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JamesSalisbury

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Posts: 77
Reply with quote  #1 
Sunday Morning. The drive up the highway from the house was a little more urgent than normal as due to a previous commitment, I was not expecting to bowl in the monthly "King of the Hill" tournament. I wanted to make the center as early as possible due to my walk in status. It would provide me the best chance at garnishing a spot on standby if the tournament was full. This was a six game qualifier with a five man stepladder final.

Upon walking into the center with my equipment in tow, I noticed that something was amiss. The atmosphere was not right and the normal line at the check in desk was curiously absent. I approached the young lady and inquired if there were any openings left, whereupon she said yes and checked me in. Mingling with the rest of the competitors for a normal Sunday chat with coffee and friends was in order.

It was there that I learned the sad news that this would be a memorial tournament. Shockingly, a young man who frequented these tournaments on a regular basis had passed away just days before, unexpectedly in his sleep. The organizers had wanted to remember him by naming this tournament in his honor. This was his home house. It was a right and fitting tribute to a fine bowler and fellow competitor. Even though I did not personally know him, we had competed many times in these Sunday tournaments and he had done himself well in the process. Sorrow hung in the air. The contestants subdued.

In checking the lane assignment sheets, I learned that I would be crossing with this young man's father. I was filled with a natural mixture of raw emotions, some understandable and some unfortunately quite selfish. At first, I was more worried about my feelings, luck and emotions rather than where my thoughts should have been- trying to understand the loss of a child and expressing my sorrow at this time of grief and loss. I wondered about what I would say. What words of condolence could possibly be added that would enhance the greetings of many friends?

I approached the bowling circles to find Johnny already sitting there. He was staring blankly out at the sign that proclaimed the title of the tournament. Introducing myself, our handshake was strangely warm, not mechanical for the circumstances. His eyes gave him away for they had the look of shock and loneliness. I mumbled something that was just barely understood and acknowledged. I was embarrassed for my sudden lack of verbiage. He pointed to the rest of the family that had coalesced behind our opening pair. I nodded my greeting to them.

For the first three games or so, our conversation was broken by the procession of competitors who stopped by to offer words of kindness. No one was paying any particular attention to the scores. It just seemed that we were looking up to find the end of the game so that we could move to the next pair and repeat the receiving line. By the end of the third game there were no more players to greet. It was now up to me to think of something to offset the awkwardness of the moment.

But for Johnny it was a beginning of a conversation that would change both of our lives and bring some closure in the loss of another. As we talked, he took the lead and told me of his son. Of how he grew up with great acumen. He excelled in sports, golf and especially bowling. That he was a good lad, full of life and a natural curiosity that comes with the experience.

We would get the chance to speak when awaiting the anchor man of the other team to finish. Short tales of the times he and his son would go fishing, of the one's that got away. He just wished that he had the opportunity to say that he was proud and that he would have liked to say goodbye. In this short time, Johnny told me as much about his boy as he could. This was a wonderful distraction from the tournament proper but as this game went on I noticed that in the situation, not paying too much attention to the proceedings, I had started this game with nine in a row.

He looked at me with a smile of excitement and told me that I was up. I wanted almost to apologize as I took to the approach. There was something very different about this frame. There was no feelings of the butterfly's due each of us who have been in this situation. I threw the tenth strike and was immediately met by Johnny at the end of the approach. I looked behind him at the family, moved to stand behind the pair. My ears strangely filled so that there was only the slightest of muffled noise. The ball came back on the return all too quickly.

I knew the eleventh pitch was bad, no chance at all for ten. But somehow the last four pins fell against each other, willed down by a force that I can not explain but years later, fully understand. I saw the look on Johnny's face change from the hollow cast of grief to the full joy of recognition. There were no other bowlers in that center now. Just us.

I followed myself to the ball return and upon watching my ball being picked up, whispered to him that this was for his son. But this was not for his son, this was his son. On a kind of autopilot, I watched him stand in a different place than me, roll the ball with a different speed than I do and use me to roll a shot that was as true, pure and confident as any twelfth strike I have ever witnessed.

The three of us embraced and cried together. It was the final chance for a son to make his father proud. It was the gift to a parent in having a final chance to say farewell.

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The American Bowling Consortium, Inc.
BigJo

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Posts: 553
Reply with quote  #2 
thats very touching

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lefty's #1 rule we get the smooth part of the lane =)

arsenal....
Brunswick Monster Slay/R
N'Sane LevRg
Brunswick dry/R
T-zone plastic ball ~not a spare ball~

hating "youth league"
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