Been awhile

Its been awhile since my last blog. The situation at the home front has been a bit hectic. While I think up some new topics here is another story you might enjoy.

A GOOD DOG

He looked up at the bulletin board on the wall outside the gym hoping upon hope that his name would be on the list for the sixth grade basketball team. It wasn’t. He looked again but knew it wouldn’t be there. Now, he’s a decent player, better than some that did make the cut except for one thing. He’s fat. That’s what the other kids call him anyway but he’s not really. He’s heavy but solid much like a football middle linebacker.  Sure he was disappointed but he’s been disappointed before and he handles it well. He has a few good friends, not the kind that make sport teams, but ones that he can talk to and to him that’s important. That’s what he tells himself anyway but he was still disappointed.

His name is Fred Nedelhauser but everyone calls him Needles… or fatso, depending on who’s calling his name at the time. The fact that he’s always in a good mood belies the feelings underneath the smile but he has no reservations about his weight and finds it puzzling that it bothers others a whole lot more than it does him. Among his peers his popularity is what it is but at home it is dismal. He’s not one of those abused kids that you hear about nor is he neglected and in fact he lives quite comfortably. He has all the creature comforts for a boy his age and then some. A big screen TV in his room with the latest gaming systems, desktop PC as well as a state of the art laptop, and a sound system to die for. His clothes are the latest fashion; well, what his parents considers fashion. His house, clothes, and everything else are clean. It’s just that to his parents he’s invisible. He reappears only when they need to parade a child in front of their social circle even then their embarrassed by his weight and make silly excuses. When he’s called for he performs as expected then is quickly sent away like a genie to a bottle. Both his parents are very active in community and church functions with little time for him and truth be known, he finds this situation to his liking.

Needles stared at the bulletin board for some time not in disbelief but because he felt a presence behind him and as he turned from the board he saw Jimmy standing there shaking his head slowly with arms crossed.

. “Why do you torture yourself? You know there’re not going to let you play in their reindeer games.” He said this with the usual I told you so look on his face which Needles hates. But Jimmy’s his friend and kind of looks after him.

Jimmy Flynn is his best friend and in many ways he is just like him…no, not fat but unpopular. Well unpopular with certain cliques. Jimmy is small and a very fast runner. He probably could outrun anyone in school in a footrace. He’s also funny especially when he comments on some of the latest fads or gossip of the in-crowd. His worst trait is his temper. When he gets mad he lets it all hang out not caring who he’s directing his anger at. Some of the older bigger kids make fun of his size and he cuts them down with some pretty good come backs. One time as he and Needles were walking through the lunchroom Dennis Vag, one of the local bullies, yelled out, “Hey its Shorty McShorts,” to which he got a resounding laugh from some of the other kids. Jimmy’s face turned red. Oh-oh, Needles seen that look before. Well, Jimmy strolls over to the table where Dennis is sitting and says loud enough for the whole cafeteria to hear, “You know, I may be short today but I may grow tomorrow however, you are stupid today and will still be stupid tomorrow.” The whole lunchroom responded with a loud “Whoooooooa.” Did I mention that Jimmy is fast? Dennis stood up and tried to grab Jimmy but he took off through the cafeteria doors and out to the play area before Dennis could leave the table. Needles dreads to see the day when someone catches him though.

