Saturday, May 19, 2007

Pearl 10: The Right Place, The Right Time

Dearest Eliana and Gehrig,

Good morning, my sweethearts.  We just got the pictures your Aunt Holly has taken of you and they are fabulous.  Isn’t your Aunt Holly a hoot?  She is one of our favorite people and has been like a third daughter in our family for well over 30 years.  I know you will grow to love her as we do.

We have been very busy lately.  Granny has been down in Austin taking your great Grandfather Dan (we call him “Paw Paw”) to his various doctor appointments.  He is settled into Englewood, a private residence apartment complex for senior citizens and retirees.  They have lots of activities for him (exercise classes, bingo, dominos, birthday parties) and much needed social interaction.  We hope he decides to stay there and not move back into his old and dilapidated house, but having lived in that house for over 55 years makes it difficult for an elderly person (86 years old) to give it up.

We want Paw Paw to meet and become friends with new people there at Englewood so he will have a support group to look after him.  The one thing we fear, if  Paw Paw were to move back home, is that he might fall or injure himself in some way and no one would be there to assist him.  That would be difficult for any of us to take.    It kind of reminded me of an incident I experienced when I was in junior high school with a friend of mine, William Robert Collins. 

William moved from Ft. Stockton, Texas to Pomona, California at the start of our ninth grade year.  Because he was from west Texas he had a thick southern accent and he was known by the contraction of both his first and middle names, Billy Bob.  Billy Bob Collins was somewhat soft spoken so it took him a long time to develop any friendships.  I liked the guy right away and kind of befriended him.  By the time spring rolled around, Billy Bob and I were good buddies.

We were both on the Marshall Junior High School baseball team and at one after-school practice, Billy Bob and I were standing along the third base line just past where the third base coach would be if we had been in a real game.  Since this was just batting practice, no one was in their correct position on the field.   I was facing out towards left field and Billy Bob was facing towards home plate, just to my right.  Our conversation drifted between the batting order for our next game and the length of Linda Bebout’s skirt at last Friday’s after-school dance, so I barely recall the crack of the bat that afternoon.  What I do recall was the look of horror which flashed across Billy Bob’s face as he tried to turn his head, the whiz of the hardball, as it sped two inches passed my right ear, and then the sickening sound of impact.  The hard line drive foul ball hit Billy Bob square in his mouth and there was an explosion of blood from his face which sprayed all over him and me.

Billy Bob dropped to the ground on all fours and spat out a mouth full of blood and six teeth onto the grass along with a flood of involuntary tears.  I stood there in shock for what seemed like forever.  I tried to pull him up but he was still spitting up blood so I rushed to the bench, grabbed a towel and dunked it into the cooler of ice water in the dugout.  I then rushed back to where a growing crowd of fellow players were gathering around their fallen teammate and made Billy Bob bite down on the cold, wet towel.  Despite his obvious pain, Billy Bob was strangely calm and wasn’t even crying as most kids would have been.  In fact, he kept saying he was fine and didn’t want anyone to fuss over him.  I kept thinking how brave this hard, west Texas southern kid was.

Billy Bob was O.K.  In addition to his lost teeth and considerable swelling, the ball had cracked his cheek bone and damaged one of his sinuses, a condition which gave him a permanent runny nose.  This was before the advent of teeth re-implantation so those six teeth were goners, but Billy Bob gained instant celebrity status, not only for his bravery, but because he was the only 14 year old in school with a bridge of false teeth, which he would take out and show to the girls, who would shriek in mock horror.  Lucky guy.  Remembering this kind of brings me to my next “pearl”.

Tenth Pearl:  The Difference Between Being in the Right Place at the Right Time and the Wrong Place at the Wrong Time is Sometimes a Matter of Inches

I have often wondered since that day on the ball field (and at several other times in my life) what would have happened if I had been standing just six inches closer to the third base line.  First, Billy Bob would still have all his natural teeth and a runny nose only when he had a cold.  However, second, I would most likely have been paralyzed or dead.  A blow to the back of the head, delivered with the force of that foul ball, could have easily cracked my skull or crushed the vertebrae in my neck.  Were it not for a matter of inches, I could have been in the Wrong Place at the Wrong Time, instead of the right place to help my injured friend. 

Now I don’t believe in luck.  Luck, as the pundits say, is where opportunity meets preparation, and nothing more.  However, I do believe in fate; the universal principle or ultimate agency by which the order of things is presumably prescribed.  Of course, in my belief system, the “ultimate agency” is God and His host of guardian angels.  As fate would have it, I avoided tragedy that day and many other days to follow.  And fate will determine if you two will spend more of your lifetime being in the Right Place at the Right Time than the reverse.  We can help fate by not tempting it.  In other words, by making right choices, but sometimes our only hope is that angel who looks over you constantly and gives you that imperceptible nudge in the right direction.  Inches and/or seconds away from the wrong place at the wrong time.

There will be those people in your life who will tell you this is all a bunch of hooey.  But your Grandpa Jud is here to tell you it most certainly is not.  If you are interested in more life stories which support that claim, just ask me.  I will enjoy telling them to you.

I believe Paw Paw is in the Right Place at the Right Time.  He has heeded the call of his guardian angel and made the right decision to be in Englewood.  I hope he eventually acknowledges that, for his own sake and for that of his children.

Got to run to get ready to drive into Dallas with Granny.  We are giving a presentation on poverty and how we can help at our old church, Our Redeemer Lutheran, in Grand Prairie tomorrow.  I am pretty confident that on Sunday morning, we will be in the Right Place at the Right Time.

God Bless you both and, remember, I love you….bunches and bunches.

Grandpa Jud

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