Game-changers…#10

number10(this is a recurring weekly series on the fifty events that shaped the course of my life and the person i’ve become along the way. and i’ve decided to rename it game-changers…in honor of the start of america’s great game. welcome to my therapy.)

i grew up right in the midsection of the lower middle-class. we were a blue-collar, working-class family. my father was a kansas boy (my mom was from kansas, also) who was discharged from the navy in 1952 and, instead of returning to the heartland, stayed and became part of the southern california boomer generation.

he was a carpenter and yeah, that makes me the son of a carpenter. boo-ya! anyway, even though there was a lot of building going on, work was often iffy. weather, strikes, layoffs, subcontractor goofs, you name it.

money was always tight. we were frugal and simple. there were no family vacations. we rented small houses until my parents pulled enough money together to buy a house my senior year. you get the picture.

we were always a baseball family. when i was 10 years old, my father bought me a rawlings trap-eze baseball glove. it cost nearly $60…easily the equivalent of a top-of-the-line, $300 glove today. i have no idea what my dad went without so i could have that glove, but i’m sure the cost was greater than anything i could have imagined.

i played with that glove all the way through little league, pony league, colt league, and high school. it was my “coaching” glove for most of my adult life, after i moved on from my baseball playing days…leading to a 25-year glove career in slow-pitch softball.

hold that thought…

i’m not exactly sure where i learned this. some from my upbringing…some from obedience to god’s word…certainly some from the awesome examples. however…i grew up with a fairly loose grip on the things i owned. i learned early on to own things, but not be owned by them.

for me, that has always meant making sure we never bought anything that we wouldn’t use, loan, abuse, or even give away for the best interests of others or the good of the kingdom. this has definitely defined the things we would buy for ourselves…and how much we would spend. it seems the nicer something is…and the greater the cost…the more we treasure it. and the tighter we hold on to it. i’ve never wanted to live in that prison.

but there was always my glove.

it was the one thing i treasured. for 34 years, i took absolute care of it. i kept it oiled. i would re-lace it myself every few years. i never threw it (no glove should ever be thrown). i always stored it with a ball tucked neatly in the pocket so it always had the right form. i never loaned it. to anyone. ever.

as i got older, i think i started to understand it had a lot to do with memories of my dad and what that glove represented. the love. the sacrifice. the connection he and i had through all those hours of playing “catch” in the front yard at the end of the day, after he had worked himself to the bone.

there is no question that glove “owned” me.

when i was 44 years old, it was stolen out of my bat bag, at the end of a church league softball game. i was crushed. it meant more to me than just a baseball glove. way more.

people love to say “everything happens for a reason”. you will never hear me say that. my logic doesn’t permit it and my theology won’t support it. i lost my glove because i wasn’t paying careful attention. i lost my glove because there are people in the world who obscure the line between right and wrong. and i’m still sad when i think that i no longer have that gift from my dad.

but for me, it is a profound reminder to live life with a loose grip on things and to hold tightly to treasures that have an eternal shelf life.

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