Saturdays were get out of the house early days before his mom and dad would start nit picking about what he eats, how he dresses, who his friends are, school work, youth group, and so on and so on or maybe drag him to stores to pick out the latest church fashion clothes that he would be paraded around in at the next church function. He met Jimmy in front of Turani’s grocery store; a local corner store where he ate his favorite breakfast; a Scooter Pie with chocolate milk finished off with a Tastykake individual pie, usually blueberry. Jimmy would roll his eyes and try to convince him to eat better then buy his usual five cent pickle with a sixteen ounce Royal Crown Cola. They headed off to Cooperville woods where they could get crab apples and swipe strawberries from Petri’s farm. They traveled along the railroad tracks which were abandoned a long time ago and picked wild purple grapes that grew on the tangled vines that choked the bushes and trees. The tracks were used by most of the kids as their main highway to get from place to place. After gorging themselves on the strawberries Jimmy suggested they should walk the path to the Cooperville firehouse where they could get water or pry a soda or two from the firemen but as they were walking they heard voices. Around the bend of the path they were walking they ran into three boys. Their worst nightmare; Bobby Brennan, Pat McGraff, and the one and only Dennis Vag. Needle’ heart froze. He looked at Jimmy and saw the terror in his face. No lunchroom crowd to hide in, no quick getaways to a public sanctuary, they were alone and knew it.

“Well well, look what the rats drug out of the bush; Needles-in-a-fat stack and…could it be…yes big mouth Shorty McShorts.” Dennis said this with a weird look on his face. He was holding a hatchet in one hand and a quiver of arrows in the other. Bobby and Pat were also carrying hatchets and two fiberglass bows laid on the pine needles nearby. Several small trees had been chopped down and they were busy on another when Needles and Jimmy stumbled upon them.

Jimmy tried to run but it was too late. Bobby had quietly slipped behind them and Jimmy ran right into his waiting arms. He threw Jimmy to the ground while Dennis confronted Needles. “Can you get your fat butt up a tree?” Dennis asked as he pointed to a clump to small saplings to his right. “Bring shrimpo over here, “he commanded Bobby who dragged him by his leg to one of the trees. “Start climbing,” he yelled at Jimmy. Jimmy grabbed the first branch then slowly advanced branch by branch until Dennis told him to stop and Bobby and Pat began laying their hatchets to the narrow trunk when finally they heard the young sapling crack. They quickly stepped back to watch it fall to the ground. Jimmy was holding on to the tree for dear life as it gradually leaned over far enough to let Jimmy’s weight finish the job. Jimmy rode it down with eyes as wide as saucers until a loud thud ended the descent and pitched Jimmy hard to the ground. All three thugs were laughing  hysterically. Jimmy got on his feet and began to plead with them to let them go. Dennis hit him hard in the face with his fist which caused Jimmy to fall back on the ground where he stayed.

Dennis turned to Needles and trying to catch his breath while still laughing. He grabbed Needles by the front of his shirt and spitting all over him screamed, “Your turn, fatso.” As Needles  approached the nearest tree he glanced upward wondering if it could hold his weight when he heard a loud rustling in the bush in front of him. Suddenly a large black and white dog bounded out and ran straight towards Dennis. Growling like a maddened wolf it sank its large teeth into Dennis’s right arm causing him to drop his hatchet. When Bobby and Pat saw this they ran like the wind until they were quickly out of sight. Needles was looking for Jimmy who ran through the woods faster than all of the others. Slowly holding his breath, Needles turned to the dog. He saw the terror in Dennis’s face. It released his arm. Dennis fell to his knees whimpering and sobbing. The dog turned from Dennis and directed his attention to Needles. It looked at him and dropped to its belly resting its head on its forelegs panting steadily. Dennis saw his chance and took off running in the opposite dirction. Needles was frozen to the spot not daring to move afraid to insight the dog. It got up and walked to Needles wagging its tail stopping directly in front of him and fondly licked his hand. Needles had no clue what to make of this. Was the dog toying with him in an attempt to play cat and mouse or was this show of affection genuine? Remembering his doggie etiquette, he gently placed his other hand under the muzzle and began to rub it causing he dog to wag its tail in a fever pitch. After glancing under the dog to find out how to address it he finally said in a shaky haltering voice, “Good boy.” This caused the dog to relax and lay at Needle’s feet. Needles was exhausted and collapsed at the dog’s side where they both lay for some time.

