My Little Copilot

 

When Tilly rode with me, she perched herself on my center console, a paw resting on my arm as if to say, “Aren’t you driving a bit too fast?” or “Your next turn is coming up.”  Maddie just crawled into Mommy’s lap and went with the flow.

Tilly

Sometimes she would rest her muzzle on my shoulder while giving puppy kisses.  I know it’s not smart to allow a puppy to ride on the console, but I grew up in an era when we pretended to surf from the back of a pickup truck.  I was much more careful with the puppies than I ever was with me.

Tilly 4

It is a memory I shall ever hold near my heart…because soon, memories will be all I have left.  Tilly, Miss Matilda Sue, is nearing the crossing of her rainbow bridge.

Her fall has been rapid.  We knew her sister was sick and near the end of her days…although she doesn’t seem to be any closer than when she was diagnosed with liver tumors.

After a suddenly rough night,  Tilly is calm and sedate.  She is in no pain.  We watch her breathe waiting for the last breath.  We have a four-thirty vet visit scheduled just in case.  A good portion of me hopes we don’t have to make it.

Almost fifteen years ago she and her sister, Maddie, Miss Madeline Rue, adopted us, stealing our hearts as they did.  Maddie is still with us, but I worry about how she will react to the absence of her sister.  They have been together for almost fifteen years.  Sometimes buddies, sometimes antagonist, always competitors for our hearts.  Sometimes I hate the circle of life.

Mad and Til

They imprinted on Linda more than they did on me.  I didn’t mind…I imprinted on Linda too.  It is also something I’ve found almost always happens, imprinting more on one than the other.  Late in their lives, both blind, Tilly deaf, they would wander their pathways searching for her scent anytime she was absent from their side.  I love her that much too.  I’m always anxious when she is not around.

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Mommy and her puppies

They were trouble but never troublesome…even when they escaped as mere puppies and traveled over a half-mile from home.  I can remember the joy of finding them replacing the guilt I felt for allowing them to escape.

They came into our lives after losing our long, long, long term puppy, Sassy Marie.  She was a stray who wandered up one day, skinny and skittish, and then left just as quickly…some sixteen years later all fat and Sassy.  She knew she was nearing her time and just left, leaving us to believe she still roams the hillsides around our home.  Maddie and Tilly won’t leave but will haunt us just as deeply…maybe more deeply.

Linda swore we weren’t ready for another pet, that we were just going to look.  A friend’s relative raised Blue Heelers and their puppy had had a litter of sixteen.  “I’m not going to get one, just going to look”, said she.  “Not going to get one?”  It turned out to be a question of how many.  The answer was two.

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We didn’t have a chance.  Two puppies made their way out of a mass of wagging tails, pointy, upright ears, and blue merle fur with hints of buckskin brown.  They demanded we take them and stole our hearts.  No, we had no chance at all.

L, m and T.jpg

They were too smart for our own good.  Tough knots.  Brave and stubborn, they repeatedly put themselves in harm’s way.  A snake bite here, a wasp sting there.  Sticking their muzzles where they shouldn’t.  There was no doubt they would have defended us with their lives.

My little co-pilot was odd from the beginning, with no Bentley mark and a crooked tail from a birth defect.  Maddie is the perfect one, Tilly the interesting one…no they were both perfect and interesting.  She is now scarred with a cauliflower ear and a gouged nose.   Her imperfections were perfect.  They made me love her even more.

They both brought me gifts but Tilly’s were the best and the worse.  A very alive Brown snake that escaped and I hope found its way out of the house.  Several possums…thankfully playing possum.  One decided to resurrect from the middle of the dining room, leading us on a merry chase through the house.  The other, carrying a half dozen joeys waited until I dropped her over the fence to waddle off as if nothing had happened.  Tilly always stood over them with her lopsided smile, “Look, Daddy, I’m a good girl.”  “Yes, you are.”

Tilly left us this morning (Monday) on her own terms.  She lived on her own terms.  I hope she is off somewhere chasing rabbits, trying to herd squirrels, barking at birds in the trees, ears up and tail pointing crookedly toward the sky.  No longer deaf and blind…no arthritis, no longer in pain.  Fifteen years was not enough…never enough.  I love you Tilly and miss you terribly already.

