January is not an easy month.
I don't mean the weather, as it has been forgettable, at least when compared with past first months of various years.
Take 42 years ago today, the Blizzard of 1978. I worked in Connersville at the time at the little Western & Southern Insurance office as the clerk.
My job was to collect deposits and do the bookkeeping for all the agents' collections as well as wait on customers by collecting their money and taking deposits to the bank every day. It wasn't a great job but I was glad to have it.
It was a late Sunday afternoon or early evening when Brian called to tell me if I wanted to get out the next morning, I should come to Liberty and stay at my brother and sister-in-law Tim and Jeannie's home. A blizzard was on the way.
It seems I looked out not long after that only to see snow coming down hard. I took his advice, threw clothes in a suitcase and headed to Liberty. I think I spent the next two weeks on my brother's couch. Pretty sure I didn't make it to work for a day or two or more. But I made it a lot sooner than if I'd stayed out on the farm.
There have been other difficult Januarys; lots of them, in my years on this planet. When we lived in Fountain County in the 1980s the snow would get so deep and high that I had to go into Attica where I worked and stay for a week or more at a time with my boss / friend, Sue Barnhizer Anderson. I often have wondered what I would have done had she not been the boss. Would I have kept my job if I couldn't have gotten in for a week or more?
There was the worst January of my life, when Sam was diagnosed with a heart defect at Riley Hospital as a baby. And the year before that, when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded in the sky, and I was home from work with morning sickness.
This January has been drab of weather, but but that same weather has not been threatening. There has been no piled snow and the snow shovel hasn't come out.
Things can change on a dime, and who knows what February will bring. I'm just grateful that the bulk of my January projects is behind me --a couple hundred or more calls or contacts for our annual community directory we call Answer Book; two large feature stories for our HOPE edition; her magazine wrapped up and off to the press.
Add to that training on new computer software, a family funeral, and some sad news from a friend, yes, all that going on in the nation's capitol, and I can tell you that this January isn't one I'll miss when the calendar flips.
Still, we press on.
I'll check back in soon with information about what I'm looking forward to about February, and how that concerns you! But for today, I'll leave it there.
When the NFL football schedule comes out each late spring, it's a big day for our family. All five of us mull it over, and come to agreement about how and where to continue our annual tradition of creating a mini-vacation built around an away game. Then we spend weeks researching our many options -- flights and hotels, sites to see, special places to eat, quirky requests (Bucc'ee's in Houston, for example).
Two years ago we braved 50-below wind chills to see our Indianapolis Colts defeat the Minnesota Vikings. Last year we lost to the New York Jets and this year, it was the Houston Texans that defeated us in a tight loss.
While the games get us there, they are merely a part of the overall trips. It's fun to experience the unique cultural climate of each stadium and fan base. There's Minnesota loyalists with their braided toboggan caps, uber-warm boots and Vikings Skol chants in a beautiful indoor stadium; New York Jets with former Gov. Chris Christy in the parking lot, sans any kind of enterage, a nondescript, working-class feeling to their basic outdoor stadium in New Jersey and less than creative food options, and The Texans with their LOVE for football, the electric feeling of the sturdy crowd, and their A-plus selection of Texas burgers, brisket, huge loaded baked potatoes and other yummo choices.
This year's game was special as we had the fortune of sitting among the family members of a Colts player, EJ Speed. We had our own little island of blue celebrating big moments in the game.
But the crown jewel of this trip was the next day's visit to NASA at Johnson Space Center. After looking around Space Center Houston, which is a museum loaded with NASA memorabilia, including authentic space suits, capsules, a tour of the Space Shuttle, orientation films and more, it's time to see our family's two highlights of the entire vacay.
You load up into an open-air tram and off you go down city streets to the working NASA campus, Johnson Space Center. The buildings are basic, appearing to have been built in the late 1950s or early 1960s.