Needles, feeling rested and assured that the thugs weren’t coming back, got up and dusted himself off. He glanced down at the dog and said, “Thanks. Thanks a lot. I don’t know where you came from or why you did what you did but I’m glad you did.” He was worried about Jimmy. In all the excitement he hadn’t noticed which direction he took off in. Oh well, he’d go home and try to call him later. He began to walk towards the path that took him home when he felt his pant leg being tugged. He looked down and saw the dog pulling him. “What you want boy? I’ve got to go home.” The dog started barking frantically and running in the opposite direction only to come back and start over again. He did it several times until Needles finally figured that it wanted him to follow. It was leading in the direction of Petri’s farm. They walked along a path that Needles always avoided because it edged the farm itself and lead to a part of the woods he’d never been before. The dog would run ahead only to return to check that Needles was still following and would playfully speed around him in tight circles barking and wagging and enjoying the company.

It was starting to get dark and Needles contemplated whether to go on or not because they were entering a part of the woods that he was unfamiliar with. He realized that he was not needed by his parents and they wouldn’t notice he was gone anyway so he continued on. They had been walking for about an hour when Needles spotted a small dilapidated cabin ahead. He’s sure he never saw it before. The windows were covered with a dark paper which he learned later was dirt. Alongside the cabin was a barn like structure that was connected by a short breezeway. They were about twenty feet from the front door when it slowly opened. They were greeted by a tall thin older man with long grey hair and wearing a dark t-shirt and jeans covered by a leather bib apron.

“Hey Dog, where ya bin?” he shouted happily obviously glad to see him. The dog jumped up on its hind legs licking the man’s hands while its tail wagged overtime; he was glad to see him too.

“Well I see you found a friend ta bring ya home. Always getting lost eh fella?”

The man smiled at me and offered his hand. “The name’s Ed. Thanks for bringing my dog home. Always running off and bringing strays home. Why don’t ya come in a rest a bit, have something to drink. I was just preparing supper.” Needles took his hand a shook it for a short while, withdrawing it in a suspicious manner. When they entered the cabin Needles noticed a strange smell which was vaguely familiar but he couldn’t quite place it. The furniture was simple. He could tell that it was made by hand; very rustic. To his right he noticed the kitchen with a large table surrounded by several chairs. He also noticed the door which leads to the breezeway and the loud humming noise coming from the building on the other side. He sat in one of the chairs at the table and the dog followed and lay at his feet.

Ed walked to an old fashioned refrigerator and opening the door removing a large ceramic jug. “Let me get you some of my homemade apple cider. You’ll love it.” He took a glass from the cupboard and placed it in front of Needles and poured. The liquid was dark and frothy. Needles took a small sip. He agreed. It was delicious and drank the rest in one long pull.

“What’s that noise coming from the garage?” he asked in a matter of fact way. “Oh, that’s not a garage. I stock my own meat. It’s a cold box.” Needles thought that odd but let it go. “What’s to eat?” Ed walked over to the stove and looked into a large pot. “Hope you like stew. It’s an old recipe and after you taste it you’ll agree that it is the best you ever tasted. Hey, why don’t you come over to the couch and rest a bit while I get supper together?” He led Needles to the couch and returned to the stove. The dog followed him over and lay on the floor next to him. “What’s the dog’s name?” he asked while petting its head. Ed looked at the dog with a wry smile and said, “ Piper, like the Piped Piper of Hamlin.” Needles thought that an odd name and anyway he thought it was the Pied Piper of Hamlin. Oh well, doesn’t matter. Needles laid back on the couch. Suddenly he felt very sleepy. He thought he would close his eyes a bit and rest before eating.

He woke up and noticed it was freezing. He wanted to get up and close a door or something. He felt a little disoriented and his head hurt. When he attempted to get up he found he couldn’t. His arms and legs and head were strapped to a stainless steel table. He started to panic but as hard as he tried he couldn’t budge. All he could see was the stainless steel ceiling of the room he was in. He smelled the odor that he noticed when he first entered Ed’s cabin and in horror recognized it; it was the smell of blood. He then heard a click which turned on a loud machine. The sound was familiar. It was like the sound of the band saw that was in the wood shop class at school. His heart froze and he screamed but nothing came out.

