The Scrappy One..

On a warm Saturday afternoon back about the turn of the century, you remember Y2K, Sharyl and I were watching the McKinley Lawnmowers beat the dickens out of another opponent, unless that opponent was the team from Cleveland.  If they were playing Cleveland, it was a heck of a Recreational League soccer match. Contrary to popular belief, people are not just serious about football in Norman, Oklahoma; they are also some kind of serious about soccer.

That day was the last day of the recreational season. There were a bunch of guys running around with clipboards, watching soccer and taking notes.  Those guys coached the travel teams and were looking for next year’s talent.  At the conclusion of our match, two of them were standing within earshot comparing notes.  One of them asked the other “did you get number 23” (not sure if he was 23, but he always wore it if it was available); the other guy hesitated. The first guy then said “the little scrappy one” the response was “oh yeah, we can definitely use him.” Even if I didn’t hear the number, when he said the scrappy one, I knew he was talking about a kid named Conner.

There aren’t enough hours in a day or days in a week to play competitive soccer and competitive baseball.  The scrappy one and his brother said good-bye to the soccer fields and became even more serious about the game of baseball.

I am their Paw Paw and may be a little biased but they both became very good baseball players.  It didn’t just happen; they worked their butts off.  They studied the game and learned to do things the right way.

Cale was always easy to find; if he wasn’t pitching he was over on first base.  I saw Conner play every position on the field except first base.  He wasn’t the best at any of them but he was pretty good at all of them. You just needed to look for the scrappy kid playing wherever coach put him and doing so with the utmost confidence.

He studied and understood the game. He had strong opinions on everything from hitting style to game management.  He loved to share those opinions with anyone (including his head coach) especially if their opinion was different than his.  That willingness to share probably earned him more bench time than playing time.

I think pursuing those philosophical differences earned him some Junior Varsity time one summer.

High school summer ball is kind of fun and relaxed, more about development than about winning.  They had a new coach, the guy knew baseball but everything he knew about the kids was on the sheet of paper the high school coach had given him.  I think it was the first or second game, the scrappy one was playing second base, and whoever was pitching was getting shelled.  The coach went to the mound and called the centerfielder in to pitch; the kid took a couple steps back and obviously didn’t want any part of the bases loaded no one out situation.  A brief discussion took place; my man interrupted with five words “give me the damn ball.” The coach asked, “Do you pitch?” He said again “give me the damn ball”.  The coach obliged and the scrappy one got them out of the inning.  If his breaking pitch was working, he could be very effective, if not you better have someone warming up.

On a hot July Sunday evening in ’05 (I think) the Predator had just lost in the finals of one of those grueling double elimination tourneys. Most of the team and their families were gathered in the parking lot replaying the game.  With absolutely no fanfare, provocation or advance notice the scrappy one threw his trophy as high as he could and as it shattered in many pieces on the asphalt he very calmly said “no one wants to be second.”  It broke the tension and broke up the party and everyone got ready for the next game.

Inside that scrappy, fiercely competitive body was a heart of gold and as big as all outdoors.  He was very compassionate and always had a special place in that heart for those less fortunate.  Bullying was never an issue if he was around.  One semester he took a socially challenged, special needs kid to lunch one day each week.  It wasn’t a big deal to him; he didn’t talk about it or want any recognition.  He just knew a burger or some pizza with a friend was a big deal and it was just the right thing to do.

If you will allow me, I am going full circle and return to the McKinley Lawnmowers. John coached the Lawnmowers; I wish every kid that ever played soccer, baseball, the guitar, marbles or tiddly winks could play for someone like John.  He taught them to play soccer and to play it very well, he taught them to be humble when they won and to be gracious on those rare occasions when they lost.  He also taught them a lot about life. The way he did it they never knew they had been offered a lesson.  The Lawnmowers are now young men and scattered around the world doing a lot of different things but when the chips are down they are still a very tight knit group.  Thank you John.

I have passionately supported teams with names like Indians, Savages, Hornets, Sooners, Timber wolves, Trojans, Rangers and BJs to name a few. I will probably root for other teams in the future but I am sure my all-time favorite will remain the McKinley Lawnmowers.

To the scrappy one:  I love you, I miss you every day and the pain is still very intense.  Please give your Maw Maw a hug and tell her I love her and miss her.

Most of you were not personally acquainted with Conner, you only knew he was my grandson.  I just wanted to share some memories and give you a peek at what made this kid that called me Paw Paw so very special. Thanks for reading what I write, it helps, and please keep me in your prayers.

Good Night and God Bless




Get The Ones With Lotion…

I have always believed in the power of prayer and regularly sent my thanks and requests forward.  The diagnosis of Sharyl’s illness changed the content and increased the seriousness and frequency of those prayers. At the top of the list was “please make this cancer thing go away”.  I believe god hears and answers all prayers and there is a reason for his answers. I also know, with a few exceptions, I didn’t get the answers I wanted.