Bikes and deer
A couple cool observations unique to the campus: vintage Schwinn bicycles are all over the place. Many of these date back to the 1960s when the company donated them to NASA so the astronauts and engineers could ride them from one building to another. Schwinn company pays an annual visit to the campus to make sure the bikes remain in good repair.
Second, deer are free to run the grounds with no fence to keep them in, as a space-age, if you will, nature preserve. It's humorous to see them all over the place, and one wonders if they ever go out into the surrounding traffic and get hit! They look perfectly content in their surroundings and unaffected by the humans and trams going by.
My favorite stop of the entire trip to Houston was a visit to the Apollo Mission Control. The building is a National Historic Landmark inside this nondescript, functional building.
Inside, those able climb the 87 steps to Mission Control. A few needed to take the elevator -- which I overheard a guide point out is the original elevator.
We're ushered into an auditorium complete with original seating, including built-in ashtrays. We're behind a glass wall where on the other side is where top engineers sat at then state-of-the-art computers (now antiques) and worked their engineering magic with the equipment that landed men on the moon, including that first walk on the moon of Neil Armstrong 50 years ago in July 2019.
After some housekeeping announcements about cell phones and the like, we were told to sit tight as we are about to view 1969 straight before us and hear the voices of the engineers and astronauts who made history. The room is perfectly refurbished and preserved to what it was in 1969. And suddenly, magic:
Only it's not magic. It's rocket science. Screens light up, as do the boards in the front of the room. We hear tapes played of the engineers giving the "go" signs for the mission. Then we hear the voices of Neil and Buzz Aldrin, we see man walk on the moon. We relive history. Not just history for the ages where 100 years from now people will likely still be touring this space, but our personal history, as most of us in that audience were alive when it happened in real time.
I've been personally touched by the moon landing and walk this year. First, I remember with clarity how important it was in that my mom insisted I stay awake and watch Neil take that stroll on live TV. Then that fall, in Jeanne Sipahigil's fifth-grade classroom, I wrote an essay about how touched I was by the experience. And to think! Jeanne today is my Facebook friend.
Also this summer, in my job as a New Castle Courier-Times reporter, an email arrived from a man in his 90s, Earl Thompson. Earl grew up in New Castle, but lives in Florida. Florida, as it turns out, is where he made his living as an engineer working on all the Apollo projects, specifically working in communications areas on the lunar modules and rovers. He worked directly with the astronauts, knowing all of them.
Earl and I worked together via phone and emails in detail after detail for a week or more on the two stories I would put together in conjunction with the historic 50th anniversary of the moon landing. I even went out and chatted with his New Castle siblings! Here I am with them from this past summer:
It was surreal to meet with Earl's family in New Castle, shown with The Courier-Times from half a century ago. Little did editors or reporters know then that one of their own from the city helped engineer this successful mission. It only came to public light this summer and I had the privilege of telling the story.
I also love it that Earl gave a special shout out to his New Castle High School math teacher who nurtured his natural bent toward math. The story of America: Ordinary people from ordinary towns everywhere do extraordinary things -- both that math teacher and her pupil, Earl Thompson.
All these things passed through my mind while touring Mission Control.
Then it was back to Space Center and aboard another tram. This one took us to a nondescript building, one we Hoosiers would call a gigantic pole barn, where we would step inside and see the rocket that was ready to launch Apollo 18 to the moon. This one never made it as the program ran out of money but the rocket remains. Holy cow:
I'll say it again: HOLY COW!
Can you imagine the POWER generated? The fire descending from those babies?
It was a day out of this world.
The Union County Courthouse tower, a constant in my life for these 60 years. I took this photo five years ago this weekend. Thirty years ago this weekend, we were ready to launch into a new era, one we're in today, still living in Madison County. This has been home half my life. But parts of my heart remain in both Fountain and Union counties.
Thirty years ago this week, Brian, nearly-three-year-old Sam and I left behind one era of life and set out on a new one. On July 3, 1989, I completed my last day as managing editor of a small newspaper in Attica, Indiana.
Brian had just wrapped up his nine years as a school administrator at Fountain Central Junior-Senior High School.
