People Profiles and Passings

The Quest: Rescue Me – “Paw-Paw”

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“Take me out to the ball game,

take me out with the crowd…”

Dateline: Where the Children Live

Once again, I am a child.

Hear inside my head, listen close and you will hear in there the organ playing the first notes of….

….take me out to ballgame….

I’m in Fenway; I’m in Yankee Stadium; I’m in Wriggly Field, standing in center field chewing on the laces of my Little League baseball glove.

Once again, I am a child.

Hear inside my head, listen close and you will hear…

…pure joy.

“…buy me some peanuts and cracker jack,

I don’t care if I never get back…”

Her name was simply, Gram.

Tess, to others.

But Gram to me.

Pretty much the lady who raised me. My daughter, my first born, bears her name as her middle name.

Tess got to hold my first born, and soon afterward, she left me.

I balled for days.

Make no mistake, in my eyes, Tess, Gram, was my mother. At home I have a little safe that holds all the birth certificates, insurance stuff, some old coins, and every letter or note that Gram every wrote to me.

Gram gave me once a tiny gold necklace with an even smaller gold cross on it … as they close the top of the box when I go, that child’s necklace will be folded in my hand.

So when retired Elite Series angler, Ken Cook told me that all afternoon during the Michelle Short Scholarship Benefit Tournament, all afternoon, “about 100 times easy db,” his fishing partner sang “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” out loud, I got that.

It was a no-brainer.

That’s because his fishing partner was, Rylee.

His granddaughter.

And she was out fishing with, “Paw-Paw.”

Which when you are a young child, and you are inside a child’s head, the tune that you will hear playing …

“…let me root, root, root for the home team,

If they don’t win it’s a shame…”

… is what pure joy sounds like.

Michelle Short was a young lady when she passed away in a car accident. Young to us. I’m not sure Michelle thought she was young. Who does when you haven’t even hit the two dozen mark in years?

But she was a child, as all children are when parents look into their children’s eyes. My kids could be 50 years old, but if I’m standing in front of them looking into their eyes, I see the baby I once held, I see Little Leaguers and Cheerleaders.

I see Christmas morning and wrapping paper everywhere.

Don’t care how tough you may think you are, I changed your diapers for a couple of years or so.

And someday, you will change mine. Only fair.

The stated purpose of this tournament is to raise money for a scholarship (now endowed) for the University of Central Arkansas Softball Program, the same team Michelle played on as #13.

The unstated purpose, is to bring a child fishing.

Every year the tournament is growing … this year, 90 plus boats entered. When all was said and done, a check for $6,000 was written and put into the scholarship fund bringing the total donated to date of $81,000.

A great number. 81-grand for the young women of the UCA Softball program.

But here’s a better number, almost half the boats were “Adult-Youth” teams.

Father and son.

Father and daughter.

And “Paw-Paw” and Rylee.

I did a long, real long interview with young Rylee about her experience fishing with “Paw-Paw” and this is what she said:

“Yes.”

To every question. Shook her head up and down yes about a thousand times as well.

As every child I tried to talk to did. You’ve seen those interviews a thousand times on TV … an extremely experienced grizzled journalist turns into a lump of Jell-o trying to squeeze a sentence out of some kid who is pretty much just answering questions with one word while picking his/her nose.

For the record Rylee never picked her nose while I was talking to her.

So, instead of me typing out my question 30 or 40 times, “Did you have fun today and why …”

… and then typing the answer, “Yes” or “Uh-Huh,” 30 or 40 times, I’m going to do this … I’m just (with the help of Jason Sealock here at W2F who always fixes my stuff and makes me look better than I am), I’m just going to SHOW you the children’s answer.

It’s easy to see, it’s all over their face.

And when you look at the children of the Michelle Short Scholarship Benefit Tournament, and you see their faces, “betcha” hear a song playing in your head.

The song.

Of pure joy.

The song Rylee sang all day …

“…for it’s one, two, three strikes, you’re out,

At the old ball game.”

 Take Me Out To The Ballgame

Jack Norworth

Love you Gram,

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