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Miss Madaline Rue April 1, 2005-December 16, 2019

Don Miller’s author’s page may be accessed at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

A TURN OF A KEY

 

Woolgathering doesn’t quite define it.  I wasn’t pleasantly lost in my thoughts…well…the triggering mechanism wasn’t pleasant.  Word came that a former player has died and then Aretha left us the next day.  Their deaths sent me down the metaphorical pig trails my wife often talks about.  I never met Aretha but Pat…Pat played for me and deserved better from his former coach.

I see him with his arms crossed over an ample belly, chin on his chest, his helmet cocked back on his head during a break in practice.  His head is cocked to the side as he listens to our diminutive offensive line coach pontificate.  They share a joke, both belly laughing and after a bit of back slapping went on about their business.  Seeing them in my mind is a prized memory.

He was a big youngster, playing offensive tackle, gregarious and fun-loving…except when he was trying to get in on the defensive side of the ball.  A pest with a huge grin enveloping his whole face, “Come on Coach Miller, I can do this.  I can make a play.”

He wasn’t the quickest kid, built for comfort not speed.  I tended to put runners on the defensive side, nasty folk who could fly to the ball…he wasn’t a runner…nor was he a bird.  He could be football nasty on occasion…and was.

Maybe I should have rethought my philosophy.  In a goal-line situation, we sent him in to add a bit of beef on the line of scrimmage and he came up with a fumble recovery.  I clearly see him running on to the field, chin and face mask jutting forward in determination, arms windmilling.  Smiling, I see him fist pumping in celebration as he took his place in what had become the offensive huddle.

His junior year we caught lightning in a bottle six times and had our hearts broken four.  The four losses were all heartbreakingly close and as their coach, I should have figured out a way to win a couple of them.  The last one cost us a trip to the playoffs.

Six and four was the best we could muster during my four-year tenure…back when I thought I was a football coach. There is much guilt, regret and now sorrow associated with those years.

He is gone, stolen from us in the middle of the night.  I’m still regretful…regretful I haven’t kept in contact. I forgot I coached kids, not football.  He and the rest of them deserved better because winning was never the only thing.

My pride was hurt and according to the Bible, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”  I don’t know about the haughty spirit, but pride made me push the memories aside.  My “embarrassments” were placed in a mental “lockbox” and stored in a far corner of my mind.  I turned a key and walked away thinking it would hurt less.   “Out of sight, out of mind” meant the good recollections and warm feelings were locked away too.

There are too many good memories to hide them away…and too many good friends…the coaches and players.  People I should still be in touch with.  There is too little time to allow bad memories to overshadow the good.

Pat, I’m sorry it is too late for us.  I’m sorry about your beautiful family and their pain.  I know they are hurting.  I know too, they will have wonderful memories to fall back on when they are ready.

The key has turned and the lid has opened flooding me with memories.  The bad ones are still there but overshadowed by the good ones.  Bad memories can be handled when you have so many warm ones.

Rest in peace Pat knowing you will be missed…and adored.

The image was stolen from https://www.escapeyourfateup.com/store/p3/Multi-Room_Experience.html

For more of Don Miller’s musings https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

“As Time Goes By….”

 

My friend, the piano player, is not long for the world.  As I sat with him, giving his wife a needed break to run errands, I felt guilty.  A good portion of my being is praying he goes soon and I’m remorseful for the thought.  I am sorrowful because I doubt his end will come soon…I doubt it will be an easy passing.

His body, a body used to eighty plus years of hard work, refuses to give up despite a mind ready to move on to the great unknown.  Charlie has lung cancer and despite the oxygen he receives is struggling to breathe …and yet he continues to breathe, gasping to hold on, gasping to make me laugh.

In an earlier blog, I wrote he reminded me of Hoagie Carmichael, sitting in front of an upright piano, banging out a tune in Bogart’s and Bacall’s “To Have or Have Not.”  Smiling, cracking wise with an unfiltered coffin nail stuck to his lower lip, his mouth twisted into a sly grin. This morning I’m reminded of another piano player, Dooley Wilson as Sam in “Casablanca.”  I’m reminded of the love song he sang, “As Time Goes By”, but only because Charlie’s time is passing slowly as he awaits the kiss of death. “A kiss is but a kiss….”

