

Perhaps I’m taking the wrong tact on this whole issue.

Perhaps I should embrace my appearance of advanced age, and instead play it up to display a false sense of wisdom. Perhaps if I carried a cane and smoked a pipe. I could squint more than I already do when I try to read, and maybe start asking people to repeat what they say as if I didn’t hear them the first time.

Maybe they would give me a distinguished title at work and start planning my retirement party with complete benefits and a full pension.

Nah, they know me too well there. They’d never fall for it.

Maybe I should just ask my daughters to call me Grandpa.


© 2006 - 2017 Fred Brill - all rights reserved