My wife and I attended a funeral this past Sunday. It seems to be our most recent form of social activity. I guess we have reached that age. This service was for a man that I had never met and if the ministers who held this wonderful memorial are to be believed, and I do, Mike Hawkins’s father was someone I wish I had met. Past his ninety-first birthday, Frank Hawkins had gone to the same church his entire life, had been married to the same woman for longer than I have been alive and earned a Bronze Star during World War Two. He also took it upon himself to carve out a playing field across the road from his house so that his sons and their neighborhood friends could play baseball…Yes he coached the team to. Mr. Hawkins certainly “walked the Christian walk.”
Linda and I attended the service to show our support and love for Mike, who was Frank’s second son, my best friend and a former classmate of Linda’s. I first met Mike some forty years ago on opposite sides of some forgotten athletic field but remember that it did not go well. I would get to know him better when I coached with him for twelve years. That period of time went much better as long as you avoid speaking of won-loss record. As the two ministers, close friends of Mike’s father, told stories about Frank I could not help but think how different Mike and his father were…except they weren’t. Frank was gregarious, enjoyed people and was a fishing maniac according to his preacher friends while Mike would rather undergo a root canal than get caught in a group of people, can be moody and cannot be still long enough to sit in a boat for longer than five minutes…except to take his dad fishing. It became apparent however, as the stories went on, that they shared the same passions. Mr. Hawkins was passionate for his religion, his family and kids. So is Mike. There is no more loyal friend than Mike Hawkins and despite his gruffness, no one cares more deeply for kids.
There were many coaches, former players and parents and even a retired sports writer showing their respect for Mike and his father. It was good to catch up with old friends and I thought of another former player and coaching chum, Bucky Trotter. I had seen him just a few weeks ago at a reunion of football players and coaches at Mauldin High from 1980 and remembered a time when we stood on a tee box at a local golf course. It was our annual golf outing and for some of us it was the only time that we played golf during the course of a year…and we played accordingly. Bucky became a bit of a philosopher after hooking a shot into the woods when he said, “You know? Golf is a lot like life. We start out together going to school or working together just like on this tee and then we hit our shots and go off on our separate ways just like in life. Sometimes, if we are lucky and don’t hit our shot too deeply in the woods, we manage to find our way back to each other just like getting back to the green.” I was glad to have made it back to the green to see the old Mauldin staff and players two weeks ago and it was good to catch up with people I had not seen for a while at the funeral. I feel for Mike and his loss but I think Mr. Hawkins would have approved.