While listening to a Phillies game a week or so ago they were playing back some old footage from many years ago with Harry Kalas and Richie Ashburn. In that brief moment of AM radio footage I was transported back to my youth, sitting on the back porch with my parents and no other light than the glow from the transistor radio. The voices of Kalas, Ashburn, and Chris wheeler were often the only ones to be heard on our porch on those summer nights. Otherwise, there were lightning bugs, crickets, and bull frogs. Happiness was there too. I could never imagine a world beyond that 70 acres with the fish, deer, ducks, and turtles, everything a boy could want. I just knew I would always be out there loving the outdoors. The end of the game meant bed time. Win or lose, I could settle into my bed happy.
There were other days too. Every Saturday I would be on the Delaware Bay, fishing rod in hand with my friend Norman and his son Lewis. There were fish in the bay then. Boats would line up down the road all through the little fishing town of Fortescue waiting for Bunky to launch us and send us on our quest. I remember the warm mornings, the mosquitos and gnats buzzing as we made ourselves busy rigging lines, prepping bait, and inching the car and trailer toward the waiting boat launch and whatever fishy fortune awaited. We didn’t always catch fish but we often did. We were always happy. I could never imagine a day where I would go months or years without feeling a rod handle in my hand as the tide of the Delaware Bay swiftly swirled by.
One day there was my first kiss, and first love with a pretty young lady I shared a wonderful summer with in Cape May. After work, I would shower, wolf down dinner and race to Cape May Point to walk, hold hands, and talk to my sweet beauty. I never knew I could be so happy. But even then, I knew life was about to change. The shelter of childhood, and fortunate youth spent in a young man’s paradise would all draw to a close. Late one night, as the chill drew down on our summer romance, I knew we would part ways and never know first love again. We tried to hold on over long distance and college breaks but it was no use. First love, like many parts of youth become another chapter in a book we write during our days on this blue orb.
Once through college, life comes hard and fast. Like a roller coaster cresting a giant lumpy track and racing full-speed downhill years accelerate to moments, decisions are made, life races by with the consequences of rushed decisions lasting forever. “What if”, “If only”, “Why did I” . . all questions we ask endlessly. Friends and acquaintances form and disintegrate before we know what happens. Some of those friends are ones we wish we never made, but most are ones we wish we never lost.
I had a friend once I call Happiness. He is one I wish I never lost. I’ve been looking for him for a while now. He isn’t at work. He doesn’t seem to be at home. I’ve searched for him on vacations. I’ve even pretended I found him a few times but I knew it wasn’t real. I’ve almost caught up with him on hunting trips to the wilds of Montana and Colorado. I found his cousin Fulfillment while completing a bunch of marathons, and an Ironman. I see his brothers Achievement and Security now and then, like when we paid off our house. I keep looking for him in a lot of the old places where we used to meet, but he doesn’t go to those places anymore.
I hope I can find him again someday. I miss him.