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Husband, father, grandfather, friend...a few of the roles acquired in 62 years of living.  I keep an upbeat attitude, loving humor and the singular freedom of a perfect laugh.  I don't let curmudgeons ruin my day; that only gives them power over me.  Having experienced death once, I no longer fear it, although I am still frightened by the process of dying.  I love to write because it allows me the freedom to vent those complex feelings that bounce restlessly off the walls of my mind; and express the beauty that can only be found within the human heart.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

The Innings and Frames of Our Lives**

*Chicago Tribune
February 8, 2011
as "Remember to recall"

*Somerset, PA Daily American
February 19, 2011
as "Remember to recall"

Copyright © 2010 by Ralph Couey
(Except for Bob Seger lyrics)

Bob Seger’s song, “Like a Rock,” is an anthem for middle-aged men. In the last verse, he sings:

“Twenty Years…where’d they go?
Twenty years…I just don’t know
I sit and I wonder sometimes
Where they’ve gone.”

There’s not a man anywhere in their 50’s or 60’s that hasn’t asked that most rhetorical of questions. But time is funny like that. Fun times flash by like summer lightning. Other times crawl by at the speed of a root canal. And then suddenly we wake up and discover that we’re old. I don’t really remember noticing the passage of my 20’s and 30’s. I did take note of my 40’s. And now in my 50’s, it’s hard not to think about it.

It’s funny in a way; the memories of those eras more often than not revolve around sports. In my early 20’s, I was a bowling fanatic. After years of consistent mediocrity, I had discovered something I was moderately good at. I carried a 180 average, bowling four nights a week.

Yes. I admit. I had no life.

Yet, it was in the Strike ‘n’ Spare that I met and fell hard for the girl who became my wife. The funny thing was that all her sisters met their husbands the same way. In a bowling alley. That is some clan. Once a month they have a family bowling league consisting of 32 5-person teams, all related. I just didn’t marry into a family; I married into a small country.

We continued bowling with our kids. Every Saturday morning, all of us went to the bowling center for Youth League, they as players, we as coaches. Even today, we go bowling together.

In my 30’s and 40’s, I turned to softball. Cheryl and I played nearly every year of the 14 we lived in Missouri. We also helped to coach our kids’ teams, furthering our family bonds.

In my 50’s, however, I’ve found that time has caught up with a vengeance. Softball was the first casualty. I knew I was slower, but when I was thrown out at first base by the left fielder, I knew it was over. Bowling went next, courtesy of my left knee. While I can still put together three games, league play is out until someone cures arthritis.

I hate getting old. I have time to do these things, but my creaky joints won’t permit it, at least on a regular basis. Fortunately, I still have my motorcycle and I can still write.

In all those years of softball, I only had one over-the-fence home run, helped by 25-knot tailwind. I bowled regularly for 40 years, but the best game I could muster was a 276. Alas, the nirvana of the perfect 300 eluded me.

Yet, when we walked into the bowling center, every night was a night of destiny; every game could be that 300. Those warm, humid evenings on a softball diamond, eyeing the competition during warm-ups (“We can take these guys.”). Nothing matched the excitement of that first pitch. And every time I picked up a bat and took my place in the box, how powerful I felt; that spectacular feeling in your arms and shoulders when you know you caught the ball flush, watching it arc into the sky like a shuttle launch. When runners were aboard and you came through, that moment of triumph, the game won by your hands. Is there anything better than being the Hero?

Sports were life itself, linking our family in golden moments of triumph and character. It didn’t matter what the last score was, or who won. Each new game was a fresh chance, a clean slate. It was that eternal, if irrational, optimism that kept me coming back.

Even today, I can’t walk past my bowling bag without at least an inward smile. In the garage, I sometimes put on my old first basemen’s mitt, feeling the comfort of something so personal, formed to my hand alone. Raising it to my face, I can smell the leather, dirt, chalk, and sweat of a hundred different games.

Those memories will always be with me. And even if my body can’t play anymore, my mind can still take me back to those halcyon days. There, I find the past I thought was lost.

Like Bob Seger, I recall;

I recall.
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