Whether we’re talking about people or things, to everything there is a season, so said first Ecclesiastes 3:1 and later The Byrds, in their 1965 hit, “Turn, Turn, Turn.”
I thought about that whole time-to-live-time-to-die thing recently when I turned the corner at the end of my work day and saw something quite different about the driveway I’d left behind that morning.
Much to my surprise, the basketball rim and backboard pole snapped about 4 feet up from the cement, enabled, I’m pretty certain, by that day’s wind, and fell forward across the drive. It was three decades ago when I had an extra cement pad poured and the goal put up so that my younger daughter Katie, who was about 10 at the time and quite interested in becoming the female version of Michael Jordan, could practice her shot.
Following the obligatory profanity that accompanies such an event, I began, as many of us do in our moments of adversity, looking for my silver linings. First, my Katie’s hoops dreams long ago dried up as she forewent her hoops dreams and chose a life as a mom, wife and educator in Columbus. My days of hoisting a few jumpers ended years ago as well.
Additional silver linings were that there wasn’t a car parked in the drive at the time to mimic some Mayhem Allstate commercial, and the 8 feet or so of the pole fell across the drive and didn’t twist towards the Tim Dee-installed $1,500 new garage door that’s less than a year old.
A final silver lining is I knew just the guy and the company to call to haul the fallen away, to saw off the remaining pole and patch the hole, John Sreenan and his Northwest Property Maintenance crew. I’ve used John and Northwest several times for a variety of around-the-property jobs, and he and his crew never fail to disappoint.
Once the temporary woe-is-me compulsion to whine subsided, I thought that perhaps the late Darryl Dawkins had returned from the grave for one last devastating dunk. It was Dawkins who gave himself the nickname Chocolate Thunder. In 1979, he made history as a Philly 76er by dunking so thunderously that he brought down not one but two rims and backboards in a single month in games against Kansas City’s Kings and San Antonio’s Spurs.
It was a few days before John was able to fit me in, which was fine since I was able to easily pull the fallen pole and backboard to the side so that it didn’t block entry into the garage. Awaiting its disposal, I had several memories that ran on a loop.
I thought of my own childhood hoop, one my dad had erected on the roof of the carport of our small ranch home off Latham Avenue. For some reason, the rim was higher than regulation on the fan-sized backboard, something easily seen since there was so little backboard surface above the rim. My childhood bestie Jim Fry and I got the step ladder and a tape measure, and, sure enough, from rim to blacktop, 10-foot-3.
I remember the times our across-the-street neighbor Seraph Pope would see me and yell, “Jack, use your left hand too.” Unaware at what I would come to find out as an adult, that Mr. Pope was one of Lima’s legendary schoolboy coaches in the 1940s and early ‘50s, I brushed off the advice and continued shooting with the hand I was really good at, my dominant right, all the way until I was cut from LCC’s freshman team, in part, no doubt, because I never developed my off hand.
I also thought of who helped to pour the cement for the driveway extension and sink that pole and goal some 30 years ago, Chuck Riepenhoff, whom I selected because in my first year of teaching and coaching at Perry High School, Chuck was my point guard on my seventh-grade basketball team.
I remember the very first practice when I had my troops in layup lines and saw how many of my boys struggled mightily with their left hands, just as I had in my misspent youth. However, Chuck executed each left-handed layup with step-and-a-half perfection, kissing the ball off the backboard and caroming it through the hoop.
Eager to please head varsity basketball coach John Bean, who was standing beside me, with my observational skills, I remember saying, “Coach, that Riepenhoff kid has quite a well-developed left hand,” to which John responded, “Well, he should because he’s left-handed!” I made a mental note to observe a lot more before vocalizing any opinions! For the record, Chuck was also really good with his right.
However, most of my thoughts were of my Katie, out in that drive for parts of her 150 or so days out of the 10,950 days that basketball goal stood. There, she hoisted balls skyward hoping to draw nothing but net and, with pigtails bouncing, she chased down her own rebounds before that Spalding rolled onto Tall Oaks Avenue.
I made it a point to not be there the day John and his Northwest Property crew came to haul the remnants away. The memories, I’d sadly already hauled away, and that was enough for me.
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.