“Good boy Piper.” Ed said to the dog while sharpening a long butcher’s knife on a steel. “This is a big one. Extra portions for you this time.”

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Things that go Beep and Chirp in the Night

I’m sitting forward in my chair so I can rest my hand on top of Ma’s wondering if she is aware of this simple touch. There is a tube coming out of her hand; there are tubes coming out of everywhere. She is hooked to respiratory equipment with two large tubes going into her mouth helping her to breathe. It’s life support and she needs it now. She is asleep but not of her volition she is being sedated until her pneumonia clears. The room is lit only by the various monitoring screens charting her vital signs. I’m feeling sadness. She would be scared if she woke now and I can feel this fear when I look into her fragile face and hear it in all the beeps and chirps of the machines. As I sit looking and rubbing her hand and taking it all in my heart aches. She has been sick for a long time now and I’ve been a creep. This lament is overwhelming now and causes me to reflect.

I’ve known Ma since I was fifteen when I first starting dating Patty yet I don’t really know her. I didn’t try to. When Patty’s dad died Ma came to stay with us and has been ever since; for over twenty years. She got her own place when we came to Florida but has been more or less dependent on Patty for everything. This is where the creep came in. I started resenting her for all the time she took away from me and Patty and it showed. All my sons picked up on it. It wasn’t the time she was taking away that they were aware of, it was the fact that I resented it and they took it as permission to resent her too. I felt no empathy when she became sick and now as I look at this poor frightened woman I am ashamed of myself. Like the Grinch my heart is growing and I realize that I do love her…she is Ma. She has been more of a mother to me than my own mother and I turned my back on her.

When she recovers I will attempt to turn this around. I am not ready to lose her yet. I hope she forgives me.

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You say hello…I say goodbye

Hello, I recently watched an interview with an author who is an American mother living in France talking about raising children and comparing the French way to the American way. It was the usual TV blah, blah, blah, type of interview where the interviewer is machine gunning questions while looking at her notes not listening to the answer but waiting for a break in the word flow to fire off the next question, however the author was undaunted and made some very interesting points that caught my attention.  She made reference to the two words we must teach children, please and thank you which everyone knows but she mentioned two other words to teach, hello and goodbye and that by addressing all adults with a hello and goodbye children are acknowledging the fact that they are living among others.

It is so easy to be narcissistic, to keep to ourselves; it is a common human trait. We have all seen how children seem to think only of themselves at times; only what they need. Let me tell you something; it gets just as bad when you get older. In my second half of life I find myself dragging all my heavy, overloaded baggage filled with bias and judgment with me. I can be very narcissistic, believe me.

I don’t know if I agree with all that was said but as a grandparent it gave me pause. Hello and goodbye, as simple as that. When I think of the French and even the Italians I think of what I see in the movies or read in books. Bonjour…au revior, boun giorno…ciao. Always a greeting and goodbye. We do live among others.

My son and his wife have taught that to Myles and it is a pleasure to see him say hello and goodbye. He is a typical boy in many ways. He can be stubborn and rude at times with me which is normal but overall he is polite and quick with a hello and goodbye especially in public. He makes me smile.

So goodbye, have a nice day.