A master carpenter when not banging away at the piano, Charlie told me he kept looking at the ceiling above his bed, seeing the imperfections and thinking how bad the builders were…laughing he admitted to being one of those builders.  “We really could have done a better job.”  I could see no imperfections.

“Why don’t we go sit on the porch.  We can roll you out there.  A little sunlight might do you good.”

He agreed, and I helped him into the wheelchair before realizing the portable oxygen bottle was in his wife’s car.  Sometimes it is not the blind leading the blind, it’s the blind leading the stupid.

We talked about death and what it means.  My thoughts on death have always been personal and I’ve kept them private.  Speaking to someone so close to death about death is uncomfortable and disconcerting.  Still…I opened my own soul.  I’ve always believed “energy can be neither created nor destroyed, only changed” which is the basis for my spiritual beliefs, but you shouldn’t say that to someone whose energy is dwindling…should you?

He made me laugh when he asked if I feared death.  I answered, “No, just dying hard.”

Smiling and nodding his head, he responded, “Yeah, me too”, followed by a laugh that turned into a coughing spell.

Charlie tired out quickly and I tried to let him sleep.  He was like a young child, fighting sleep tooth and nail.  He would be silent, eyes closed, and then, as if rallying, struggled to begin a new conversation.

In between naps and gasps, he spoke of times gone by, people he knew, many now gone.  Hopes of glorious reunion.  I wonder…I wonder if his faith is stronger than mine.

I wrote the following death scene for a yet unpublished book entitled Paradise.  It was written with an attitude of hope.  I hope Charlie walks into the light.  I hope we all walk into the light “As (our) Time Goes By.”

The old man could hear voices in his sleep.  They seemed familiar.  He opened his eyes to a bright light….  There was no glare and he didn’t have to squint.  It was soft and warm, welcoming.  Figures were silhouetted against it.  Three he could discern but there seemed to be others just beyond his sight.

“Allen Kell…wake up!  It’s time.”  The old man smiled because he recognized Lucretia’s voice.

“Lucretia…time for what?”

“It’s your time…your time to move to the light.  There are people here who want to see you.  I want to see you.  It’s been a long time and I’ve missed you terribly.”

“Who’s there with you Lucretia?  I can’t quite make them out.”

“Cassandra and Josey…but there are others.  Don’t be scared.  It is glorious, and we can all be together.”

“Together,” The old man found himself on his feet, in a body he didn’t quite remember.  He wore the old Garibaldi shirt from the war, an old slouch hat was in his left hand.  With his right he reached for Lucretia’s hand…except it was all their hands it seemed.  Lucretia’s along with Cassandra’s and Josey’s.  There were more people from his past.  Sean, with his leprechaun grin, waving at him.  Alexandre’ decked out in his fresh mourning suit and smiling broadly.  Shailene in a mauve gown whose bodice defied gravity.  James, Momma and Papa Edwards…and more.

“Come, Allen Kell.  We are here to help you reach the light.  Your time on earth is done.  You should not be afraid.”

“Afraid?  No Lucretia, I’m not scared.  I’ve missed you.  I love you, just lead and I will follow.”

“Come, Paradise beckons.” and he was gone.

Don Miller’s author’s page can be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Don Miller writing under the nom de plume of Lena Christenson can be found at https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B07B6BDD19

 

 

“PLAY BALL, CHUCK!”

Baseball coaches and umpires seem, at best, to have contentious relationships although to “toot” my own horn, I really attempted to cultivate umpires rather than alienate them and most of the time I believe I was successful.  Yes, I’m happy to say Tommy and I buried the hatchet before he died and we didn’t bury it in each other.

Chuck Eaton has passed away.  Another of my adulthood friends has gone to his reward.  Chuck and I began our careers in baseball about the same time, he as an umpire and I as a coach.  I can’t count the number of times he called games involving one of my teams but it would have had to be in the dozens.  I can remember the first one and the last one and over forty years, I’m just not sure who cultivated whom.  My problem with Chuck was he reminded me too much of my dad, somewhat in looks but more in his quiet and respectful demeanor.  I guess maybe he cultivated me.