We would spend the rest of July transitioning to the new home we had bought in Madison County and by August, Brian would be working at his new administrative post in the Hamilton Southeastern School Corp.
The number of mixed feelings about this uncharted new territory was extraordinary. I was more than ready to leave my former job, but knew I would miss certain aspects of my work and I would miss my work peers. I won’t go into what I would not miss!
I would miss Fountain County friends, our wonderful babysitter and her family and our landlord—all who had become like family.
I would be happy to move to a town much closer to my folks who were still living on the farm, although my dad’s dementia was worsening. And it would be a welcome change not to drive 15 miles to a nice-sized grocery store or McDonald’s.
On a daily basis, I was excited about taking a brief time-out from the busy world of community journalism and spend my days with Sam playing, going to the park, pool, and just hanging out. I needed time to settle us into our new nest.
I hoped that a call would come from someone at the New Castle paper asking me if I wanted a job. It did, I did, and early this fall, I’ll celebrate 30 years with The Courier-Times.
Along the way, after a couple attempts, we found “our” church; a variety of friends in a variety of communities; we had a second baby, and now both boys are all grown up and long-since on their own. How can it be, I still ask-that we're empty nesters? I can’t even call Brian a “recent retiree” because he’s been that for four years already!
What I do know is the time passes with brea kneck speed. And we're no longer so inclined to put things off like we used to do for years or decades. Just yesterday I looked up and remarked that our living room could use a paint job. "Do it!" Brian said.
Madison County has been home for three decades. That’s longer than I’ve lived in any other community in my entire life. In fact, I’ve spent exactly half of my life in Madison County, Indiana, and gone to work in New Castle!
I’m grateful to everyone who has touched our lives here, back in Fountain County, or back home in Union County. Some people touch our lives for reasons or seasons and many of you are in and out of it on a regular basis.
Where do we belong? It’s been said that home is where your heart is. I promise you that my heart is in all three locations at once! And I am grateful for so many people, places and things. Thank you most of all to the good Lord for this journey.
Which, Lord willing, and like a good story in a newspaper, is to be continued on another page. Hope you’ll stick with me as the page turns.
Where have YOU called home so far for your life's journey?
Built into our garage ceiling is a set of pull-down attic stairs. When we moved into the house 21 years ago, stashing things up there that we don't routinely use sounded like a great idea.
Into the rafters went the boys' special baby clothes joined by my prom dresses and Brian's childhood accordion. It seemed an ideal spot for our Christmas decorations, not to mention other off-season decor of fall garlands and spring floral wreaths.
Once Brian's folks were no longer with us, his dad's fishing tackle and keepsakes went up the stairs along with old framed photos and painting prints that his mom hung on their walls.
There were my college papers, a set of dishes and related matching pieces that we bought in the 1970s and I added onto throughout the 1980s, but have been out of style since the early 2000s.
Like interest that accumulates on an investment, time compounded what went up, but rarely came down.
When we moved in, I was under 40. Now I'm over 60. I have no interest in hauling Christmas decorations down stairs, nor in hoisting them back up. I've decided that since I haven't used those dishes in 20 years, it's highly unlikely that I will start in the next 20.
Also, I'm re-evaluating some silly assumptions that caused me to keep certain things. I kept the prom dresses thinking future granddaughters might play dress up with them. Well, I've gotten a clue from friends who actually have granddaughters. Today's little girls like Disney princess dresses that fit—not 1970s attire that doesn't.
About those college papers. Surely a kernel of crazy made me keep them, thinking someone somewhere sometime might enjoy my 1981 essay about the national press covered Skylab. No line has formed. No one has asked to review the hard copy of my college degree.
We're making progress. The Christmas decorations have been sorted and relocated to an indoor closet. The empty, sturdy boxes we've saved that would alone qualify us for an episode of Hoarders are gone.