I always asked god to give me the mental, physical, spiritual and emotional strength to care for Sharyl as long as she needed me.  The mental, spiritual and emotional things are certainly debatable but for eleven hundred seventy something consecutive days I was physically able to tend to her needs.  I know I lived in the same controlled environment we felt Sharyl needed, and I didn’t do anything stupid to aggravate a tricky back, but I will give all the credit to the man upstairs.  I will be forever grateful.

Maybe we each have an allotted number of sick or bad or whatever you want to call them days and god was gracious enough to advance me a bunch of good ones. I believe payback time has begun.

Last time we talked my Sciatic nerve was causing me to spend way too much time with a little yellow ball.  A few days ago my allergies or a sinus infection or something kicked in.  To use an old Rylie term “my nose wasn’t working”.  The two didn’t play well together, the sinus deal liked kicked back in the recliner, and the Sciatic nerve could only tolerate about ten minutes per hour in that position.

If I wasn’t reclined, I kept a Kleenex in my hand.  I guess I should say tissue, but growing up we never said do you have or do you need a tissue; we called the things Kleenex.  We always kept a box or two strategically placed around the house, Sharyl shopped for that sort of thing.  If I needed one I knew where to look.

When she got sick, shopping for that sort of thing became part of what I did.  We also increased the number to a couple or three boxes in each room of the house. After my first shopping trip I learned there is a difference in Kleenex, it wasn’t as simple as just grabbing some as I went down that isle.  Sharyl said in that certain voice “get the ones with lotion”. I also learned she preferred Puffs to Kleenex; I think that was because of box design.

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On two different occasions this past week I needed Kleenex so I bought Puffs with lotion.  I still keep at least one box in each room, and truthfully I still use them for my eyes more than I do for my nose.

I’m sorry I guess I kind of drifted a little.  I believe I have about completed the first installment of the payback.  I haven’t seen that stupid tennis ball since Friday night and I have only used a half dozen or so Kleenex or I should say Puffs with lotion today.

Thanks for riding along, maybe one day soon I will have something interesting to share.

I still need and appreciate your prayers.

Good Night and God Bless.


Tennis Anyone?

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In my last blog post I talked about enlarging my little world.

I started this one with a picture of a tennis ball. 

Those two things could create visions of me sitting court side at the Australian Open or hitting the clay courts on the French Riviera, or at the very least hitting a few balls in the Tuesday morning senior mixed doubles league at Slick Humphrey Park. 

All of the above would be false.

I have been using the thing to try to get a misbehaving Sciatic Nerve under control.  A few years ago a Physical Therapist explained the procedure to Sharyl. It works like this:  You lie in the floor and place the tennis ball under the upper hip/extreme lower back on the misbehaving side and move it around until you find the spot.  How do you know when you’ve found the spot?  Trust me you know, I think my neighbors know when I find the spot.  Just lie there and let the ball apply pressure for a few minutes; you won’t need a timer. I’m not there yet but I think it is getting better.

I probably should go ahead and see a doctor but old habits are hard to break, however for some reason I treat back pain with a little more respect than I did five years ago.  I also feel a little guilty complaining about a little Sciatic Nerve pain.

A few days ago in Morgantown West Virginia a young man’s dream faded.  For the past year Cale has experienced different levels of pain in his pitching arm, because of that pain he made the decision to leave the game.  He is back in Norman and will spend some time regrouping and looking at other options.  He is a sharp young man (I know I’m his Paw Paw) and I am confident he will successfully travel in a new direction, or to use a term I have beat to death over the years he’ll figure it out and be OK.

I made a quick trip to the lake this week. Sitting in the truck for two hours was not good for my back but I’ve never been accused of being real smart or doing what I should.

While there I learned a “lake neighbor” and very good friend had died a few weeks ago.  It was not unexpected but I was disappointed that I didn’t have an opportunity to pay my final respects.  He was in his mid eighties and had lived a full and interesting life.  He was a pipe liner and a rancher and very good at both.  About five years ago he and his wife took their forty-foot diesel pusher RV with Jeep in tow from Brooken, Oklahoma to Alaska.  I think they went to Fairbanks. That trip has always been on my bucket list, but I probably shouldn’t wait until I’m eighty.  Rest in Peace, Gene, I will miss you.   

I said I was going to write more about “now” and less about “then”, I’ve done that.  Maybe next time it will be about something more interesting than lying in the floor on a tennis ball.  Speaking of tennis balls, I need to find that thing it is time for another session.

Thanks for riding along and keep me in your prayers; I’ve come a long way but I still have a long way to go.

Good Night and God Bless