I remember when I first ran afoul of Chuck.  It was one of my first games as a JV coach at Mauldin, a high school outside of Greenville, South Carolina.  Chuck was behind the plate, a young umpire but not a young man.  At the time, I did not realize he had retired from twenty years of military service.  I believed the opposing catcher had interfered with my batter’s attempt to bunt the ball.  Chuck quietly said, “No coach, the pitch was too high to be bunted anyway.”  Ordinarily, such a comment would not have been a good start to a relationship between a coach and umpire but somehow, we were able to get by it.

I learned of his military service on a cool moist night at Riverside High School.  We were both older and wiser but I’m sure my interaction with him was somewhat subdued because of the fact we were well ahead.  He was behind the plate, and even though it was late in the game, Chuck had still not settled on a consistent strike zone and my fans were unmerciful in their criticism and accused him of changing his strike zone from pitch to pitch.  Walking to the batting circle to make a lineup change, I decided to engage him in friendly banter.

“Chuck, my fans are pretty vocal about your strike zone.  I’d like to apologize for them but to be honest, I agree with them.”

In his quiet voice, he explained, “Coach, I know they think they are getting to me but I flew single engine props for the Forward Air Control during Vietnam.  This is nothing compared to that.”  For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Forward Air Control, they flew unarmed, slow moving propeller driven aircraft called “targets”.  One of their functions was to attract ground fire so the fast moving, armed guys could swoop in and get all the glory.

Chuck was that kind of guy, not looking for the glory.  He enjoyed being a part of the game of baseball and the game called life.  During our many phone calls rescheduling games, he never failed to ask about my family and was quick to offer tidbits about his own, including the daughter I taught at Mauldin.  He was, as we all should be, quite proud of his family.  When we met for the last time on a field of play some three years ago, his first question was, “How is the Missus?”

It was always comfortable to know Chuck was somewhere around and I’ll miss him.  As usual, I wish I had kept in close contact.  I do feel comfort in his strong faith and I’m sure that if heaven exists, he’s already trying to organize a game.  I’m sure his strike zone will be a bit more consistent unless he just misses those coaches and fans yelling at him.  “Play Ball, Chuck!”

LITTLE GIRL LOST

She sat to my right…toward the back of the small room we occupied that first year. Usually I don’t remember with that much clarity but they were different. She was different. We were all beginning a new chapter in our lives, me as their new teacher, her new teacher, and they as new charter school students. Some had come from home schools, others from church schools. A few even came from traditional public schools. They were all special, this first group…she was special. A light shone in her much larger than her size.

She was a small girl, all blond and bubbly…not. Tiny and blond but quiet and slow to smile, something she should have done more often but seemed to guard in my presence. Mostly she blushed in my presence until later, after she got to understand me better. I would catch her smiling, out in our small hallway as we changed classes, talking to her friends. Smiling in the makeshift lunchroom. Her smile was controlled…until it wasn’t and then it enveloped her whole face. I thought she was a happy child.

During class, she was mostly ALL business. Completing her assignments ahead of time and then mentoring her classmates. Speaking with the authority of preparedness when completing the projects from hell we assigned…rising to the occasion…like the island she created for one of those projects. Mostly all business, there were moments when we all laughed, usually at our own ineptness.

She played basketball as a tiny little ball handler, a point guard. She had more desire than she had ability. They all had more desire than ability the first year of basketball…the year we moved from the church to the portables. Still she had the world at her feet…or so I thought.

I lost contact with her after the second year until I saw her not long ago. A hostess at a restaurant, she was still small but all grown up. I tried to catch up but she seemed to want to bolt. She seemed uncomfortable with us…like a worm on hot pavement uncomfortable. I thought she was busy. Now I wonder.

I don’t have to wonder what she was thinking in those last seconds this past weekend. I have been there…looking down the barrel of a small twenty-two. A decision between pain and the unknown. I chose my own pain over the pain I might have inflicted on others. She chose the unknown but I don’t begrudge her the pain she is causing. It’s the sickness not the person…there is no answer to the question “Why?”

The sickness is depression and it won out this past weekend. It wins often…too often. Often it wins because many, like me, fear telling anyone, having anyone think we might be crazy. It wins because family and friends don’t seem to understand…even if they do. They don’t understand “Why?” even if they do. It wins out because we are all alone…even when we are not.

I don’t know why depression won this weekend I just know it did…and it will win next weekend and every day in between and beyond…until we can all understand.