Yet the attic remains full of landmines. When I lift a lid of an unidentified tub, I might get my breath taken away. That happened the other day when I was met by tiny baby outfits and shoes not seen in a quarter century. The item that got me most was not the itty-bitty blue sweater but the preschool T-shirt. How was it that once the boys reached preschool I thought of them as "big boys" when now I look at that T-shirt and realize they were still so little. But wake up, Donna. The actual, real-life boys are men now.
I'm keeping that lid shut.
There's another tub I'm avoiding. It has a label indicating that it's full of correspondence. These date back decades. If I open that can of worms, as one might also call it, I could be there for days, perched at the top of those steps, lost in the pre-email years, rereading letters about a friend's toddler issues, cards wishing me a happy 30th birthday, or weekly letters from my mother about what was new on the farm, back before the Alzheimer's took her away.
I'm not going to deal with the boys' childhood things. What's there, from Batman memorabilia to special school papers and trophies, will keep until they are ready to decide the fate of their artifacts. Why move things Ben doesn't yet want to his apartment when the ones who will move them to his next place will likely be us? It would defeat the purpose of purging if I had to deal with those containers again and maybe again after that. They can stay where they are.
The attic is a work in progress. It's not a stairway to heaven. Yet for a sentimental fool like me, it has its moments.
This column by Donna Cronk appears in the June 15 New Castle Courier-Times. It is reprinted here.
Miracle credited with saving Bob Pierce's life
From today's New Castle Courier-Times. This is one of those stories where I float home from the interview. This is why it's my honor to be a community journalist.
Story and photos by Donna Cronk for The Courier-Times.
STRAUGHN — A week ago Saturday, Bob Pierce of rural Straughn decided to work on his lawn mower in the family's detached garage.
He wouldn't recall the events that happened next until a few days later when he woke up in St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis and at first, wondered why he was there.
When he went to the garage on Saturday, Kathy, his wife of more than 38 years, and their granddaughter, Ruby Pierce, 5, stayed inside the house. Ruby asked her grandmother, "Can I just go see my Papaw?" Ruby got ready and walked the few steps outside to the garage.
She came right back and reported to her grandmother, "He's sleeping and he's snoring."
Kathy knew something was wrong. She went to the garage and saw that Bob was breathing and called 911 and family members. "I figured he had a heart attack or a stroke," says Kathy, a New Castle school bus driver.
Seven minutes later the Lewisville and Straughn fire departments arrived. New Castle medics also showed up. "They thought they smelled something," Kathy says, adding that they suspected carbon monoxide.
Bob recalls that he had been getting his mower ready for spring by greasing it, then preparing to change the oil. So he started it and let it run in a closed garage for around 20 minutes.
"I had signs," he says. "I see them now. I didn't see them then."
He recalls thinking, "I just feel so bad," as he prepared to add the oil. His legs buckled, then he locked them and they buckled again. "The next thing I remember was being at St. Vincent Monday at 11 o'clock." But he had no idea why he was there.
First responders tried inserting a tube down his throat when they reached the garage, but his throat had swollen so much they were unsuccessful. Oxygen was not getting to his body as it should. He was taken to Henry Community Health where they forced oxygen into him. It was determined to transfer him to St. Vincent by ambulance at 1 a.m. Sunday.
He was on 100-percent oxygen, then slowly decreased it. They were able to insert a child's ventilator because his throat was swollen so much.
Bob was given some chilling news. "If I'd been in there (the closed garage) two more minutes, I wouldn't have made it," he recalls being told. "The doctor said it's a miracle how well I responded."
He was dismissed on Tuesday, and it is believed he will have a full recovery. "I got well as quickly as I got ill," Bob says.
Described by Kathy as very organized, disciplined and well trained, Bob expresses disappointment in himself because he knows better than to put himself in such a situation as what happened in his garage.
"Something good will come from it," Bob says. "I'm disappointed that I put my family through this."
When asked about his granddaughter saving his life by going out to see him at the exact right time before he was gone, Papaw is emotional searching for the words. Kathy fills in. "He's proud of her," she says. "He knows if she hadn't wanted to see him it would have been over."
