Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Bigger They Are, The Smaller They Were

(From today's Times and News-Star)

Nice people who read my stuff ask me often why I don’t write about my son much anymore. Simple: he can read now.

All of us share similar experiences with little ones and enjoy thinking about them -- unless we’re telling them to quit arguing in the back seat or they won’t go take a bath or we’re on the way to the drug store for more pink stuff so they’ll quit coughing.

So back in the salad days I wrote about him all the time. Wrote about cleaning his sticky fist after we played mini-putt and ate an ice cream cone in Myrtle Beach. Wrote about riding the Lost Mine Train at Six Flags 18 straight times until the park closed and he fell asleep being carried to the car. Wrote about going to a Rangers game and it being about 120 degrees hot and him saying he’d stay for the extra innings “if they let me bat.”

We pushed an elevator button in a Texas hotel for the first time and thought we were at Six Flags again. Dressed for Halloween like a Ninja Turtle, a kitty cat and Richard Nixon (not at the same time.) For Christmas, got a plastic Corvette that would go around the block if the batteries were charged, got a city of tiny cars that required a day to assemble, got a Red Ryder BB gun – and some of the Christmas lights around the garage got shot out while I was gone.

I could write about him and his friends and never worry about embarrassing any of them.

But … one day a grammar-type test by a consultant at the newspaper revealed I was writing on an eighth-grade reading level. In other words, you don’t have to be on the mailing list of a university’s admissions office to understand my stuff. The downside: when it came to “chronicling” the adventures of Casey and his friends, I lost free rein back around 2002.

And Casey turned 23 this week. What’s THAT about?

That whole gang is too big for their britches now. Certainly too big for mine. Some of these guys who used to play on my Little League teams are wearing size 46 suits now. 46 LONG. I remember watching Casey and a big-for-his-size boy I called “Mr. David” play in the throw, hit and run competition on a long-ago Saturday at Fair Grounds Field. I saw Mr. David at a Mexican restaurant not too long ago and when he walked up to hug me I thought he was the bar’s bouncer.

Taylor wrote me for advice on a college term paper. Saw Babe catching beads with his girlfriend two years ago at a Mardi Gras parade. Fish is graduating – in engineering. At Cane’s I ran into The Butler, who has a driver’s license and his own money and everything; in my brain, he’s supposed to be 9.

I can think of three guys who’ve been on mission trips to other continents; I used to pray they’d get to the ballgame on time. Lukie and Stephens owe me $5 each because I schooled them in the BowlFest game we played last month. (Yes!) At least two former Little Leaguers are married, one’s in the Navy, and these are the same guys whose biggest concern used to be the length of the line at the concession stand.

I know all you guys CAN read now. If you ever actually DO, read this: thanks, and happy birthday from someone who’ll always be your fan.