Before you make your choice call 1-800-273-8255. National Suicide Hotline

Don Miller writes at https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B018IT38GM

MEMORIALS

Memorial: something, especially a structure, established to remind people of a person or event.

I was approached over a year ago about tonight’s memorial and until a week ago I was able to keep all my memories locked safely away in my secret little lock box in a corner of my brain. Until a week ago…and its Michael Douty’s fault. Looking for a hat, the hat we wore in his memory the year after his death fell out of the armoire and into my hands. Upon seeing the number thirteen on the back there was an immediate flood of memories, most of which made me smile.
In my first attempt at writing badly, “Winning Was Never the Only Thing…,” my aim was to write a collection of humorous stories related to my forty years of teaching and coaching. It was Michael Douty’s fault that my purpose changed with the first story I actually sat down and wrote…his story. Michael’s antics were humorous and my intent was to begin the book with his story.

Unfortunately, his death wasn’t very humorous. No matter how I rewrote the story, it always ended badly, as did the endings to stories involving Tim Wilder, Heath Benedict, Tim Bright and Jeff Gully. While writing Michael’s story I found out Tim Bright was battling Stage IV colon cancer and realized my book was not beginning well. I ended up writing about them all, more about their lives than their deaths and the sweet memories they left for me. Later, after I had published the book, I was forced to write another story with a bad ending when Brian Kuykendall left me. All were former players and Brian gets the double whammy of being a former player and the father of a former player.

Jeff and Tim are joining Michael tonight. Plaques are going to be dedicated and theirs will join Douty’s plaque behind the backstop on the field they played on not so many years ago. I believe in ghosts and wonder if their spirits will visit our old field of dreams…I know they still visit me, especially on dark, moonless nights. For the last week, nightly they have also invaded my dreams.

I have an unshakable belief there is something more than death, that life simply just does not end. During a depressing early morning walk I came to a reality of sorts and found a bit of peace and comfort in a strange, cold and unlikely place…science. I came to this truth while standing in front of a cross. There is a scientific law that states “Energy can be neither created nor destroyed. Energy can only be changed.” I have taught Conservation of Energy thousands of times, but this cool morning it became more of an anodyne than just a cold scientific law. Call it heaven, Nirvana, a “wheel inside a wheel” or crossing the River Styx, their energy does not die.

I do tend to think of them on dark and clear nights when the stars seem close enough to touch. I described Tim’s light as the “brightest star” in the sky, Jeff as a photon flying in and out of our lives at light speed. Douty? I never described you. You would have to be a comet streaking through the sky, showing his tail in the reflected sunlight. There may be a hidden meaning behind that description and I am sure I just heard you laugh in the gusting wind. Gather them all together

FOR JANE-THE SOUTHERN CROSS

I have found when attending memorials or funerals for old friends or family, the memorial tends to resemble a reunion of sorts. A recent memorial was no different. There were many people attending that I had not seen in decades…and there were many not in attendance who I will never be able to see again, close friends who have left my world. In the book FLOPPY PARTS, I wrote the following story about Jane Cooper. It was the best I could do and I could never do her justice even with my best work.

SOUTHERN CROSS

Every time I run I listen to music on my pink IPOD. It helps with the monotony and pain of mile after mile after…. With me for nearly every running or walking missed step for the last several years, it has long outlasted several less colorful IPODS or Shuffles and, due to its longevity, owes me no service. What is disconcerting about my IPOD is it seems to have a mind of its own, or at the very least, is inhabited by a ghost. No matter what playlist I transfer to my IPOD the Crosby, Stills and Nash song “Southern Cross” somehow finds its way onto the playlist. I even have a Jimmy Buffett version which doubles the chances of it haunting me. It is not as good as the original, but not bad and when I hear it or the original I am transported back into my memories. It’s not that I don’t like the song, I do. I like it very much because the memories the song evokes make me think of a long-time friend who was, for a short time, the object of my floppy parts and affection. She left this world several years ago, and I find the song makes me a bit sad and introspective. After a while I do begin to smile over our antics from almost four decades ago as we traveled a bumpy path toward “hooking up.” After teaching together for several years, we would both go through trashed marriages, and without consulting each other, decided to make the typical lifestyle changes associated with newly divorced folk. As a male, I felt duty-bound to go out and purchase the requisite sports car I could not afford while Jane would lose forty pounds in weight, which she could afford. Yes, typical, and for a brief period I found Jane riding around in my sports car.