Adds Bob, "I hated it that she had to find me like that but I'm glad she did."
Kathy asks Ruby why she wanted to go see Papaw in the garage. She answers, "Cause I love him."
The daughter of Bob and Kathy's son, Brandon and wife Brooke Pierce of New Castle, Ruby attends Kidding Around Daycare in New Castle. She likes spending time with her grandparents. She enjoys drawing pictures and letters, and shows a groundhog she made at daycare. She also enjoys her hoverboard, Barbie Dreamhouse, LOLs and watching SpongeBob with her Papaw.
She wants to someday be a ballerina—and a teacher.
When asked why she loves Papaw she is quick with an answer. "He's the best thing ever." The two of them agree that she's Papaw's girl.
The Pierces have another son, Aaron, and another granddaughter, Addyson, 9. Bob says he's blessed to be from a big, extended, close family, A 1974 graduate of Tri High School, he says he's "a Lewisville Bear by heart."
Bob says he's been blessed with a career working in the family business, a salvage yard in New Paris, Ohio, with extended family and his sons.
When asked how the incident affected his faith, Bob says, "We've always been Christian family. We are very faithful Christians." He points to Romans 8:28:
Romans 8:28 New International Version (NIV): "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose."
Adds Bob, "I always believe no matter how bad things get even in a bad situation good will come from it." The family attends Southside Church of Christ in New Castle.
Says Bob, "I've just been blessed so much and I knew it before."
As for Ruby, people are telling her she's a hero. She giggles at the idea.
And gives her Papaw frequent hugs.
I have an old iron bell from my folks' farm where I grew up, and where my paternal grandparents lived before that. There's no reason I would need a farm bell. There are no men in the field awaiting its ring to dinner 'round the threshing table.
But I like it because it reminds me of such scenes from farms of old.
For years after it left Dad's barn, it sat in first one garage, then another, until finally I asked our friend Monty Foust to post it in our backyard. I like it there and wonder why we didn't raise it sooner. It does require a bit of maintenance. It had been painted silver once, for what reason I can't guess, and I painted it black. Now it needs a good touching up a couple times a year, most notably, after the winter months. Most notably, now.
But its fresh coat will have to wait a while. Things are pretty busy inside that bell. A few weeks ago I noticed that a family called Robin had claimed squatters' rights by building a nice little home there, sheltered sweetly by the protective shell of iron. I've stayed out of Mrs. Robin's way, observing from the window that she's been spending a lot of time maintaining her new digs which she decorated beautifully with found bits of dried grass and straw.
Some years robins nest in ferns on our back porch, but I don't have the plants up yet. One year a front-door wreath hosted a family. When the family sets up housekeeping in an eye-level fern or on my front door, I take the liberty of carefully peeking into the nest. Never touching, mind you.
Sometimes the tiny birds mistook me for their mother and opened their mouths wide, only to be briefly disappointed that I couldn't deliver a juicy worm. But soon, their mother swooped in and picked up the tab for lunch.
This bell is too high and I might do great damage to the family dynamic if I got out a ladder. So I watch from afar and was rewarded while ago when I saw a tiny head lift toward the heavens and a mouth eagerly await a to-go order.
Soon enough, the cozy nest will no longer suffice, and the birds will wing away, as birds and boys do, and their mother will do something else with her time besides deliver lunch and cuddle with them.
Meanwhile, here's to you, Mrs. Robin. Enjoy your family. Stop by again next year if you want.
So it's around 8:30 p.m. Wednesday. Suddenly arrives a new thought for the day: It's Wednesday! Blog day!
That's right. And until then, I had no thought about what I would post. You see, Tuesday was a sick day, a 100-percent time out. I almost commented to Brian a couple days ago that we had made it through to spring with no flu. I suppose that is technically true, given that we're now supposed to be in spring.
Then at 5:30 Tuesday morning, I felt terrible cramps grip my upper abdomen, a wave of nausea, and then .... oh, come on. You know good and well what happens next. And yes, I made it to the bathroom in time.