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Toys Toys Toys

Some of my most difficult decisions of late concerns what toys to buy my grandson Myles. There are so many to choose from. Go into any toy store or toy department and start walking up and down the aisles and you’ll see what I mean. It can be overwhelming. Being retired I get to shop during the week and on those days the stores are full of grandfathers milling about this sea of toys with the look of wonder and excitement on their faces. We offer each other friendly advice but still the decision can be difficult. I try to stay away from the McToys. You know, the ones based on the latest movie their showing in the cement bunker at the end of the mall; not much imagination goes into those.  One thing I learned is not to buy on impulse. The toy may look like just the thing Myles would love only to have him put it down after only minutes of playing then eventually moved to the never play with again drawer in the toy cabinet. My favorites are the ones that engage his mind. These could be hit or miss; a bit chancy like the science kit I got him for Christmas. It looked great and was fun for a while but the experiments were limited and too simple but it did open him to the idea of science. I like when he takes the toy to where he wants it to go. One of the experiments was making fake snow. It worked well but in the end we were left with a bunch of fake snow…so what. He got some of his superheroes and began playing a snow adventure game. It was fun. One toy, called Perplexus, was a great hit. A plastic ball with a maze enclosed and the object is to get the metal ball through the track, which has many dips and turns, to the end. Not as easy as it sounds. He loves it and so do Mom and Dad.

I remember all the toys and gifts that my sons received through the years and how each boy’s personality was different. On birthdays and Christmas my wife and I would take great care about what to get. But it was the sharing of us that was important. To sit and play. My wife Patty was terrific at this. Me, not so much. I didn’t ignore them by any means but I think I could have done better with my time with each of them especially as individuals; I feel that I handled them collectively. The years of playtime go so fast and then their gone. Often times I wish I could go back and do it over but those years are gone. When it comes to my grandson Myles and my granddaughter Rinoa My sons Dylan and Luke seem to realize this and it makes me glad.

As I enter my second half of life I found that it isn’t necessarily the toy that is important; it’s who he’s playing with. It could be a plain stick but if we’re playing together and use our imaginations it’s the best game in the world. It’s the time spent with each other. I’m truly blessed to have this time with Myles and am the envy of many of my friends who wish they could be with their grandchildren.

HOORAY FOR PAPPY DAYS.

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Story Time

One of the things I enjoy doing is telling stories to Myles. Before his nap he asks me to tell him a Halloween story. He means scary. I come up with some good ones. When I’m done I ask him if he liked it. He is honest and blunt. I like writing them at times too. Here is one for everyone. I hope you enjoy it.

 

Tom

I wasn’t too happy about going to My Aunt Ellen and Uncle Tony’s house that day. In fact I dreaded it. Normally I’d be thrilled going somewhere with Dad even if it meant that my whiny six year old sister Megan had to come but I knew how  Mom felt about these visits to her sister’s house. There was no way out of it. A twelve year old boy could not stay home alone. I liked Aunt Ellen and Uncle Tony , even though he tried too hard to be one of the boys. It was my cousin Tom I didn’t care about. Not Tommy or even Thomas and especially not Tommy boy but Tom, plain Tom. He is twelve like me but we had nothing in common at all. I remember the day it became plain Tom. Everyone was over our house for my sister Megan’s birthday party. I spent most of the time avoiding some of her friends who would sit by me and giggle at everything I did or said. Aunt Ellen and Uncle Tony were beaming about their Tommy boy’s drawings and asked him to show some. I’ve seen them before and I thought they were creepy. It was Tommy boy this and Tommy boy that until Tom said,

“Mother…I am not Tommy boy, I am Tom.

It was not that he said it but how he said it; in a still quiet voice with this stupid stare. Well, no one knew what to say. I think Aunt Ellen was embarrassed. She tried to ease the situation some with a hard pressed smile on her face. “Now Thomas, what has come over you?” He stared at her for a long time and said, “Please, call me Tom.” He then turned his head slowly without his eyes leaving his mother and when his head had turned to where it faced his dad, only then did his eyes slowly turn and look at him and said, “Tom.” He did the same to me. Turning his head without losing eye contact with Uncle Tony and it wasn’t until he had turned in my direction that his eyes met mine and said softly with a slight smile, “Tom.” He got up slowly and left the room. Wow, weird wasn’t it? Ever since then everybody said they noticed a change in Tom; I didn’t. He was always creepy to me only now everyone else saw it.

I don’t know why my dad insisted on driving over there. We lived only a short bike ride away. I had a feeling it was to make a quick getaway if they needed to because it got real strange ever since Tommy became Tom.

