During the course of a typical week, it’s not unusual for me to receive 15 to 20 solicitations. Since I’ve tried to support the causes about which I’ve researched to ensure most of what’s donated goes to the cause and not to inflated salaries of administrators and about which I care, I’m pretty sure my name has been passed around to other organizations, which may explain the high volume.
Looking back at some of the odder small stories that streaked across the summer sky, there is one, to be honest, I almost missed myself were it not for a friend of mine, Harry Johnson, who filled me in on a game-show moment while he and I were watching Lima’s boys of summer, our Locos, play a mid-July game.
In the past few months, I was reminded of something from my very distant Chicago past. The reason those memories have resurfaced almost 70 years later is because of something my niece Jessie told me. Having heard much of the family lore surrounding my upbringing over the years from her mom and my sis, Joanie, Jessie was aware that the person she’s always referred to as Uncle Bubby during his first few years growing up in the Chicago suburb of Oak Lawn had a couple of invisible friends. In a neighborhood somewhat lacking in kids my age, my two pals provided sounding boards for some of my earliest chatter.
As I’ve told you before, if you’ve been with me for a while, my teaching days are still with me despite the fact that this fall marks the 19th school year that commenced without my standing in front of students. As I wrestled with the decision back in the spring of 2005 as to whether to bring to a close that chapter of my working life, it was a couple of my friends who intimated that it was probably the right move if the thought didn’t dissipate after, perhaps, a bad day or two.
As we move into another season’s homestretch, given the wistfulness of this increasingly sentimental septuagenarian, this is about the time I begin to inventory the departing season’s events, both those I consider positive and those anything but. As for the latter, those items often involve those folks who’ve impacted the lives of so many whose linear lines often abruptly came to an end.
Character is one of those intangibles that’s sometimes difficult to determine, especially when it comes to those we don’t really know on a personal level. However, in this age of ubiquity when it comes to how we scrutinize our stars, sometimes there’s a story that emerges, often on a social-media platform, which grabs the eye. In this case, it’s a story that shows that not all those athletes for whom we so lustily cheer, many of whom are long on ego and a sense of entitlement, are cut from the same flawed bolt of cloth.
Of course, for most of us, no matter how we use our talents to craft a career and pay our way while traversing life’s thoroughfare, it’s important for us to feel good about work beyond the financial compensation that we receive. In short, we want to be recognized for our efforts.
They once were surely more appropriate and just as joyous, those parades of yesteryear when teams that won championships made their way through a city’s main thoroughfare to acknowledge the adoring masses who see themselves as integral to the ultimate victory just achieved. On the floats were the players and coaches, well dressed, even, depending on the decade, in suits and ties, and waving while flashing their widest grins.
The obituary in the local paper 25 years ago was as succinct as you’ll likely see when it comes to the final prose penned about people’s lives. It read, “Gary A. Akers, 88, died at 10:25 p.m., June 24. 1998, at St. Rita’s Medical Center. There will be no service or visitation. Memorial contributions can be made to First Round Boxing, 1737 Rice Ave., Lima, Oh. 45805. Arrangements are by Wayne Street Chapel of Chiles and Sons-Laman Funeral Homes.”
As a by-product of the natural aging process, doctors’ offices are frequently visited by most of us. In my own case, for many years, thanks to the grace of God, I made exactly one visit per calendar year to a medical doctor. During the visit, I’d say, “Ahhh” and let him thump me with that little reflex hammer to test my deep tendon reflexes and shed a little light inside my ears, and that was it. I was good to go for another year.