At the time, I did not know Jane well and hate to admit I still really didn’t know her as well as I would have liked. We did not travel in the same circles. As a foreign language teacher she resided on “holy hall” with the “power pod” language arts teachers, while I, being a member of the athletic fraternity–despite teaching science and history, was metaphorically relegated to the dark, lower recesses of the gym, right across from the shelves lined with smelly jocks and athletic socks. On campus friends repeatedly asked how things were in the gym and, much like the saloons of old, respectable lady teachers didn’t venture into our little world. No, Jane never really gave me the idea she took the “party line” of the “enlightened few” who tolerated us as coaches but believed us to be lacking as teachers. She did guard her privacy and only grudgingly gave up the bits and pieces of her previous life. A daughter, a controlling mother, the failed marriage all came somewhat into focus but it took time. A Spanish teacher, because of her dark hair and dark eyes, I assumed her ethnic background to be Latin. Oh well, we all know what assuming gets you. She was Irish on both sides of her family but a member of the group known as “black” Irish, those with non-stereotypical Irish features such as red hair, blue eyes and “fish belly” white skin.

It is inevitable friends would want to turn into Cupid when it comes to two single folks who they are working with. Busy, busy, busy! We got to get them together! For the second time in my life I had made the promise “I’ll never do that again” and had made the conscious decision not to date a coworker, after a particularly painful date with a coworker had turned into the number one cause of divorce – marriage! Our friends were persistent and would not leave us alone! I am sure we ducked dozens of Cupid’s arrows. One friend asked “What might be the harm?” to which I enumerated a myriad of assorted reasons gleaned from first-hand experience – two ex-wives. Another, reminding me of a bulldog with her tenacity, put it this way, “Ever had an itch you needed help to scratch…? There doesn’t have to be a commitment, just two people coming together to see what comes up.” Sure sweet Connie, but with affairs of the heart I believe using the word “just” rarely works out and “what comes up” is the part that worries me. Still we found ourselves purposely seated together at parties or POET’S club meetings. We danced together at a local club and finally decided to give in to everyone else’s urgings to just get them off our backs. It was not that I was doing her a favor; she had been attractive when she was forty pounds heavier and now was a full-fledged “stunner!” A tall, dark brunette with dark and twinkling brown eyes, I could not help but believe I was venturing into an area called “out of my depth.” With all of the physical accoutrements well-placed, she possessed a great personality, a sense of humor with a hearty laugh and a “bit of the blarney” to boot. She also had extra tickets to Clemson football games which sealed the deal. I might have been in over my head but decided I would learn how to swim.

Our first dates did not turn out well and made one wonder what our destiny might be. We had been together at work and socially, all in the non-Biblical sense, but this would be the first, planned, “Why don’t you come over and look at my etchings while I fix dinner?”, kind of date. The morning of the big date I became pressed for time and, in a rush, placed a just-repaired athletic department camcorder on a tripod in my bed room to get it out of my way – not thinking I might actually need the bedroom later. Right! I’m a male and had certain hopes, but those circled the toilet when the camera, pointed directly at the bed, was discovered as we toured my home. No amount of explanation seemed rational enough to alleviate her fears. As I think back, it actually ended better than the second date. This time, at her home, after a wonderful meal and a bottle of wine, she threw it all up and then some…repeatedly and onto my shoes. While I did spend the night, it was strictly in a nursing capacity. She claimed that she was not used to rich food and drink…she was Irish after all. We decided not to take any chances on our third date and attended a Clemson football game. Go Tigers! No one got sick ,no disgusting porno movies were filmed and our Tigers won.

During the fall of our dalliance, Jane bought the album “Daylight Again,” by Crosby, Stills and Nash and one evening was insistent I listen to a particular cut. It was the song “Southern Cross.” I fell in love with it immediately as she knew I would. It is about a man who sails the world after a failed love affair, something I am too familiar with – the failure not the sailing of the world. I love to sail but have not ventured out to see the Southern Cross – a constellation visible only in the Tropics or Southern Hemisphere. The music and words are haunting, at least to me and now to my IPOD.