When we arrived my aunt and uncle were outside on the porch waiting for us. We said our hellos and did our hugs, which I didn’t care for. They didn’t say anything for a moment then Uncle Tony turned and looked into the house through the front window for quite awhile and turned back to us and whispered, “I don’t want Tommy…eh Tom to hear us. Things have gotten different here lately, I mean with Tommy…Tom, I’m sorry, I can’t get used to that stupid name.” My mom kinda smiled at Aunt Ellen trying to ease the tension. My uncle continued. “He doesn’t talk much anymore. Doesn’t participate in school or see any of his friends. He just sits in the spare room drawing. I hear him talking softly to himself in there and when I ask him about it he smiles and shrugs his shoulders and walks away. We wanted to give you a heads-up because we’re sure you’ll notice the change. Oh yeah, he’s lost some weight.”

I felt my sister Megan’s hand slowly slip into mine. She looked a little scared, then we went inside that’s when I heard my Mom gasp. Jeez, Tommy…Tom looked bad. The hair on my arms rose up and I got this tight feeling in my stomach. He looked terrible. He didn’t just lose weight; he was disappearing into his clothes, anyway that’s the way it looked. Megan was squeezing my hand so hard it was starting to hurt. I pulled my hand away and looked at her to tell her to stop but when I saw the look in her eyes I took her hand again.

Tom said hello in a whispery kind of voice. I thought he was putting it on. He looked at us one at a time with eyes that seemed older than a boy of twelve. His face was very white yet dark at the same time. His lips were dry, even cracked especially when he tried to smile. The smile looked like it hurt. He slowly ran his hand through his hair gripping handfuls of it then releasing it like he was attempting to hold back thoughts. He looked intently at Megan and walked over to her. His walk was jerky, it seemed he had to force his legs to move, and he clumped his feet on the floor loudly.

“Hello Megan, we’re glad you came, would like to look at my drawings?” Megan wrapped her arms around my waist and looked at me pleadingly not to let her go. My dad was standing by a table holding pages of drawing paper and said, “Tommy boy, are these your drawings?” Tom continued to look at Megan then faced my father in his creepy way of turning and replied, “Please, Mr. Davies, I asked to be called Tom.” Dad grinned and jokingly said, “Tom, Tommy, Tommy Tom Tom Tum, whatever, did you draw these?” Tom clumped over to the table and snatched up the papers and grabbed the ones from My dad’s hand and shuffled off saying he was going to his room. My Dad looked at everyone rolling his eyes.

After a while we all sat down to eat. All except Tom. He was still in the his room. This was not his bedroom but a spare room that my aunt and uncle used for storage and now Tom called it his room. I was feeling guilty about not playing with Tom so after we ate I decided to see what was so special about his drawings. Megan came with me because she decided not to leave my side for anything. I knocked on the door a few times but got no answer but when I started to walk away I heard Tom say, “Come in Megan.”

Tom was sitting at a small wooden table in a plain wooden chair; the kind you see at an old library. It was the only furniture in the room. The far wall opposite where he was sitting had a large window that faced him. There were some boxes stacked to my right near the door and some mops and brooms and buckets with old rags inside of them. The walls were painted two colors, yellow on the bottom separated by a wooden chair rail then white above that. The only other feature that stood out was a dark shadow in one corner. The shadow made no sense. It shouldn’t have been there; I mean the room was well lit because of the sun shining through the window but there it was. Tom beckoned us to the table. When we stood next to him he got up and offered the chair to Megan. We began to look at the drawings.