A few repeat performances took place and by 7, I texted my boss to say I wouldn't be in. Sick day. I slept quite a bit of the morning away, my consciousness and remote in and out of daytime TV. I learned from an interview with Tatum O'Neal that her mom is the actress Peggy on The Andy Griffith Show. I might have giggled over a preview of the new Roseanne show. Brian didn't think much of either of my tidbits of information when he got home and urged me to get back to work ASAP.
I had the chills, and sweats, but my stomach settled and the best news of all was that because I had no body aches and no headache nor neckache (my neck is always the first thing to go when I get the flu), things were looking up.
I was able to sleep well last night and by this morning, I was good to go back to work! I actually had a good day and had a reserve of energy come day's end.
So what did I crave during my illness? 7 Up and chicken-noodle soup. A classic remedy for what appears to have been a classic 24-hour bug.
Even though it was only a day in la-la land, it sure feels good to be back among the living. And away from daytime TV.
March is quite the fickle month and never has that been more the case than today. The best way to describe today’s weather forecast across the state would be to draw a weather map and across it put in bold letters, “WHO KNOWS? LOOK OUT THE WINDOW THROUGHOUT THE DAY.”
We left a clear and dry-skied Pendleton at 10:20 a.m. this morning, bound for Indy and a belated-birthday breakfast for our younger son, Ben. As we approached Marion County, the snow was falling heavily. By the time we got to the diner, the flakes were HUGE and the snow thick.
Was this a January Throwback Day? Diners wearing thick parkas and snow boots waited on their coffee and eggs while we waited on the Birthday Boy, followed by Sam and Allison.
We had a nice brunch where we spoke of jobs and birthdays, Colts schedules and March Madness.
Happy 27th birthday to our Benny Boy! Still our ray of sunshine on any day, snowy or not.
Sam got a chicken-breast breakfast sandwich. Brian chose a burger lunch.
Forty years ago today, Brian and I were officially engaged!
In the winter of the Blizzard of ’78, this day was cold with plenty of snow on the ground. For several weeks that season, I slept nights on the living room sofa of my brother and SIL Tim and Jeannie in Liberty.
Brian and I had been talking about marriage for a while, and were privately engaged. The ring was selected after Christmas. It needed sized, and what better time to make things official than with a Valentine's Day debut!
After work that day, I arrived at the home on East Seminary Street in Liberty where Brian rented a spacious apartment in the upstairs of landlady Mary Snyder. He was visiting downstairs with Mary.
“Your ring’s upstairs,” he said when I arrived. I went up, found the box, and brought it back down for the two of them to admire.
There was no band, no knee proposal, no asking my dad for my hand. But I knew that we loved each other and all these years later, there's no one I would rather come home to.
Forty years ago it was official, and soon came the engagement photo in the newspaper, obligatory back in that era.
Come October, God willing, we’ll be celebrating our 40th wedding anniversary. But on that February day so long ago, I couldn’t imagine the double-digit anniversary numbers that we have today. It was simply too far into the future to even imagine. I couldn’t anticipate that four decades from that day, on our mind would be Brian’s signing up for Medicare and Social Security this week and I’d be wrapping my mind around the idea of turning 60 this year.
Last night I helped friend Patti decorate Valentine cookies that she planned to put out as a surprise for her coworkers in the teachers’ lounge today. By the time I got to her house, she and her little niece had decorated most of the hearts in bright colors. I added a few to the stack. Life is full of pattern and color and the unexpected—like those cookies that are no doubt by now gone!
On Monday, my Bible Study Fellowship group leader had old-fashioned Valentines for all of us. Not only Valentines, but red suckers attached. I don’t know how long it’s been since someone gave me that combo. The little card took me back to the fun we had in elementary school on this day.
Whether your Valentine’s Day comes with candy, hearts, a diamond engagement ring, or not, may the day remind us all of special loves, past, present and sometimes, those that are one and the same.