When I hear the lyrics I think of Jane, a victim of breast cancer. “Think about how many times I have fallen. Spirits are using me larger voices callin’. What heaven brought you and me cannot be forgotten.” I haven’t forgotten. Before her death, she had remarried and gotten to see her daughter grow up, marry and give her a grandchild. I tried several times to make contact with her just to let her know I was thinking about her but was somewhat saddened that she did not respond to my communiques. Our parting had not been bitter; much as we drifted into our relationship, we simply slipped apart as we moved on to different places, jobs and other people. Do you think the ghost in my IPOD is just trying to tell me it’s okay? I hope so…I believe so. The lyrics say, “When you see the Southern Cross for the first time, you understand now why you came this way.” Even though I have never seen the Southern Cross, I understand – she was what I needed for a brief period of time and I truly “understand why (We) came this way.” If not a cure she was an anodyne, all calming and soothing. I hope that I was the same for her. Jane was the “Somebody fine (who came) along, (made) me forget about loving you…at the Southern Cross.”

POSTSCRIPT

My Pink IPOD has given up the ghost. Not Jane’s ghost though. I will make sure that my new one has the “Southern Cross” on every playlist.

This story is contained within the book FLOPPY PARTS. You may download or purchase a copy at the following link: http://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

DEATH WHISPERS SOFTLY IN THE NIGHT

DEATH WHISPERS SOFTLY IN THE NIGHT

Sybil Babb has joined the many stars I think about when I look into the clear night sky. Stars I have named after friends, family members and former players, all who have passed from my physical world to join their energies with the cosmos.

Ironically, yesterday I spoke with a much younger friend who felt the need to tell me of her fear of death. Death is not something people normally talk about unless they are troubled so I listened intently. I was surprised that this particular friend feared anything. I was wrong and felt honored she had dropped her “tough as nails façade” and took me into her confidence. I could do nothing to alleviate her fear other than listen. I did tell her I did not fear death…just dying hard. I hope to pass on in my sleep but have been disappointed before and worry I may be disappointed again. I should have also told her of my fear of living so long that I outlive my friends and die alone whether it is peacefully or not. I hope Sybil’s passing was peaceful while surrounded by people who love her. I also wish I had picked up the phone to call her the many times I thought of her. A lesson learned too late.

When I arrived at Mauldin High School in the fall of 1974, I was an immature and green twenty-four-year-old CHILD. I immediately adopted Sybil along with Marilyn Koon Hendrix and Bobbi Frasier Burns as surrogate mothers despite the fact they were closer to my age than they were to my mother’s age. All three made it easy to adopt and would also become my mentors and quickly my friends. Whatever I became as an adult they share not only in my successes but in the good found in me. We were a very young staff and I am sure Sybil served the same role to Koon and Bobbi and dozens of other young teachers…along with the thousands of students who passed through the halls of Mauldin. Someone remarked that Sybil WAS Mauldin High School and I would agree. I see Sybil sitting behind her desk and can’t think of a time she was not smiling or a time she wasn’t supporting. Mauldin would not be Mauldin without her there and I have only returned once or twice since she retired.

We WERE a young staff in the Seventies who worked hard and partied even harder. Sybil was a fixture at those post-game parties or poet’s club meetings…always providing clear council through the vapors of alcohol. I see Sybil sprinting from a former…wife-to-be’s apartment because a drunken neighbor decided to show her his pet snake. He did not know how deathly afraid she was of snakes. Sybil was so terrified she hyperventilated…once she quit running. Sitting on the bow of Koon’s sailboat, drink in hand mocking a figurehead, Sybil must have been able to ward off the evil “spirits.” No ill winds filled our sails. Not so funny were the days when she would quietly appear like a “spirit” at my door to say, “Ms. Koon needs you in her office.” This usually meant some poor fool had run afoul of the rules and I was going to have to administer corporal punishment.

Mauldin High School of the Seventies and early Eighties was the most special of places for this still immature old has-been. Sybil helped to make it one and helped me to grow up there. I choose to see that she has joined my old friend and coaching mentor Jay Lunceford as they enjoy a good laugh at our expense. Most of all I hope she will forgive me for not staying in touch as well as I should have. Sybil you surely deserve your star in the heavens.