They were pencil drawings and quite good. There were pictures of trains at train stations and children playing in playgrounds. There were some of dogs playing with sticks in unknown yards with unknown children. Pictures of people waiting in lines; lines at movie theaters and supermarkets. I looked up to ask Megan what she thought but she was standing with Tom near the window. I looked at the drawings again and I noticed something in every one. There was always a wall with a shadow in the corner. I looked at the shadows closely and it had something odd around the edges. It appeared to be long black boney fingers with long thin nails. Towards the top of the shadow there was something like long pointy teeth. One drawing made me jump because I saw a pair of large eyes. It was very faint but they were eyes. I wanted to ask Tom what the shadows meant but he was no longer in the room and neither was Megan. The door was still closed. I didn’t hear them leave.

When I returned to the family room I expected to find Tom and Megan but they were not there. I looked in every room calling out for Megan but could not find them and got no response. I went outside in the yard and walked around the house several times. They were nowhere to be found. I returned to the house and told everyone about it. My dad said that they’d show up eventually. The day ended and it was almost dark and we still could not find them. I returned to the room with a flashlight and found a small lamp on the floor next to the box of rags. I turned it on. No one was there but the shadow was. I walked to it and shined the light of my flashlight into it. It just soaked it up. The light beam didn’t penetrate it. It scared the crap out of me. I turned to leave when my heart turned stone cold. Very faintly I saw the eyes I had seen in the drawing and not only that but a smile with long pointy teeth. I ran from the room looking for anyone and everyone to witness what I’d seen. We all entered the room. My mother and father, Aunt  Ellen and Uncle Tony and together shined our lights around the room. I directed them all to the corner where the shadow was…it was gone.

It’s been twenty years since that day. We never found my sister or Tom. The police were called that night and a search went on for weeks but they were gone without a trace. Aunt Ellen and Uncle Tony suffered a great deal over the disappearance of Tom and divorced some years later. Mom and Dad were at a loss too. Mom went so far as to consult psychics  but that didn’t go anywhere. She stopped seeing her sister completely trying to put the blame somewhere. Dad, well let’s say he handled it his own way at the bottom of a whiskey bottle. I never stopped blaming myself for taking my eyes off Megan that day. I did the best I could to go on. Finished school and went off to college never to return home. I feel Mom and Dad blame me but the weird thing is I kind of know what happened even though the reality is hard to grasp.

I was leaving a store one morning on my way to work waiting for a light to change so I could cross the street when I spotted a strange man dressed in a black raincoat in a doorway of a building across the street. He had his back to me but still something familiar struck me when he slowly turned his head in a manner that caused my bones to chill. His face was strikingly white yet dark. He looked at me and smiled sardonically and began to shuffle off clumping his feet as he walked. He approached a small woman who placed her hand in his and they both continued walking toward the doorway together. I dropped everything I was holding and ran across the street disregarding the traffic and dodging the cars that were slamming on their brakes and honking frantically. As I got to the doorway all I found was a long dark shadow. I looked into it and saw those eyes I saw years ago in the room where Tom and Megan disappeared. I also saw another set of eyes. They were sad and pleading then the shadow dissipated.

I don’t understand what happened only that Tom and Megan now travel the shadows of the world and I can’t stop myself from going from place to place looking into the shadows. My heart is now consumed by those shadows and my grief is as dark.

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Where’s the sandlot

I grew up loving the game of baseball. Living only four blocks from Yankee Stadium I saw a lot of baseball played by great baseball players. My favorite  Yankee was Mickey Mantle. What a great baseball name, kind of like Roy Hobbs of the Natural movie. Back in the 1950’s the bleacher seats cost only twenty- five cents but growing up in the South Bronx usually meant poor. No one had twenty-five cents. My friends and I would get the quarter by rounding up quart beer bottles from garbage cans in the alleys of bars along Third Ave and empty them of the roaches which were the size of Buicks and turn them over to local stores for the nickel deposit. Certain Sundays were designated Fathers day and their kids got in free so we would walk in next to a man, any man and act natural like we were his kid…it worked every time. When inside the stadium we’d watch the game for a while but we’d get hungry and we would run around snatching food from the vendors when they weren’t looking but when the man on the PA would announce, Now coming to the plate number 7, Mickey Mantle.  Everyone would stop and watch hoping for that loud crack of the bat associated with one of his long balls. He hit some monumental home runs.  As I got older I learned about the Mick and his personal problems but as a kid growing up I was not exposed to any of that… it was the player not the man we cared about.