The Brownsville, Indiana Lions basketball team, 1929-30. It's in the Depression, in my father's high school sophomore year in a tiny town between Liberty and Connersville. My dad, Huburt Jobe, is in the middle row, far right, leaning in. He'd be 106 now. He died at 79. We talked about his basketball days a lot. Why did I never ask him to write the names of his teammates? If you have cherished old photos such as this one, ask your loved ones to ID everyone.
It's the last day of January 2018. My dad was born in January 1912 in the tiny town of Brownsville, Indiana. The separate gym, and the three-story brick school, built the same year he was born, are gone. He's been gone a long time, too.
January in Indiana means basketball season, and in my father's heyday, basketball season was the time of his life. Two years after this photo, he was recruited to play college basketball. I can't help thinking it wasn't so common for a boy from the sticks during the Great Depression to continue his basketball career at Earlham College. He went, and for a while, that's how the ball bounced.
Three years after this photo, Dad's father bought a farm north of Brownsville. For the next half century, my grandfather and then father farmed it, and for 32 of those years, Dad was also a school bus driver.
My dad was more than meets the eye. He was an inventor, could make or fix about anything -- because that's what you did as a farmer. He also studied art both on his own and by taking classes, and he painted pictures. He played chess with a passion, and as a young man, played the violin. He loved to roller skate and taught me.
But basketball was his game. He loved to watch Indiana University play on TV, and whenever something was on television that he really wanted to see (such as IU basketball), he pulled his easy chair close to the TV for a front-row seat in our living room. He always followed our high school basketball team.
By the time I came along, born when Dad was nearly 46, the Brownsville Lions would soon consolidate into first Short High School in Liberty, then Union County High School, which is where I graduated 41 years ago.
My father was something of a perfectionist, or at least that was so in the subjects he cared about, such as math. I hated math and found it difficult. When Dad tried to teach me what my schoolteachers couldn't get through, the sparks flew.
Much to Dad's disappointment, I didn't want to play chess and had no particular artistic talent. So on those topics, I couldn't be his companion. But we had our mutually favorite topics. We both loved our swimming and fishing pond where dad taught me to swim and fish. We both loved having ponies and later, my horse around. He set me up well with those and taught me to ride.
But our favorite shared topic was basketball. In the 1970s, our high school had some fine teams. One year we were undefeated. My senior year and the one after, the Patriots won the Connersville sectional. That was big potatoes for us.
I rarely missed a varsity basketball game in high school, and never a home basketball game. My parents had season tickets, too.
Back at home, Dad and I sat up late and talked over each game. Once we thoroughly rehashed the key plays, shining moments, and outlook for what was ahead on the schedule, then we talked about Dad's years as a Brownsville Lion basketball star.
Those were years still precious to him. We talked about his games, and how the game itself was different back then. We discussed how a big shot from a Connersville factory tried to get my grandfather to move the family to Connersville, complete with a job offer, so Dad could be -- horror of horrors -- a Spartan! Why, that was in the late 1920s and here it was the mid-1970s and we were still outraged by the very notion of such a treasonous offer!
I remember quivering with excitement in the chilly house in the wee hours of the morning over dad's tales, and imagining him at the age of the boys who played for my high school. I never felt closer to him or happier in his presence than those winter nights discussing basketball.
The advice he offered, not what I had expected, is something I've never forgotten.
One year I learned that the Patriots would take part in the Richmond Holiday Tournament. The tourney was a whole year away when I heard the news. This was exciting! What's more, the tournament would include a large Indianapolis school that had a star player. It was as though the rural country kids from Liberty were finally going to get their due and be noticed!
When I heard this, I was babysitting at the neighbors' house. I called Dad to tell him. "I wish it were next year right this minute and we could play in that tournament right now!" I told him.
His reaction took me by surprise. "Don't wish your life away."
Simple. Profound. I have never wished away time since. Not even wish away a bland day in January. Life is too precious and time passes too quickly to miss out on a single moment.