While on a bike ride around beautiful Torch Lake in northern Michigan a week or so ago, Rick stopped at the house of some relatives -- connected, I believe, by a great-great aunt on his mother's side. They were home and he spent a couple of hours talking with them.
After he left, he said he had the realization that they were the generation "at bat," while he and his and his four brothers were the generation "on deck."
That really hit me. I'm only four years older than Rick, but in our family, my cousins and I are "at bat."
And it's a little creepy.
The baseball analogy is a good one. In recent months I have reflected often on my family -- or the lack thereof. There are few givens in the world -- one of them is that Rick and I will not have a generation to carry on my bloodline. (I'm just grateful he shares his boys with me.)
My parents were a good team. No, I think they were a great team. They were loving -- to one another and to me. I can remember a few quarrels, but no real fights that I felt threatened my existence.
Often, if an argument was to be had, it was where to go for dinner -- when we were already in the car and hungry and no one would decide! (Lesson learned: Unless you are allergic, really hate the food or the place is on the health department "watch" list, arguing about a restaurant isn't really worth the effort.)
They taught me some pretty good life skills. When I step up to the plate, I'm not always sure I'll have a hit, but I try my best to gauge the ball, make sure I'm not blowing the chance for a "walk" and try my darndest not to strike out.
From my parents I learned to "make some noise." I was a shy kid, and shy, fat kids sometimes are on the back end of unkind words. My mother taught me how to fight back. Now, one can debate if this is a good thing for a mother to do. ("You just call her pig eyes," she told me, when the verbal attacks of a classmate were getting hard to take.) It wasn't charitable and one can argue a good deal about turning the other cheek.
But the fact was, as an only kid, I didn't know how to fight. I never had to fight for attention, the big half of the sandwich or the best piece of cake, with frosting on the sides and the rose on top. I learned from her that this was a last resort, but I also learned to stand up for myself.
They taught me passion. Both my parents had hobbies and interests they adored. My mother loved her crafting, cooking and entertaining. Dad was a ham radio operator all the way. They both had lots of friends, but they always had time for me. They taught me the power of having hobbies and interests you can call your own and I've always been grateful for that.
From them, I learned that cheerleaders were important -- and it is as important to be a cheerleader as it is to have one in your corner. They were always there for me at plays I'm sure they would rather have sat out, at concerts when -- honestly -- we weren't all that good.
My dad even took pictures of me doing pledge breaks on TV -- and I mean, shooting the image on the TV screen -- because he was proud of me. I have a couple of those somewhere, and I treasure them -- not because it's me on TV, but because he was proud enough of me to take the time to do that.
They also taught me that friends are far better to have in your world than enemies and if you have an opponent, winning -- or losing -- graciously will take you far in the long run.
"Don't carry anger," they said. (And that's sometimes easier said than done.) From then I learned to co-exist in the work world which is filled with people you respect and those don't, some you love to pieces and others you'd rather live a life without knowing. But the thing is, you have to work together. Try to find the best in them and let the rest go -- or at least, don't let it stand in the way of what you need to do.
I learned from them that not every hit is a home run, or even a base hit. But you get up again, take aim and swing. And if you're very lucky and everyone else plays the game well, you'll be part of a winning team. I've been on a lot of winning teams. That didn't happen just because of me.
They taught me how to keep an eye out. Be aware. Be aware of how you feel, how you act, how you treat others. Be aware of things that can harm you and learn how to protect yourself. You can learn a lot from watching others, my mother once told me. She was so right.
And when you think about it, check the dugout. The "on deck" guys are watching all the time -- who's doing well, how are they hitting and where? You watch and adjust accordingly.
I've learned to watch, what to do -- and what not to do. And above all, to be authentic.
Sometimes I'm a little too authentic. The people I work with can tell if I'm happy or sad, frazzled or in control, frustrated or mellow just by looking at me. And if they don't "see," they'll be able to know because I'm pretty upfront.
Wear my heart on my sleeve? Sometimes. I'm not sure that's always good. People know my passions and my world. I've got a blog, for heaven's sake!
I'll hold secrets till I die, but I think probably everyone on my office floor knows I went to the campus counselors because I was so distressed by our recent layoffs I had to bounce it off someone else to help get my brain around the sadness. I didn't make a public announcement. I just didn't shut my door when I shared it with my colleagues. Well, any of the times I was sharing... (And you know what -- I hope some of them go, too. Because it's really helpful!)
When I turned 60, I realized that the stadium is getting a little darker, the lights are turned on. There's less time to do everything I was placed on this earth to do and everything I want to see.
So, I try to cram as much life as I can into every day -- sometimes more successfully than others. I remember that my mother was taken from me far too young, younger than I am now. And that my father, though he lived to be 19 years older than I am today, died without having really lived his last ten or fifteen years.
I don't want to do that.
So, to them I say "Huzzah!" Thanks for preparing me for my time "on deck." For teaching me how to hit, to catch, to run (OK, everyone who knows me personally knows I can do none of those things with a ball.)
But I'm pretty good everywhere else. And I'll keep on trying.
Apologies to those who fully understand the game of baseball -- I probably made a ton of technical mistakes. But you get my drift. And all these photos are from a game with the Cleveland Indians last summer. Although at this point it might not matter, "Go, Tribe!"
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