Professional baseball has changed since then. People don’t follow the game like they used to. I’m not going to get into the philosophy or the reasons why except to say the word Lawyers. Teams were just that…teams. Young players came up the ranks through a minor league farm system associated with that team and if they made the cut they would advance to the pros and usually stayed with that team for most of their careers.

When I lived in New Jersey my friends and I played a lot of baseball. We did the organized route through little league, Babe Ruth League, and high school but the love of the game came on those hot summer days on a crummy field with baseballs that had the covers pounded off them and then wrapped in black electrical tape and bats which were too big or too small. I remember one of our bats being a fungo bat. You really learn the game when you come to bat fifty times a day. We didn’t wait for balls or strikes, just a decent pitch to put the ball into play.We would break after a few games and pool our loose change together and some of the guys would make a snack run to Leuchaus’ corner store to buy half-gallon size soda and Ring Dings then we would duke up new sides and play until it got too dark to see the ball.

Since I’ve gotten older I miss playing baseball the most. I’ve played on some of the softball leagues for older guys but the intensity is not the same. I tire easily and Jeez, my body aches long after the games are done. All my sons tried baseball for a while and I enjoyed watching them play. My second born, Dylan, loved the game as I did and had his heroes too like Steve Garvey who played for the Dodgers. Dylan played many sports through high school like basketball and football and played them well. Ah, but baseball was his best. I thought so anyway  and he was a pure joy to watch. He had a fluid, fast, swing like Vaughn Hayes of the Phillies or Darryl Strawberryof the Mets. If anyone is familiar with them you know what I mean. Dylan was tall and lanky and chose to pursue basketball and football in high school and was very good at them and I attended every game I could…but god I loved watching him play baseball.

Steve Garvey

My grandson Myles already shows a lot of dexterity and he appears to be getting his Dad’s height. Hey…who knows the next Mantle might be amongst us. Even if he isn’t I’ll love to watch anything he chooses to do…yes even ballet.

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Lets play a game

Lets play a game   Myles loves to play….all the time. The title of this blog is Second Half which, in case it wasn’t obvious, means I’m getting older and at times I find it hard to tap into my childishness. Don’t get me wrong,  I have been known to be childish and it wasn’t very pretty but the childishness I mean is playing in a child’s world of make believe.

I would think of my sons growing up and some of the games we’d play. I was good at  physical games especially if a ball was involved. Patty, my wife who has the patience of a saint, would play the board games and the imaginary ones for hours. Two years ago I injured my back and it is hard to play the physical ones now. One TV show that my sons watched was Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. I found the show strange at times but when I sat down  and really watched it, I would smile. His make believe seemed silly but it was easy to see why kids loved his land of make believe. His show was simple and made sense to them. He exhibited honesty and love without trying because that is who he was. I needed to become Mr. Rogers.

Myles brings back my childishness with the different  games he plays. He so easily draws me into his make believe world in that simple way expecting me to understand the game without question and I enjoy it but I do not have his make believe game stamina. Where he can go on for hours I have long ago run out of make believe steam but I keep on plugging away and I found that my childish imagination is still intact and I am getting better at it. I went back and reread some of the stories and books I enjoyed when I was young and realized they were written by adult authors who found it easy to tap into childishness.  I now have a new excitement when I read them to Myles and play all the different make believe games with him. I do wish I could be more physical but I like being Mr. Rogers.

Eventually the games will turn physical. One of his favorite is chasing game that  involves a lot of running. My mind says go, go, go but my body says no, no, no. The amazing thing is he senses when I’m tired  and will stop and ask me to read him a book or watch a video. I smile  because I know what he’s doing. He’s looking out for Pappy. Now, that is a good friend.

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