I ran into my best friend last night for the first time since 1991. We had talked a few times over the years, but never like this. It was great to finally reconnect, laugh, and relive the fun times of the past.
But more than just laughs, it was an opportunity for Kelby to set a few things straight. He was always good at putting things in perspective and reminding me what truly is important.
Kelby and I first met when we were on the same baseball team as third graders. He was by far the best player on the team, but it wasn't his talent that drew me to him. He had a presence about him that was beyond his years. He was in complete control of his surroundings and made sure everyone around him knew it.
During our third game of the year, Kelby did something that I never forgot.
"Kelby... you can't use that bat," Coach Spragno barked. "It is way too big for you to swing. Grab the littlier bat."
I remember his repsonse like it was yesterday.
"Coach, we need a big hit. I need the big bat to get a big hit. Relax Coach... I got this"
I was shocked. What 8-year-old talks like that to an adult? I was a military man's son. All I ever said was, 'Yes Sir, No Sir.'
After one bad swing and terrible strike called by the ump, Kelby did get his big hit. He hit a ball over the fence to score three runs and we won the game 4-3. With all his teammates surrounding him at the plate, Kelby had only one thing to say...
"You missed that call on the second pitch, Ump. You are lucky I got another one to hit."
From that moment on, Kelby was always a little more special to me. He was always someone I admired and not because he could hit ball farther than me. I admired him because of his confidence and belief in himself that I have and am continually looking for in myself.
We spent the next 15 years coming and going in eachothers lives. I was the one who always had the parents who would let Kelby stay over whenever he needed. Kelby was the one who was kicked out of house as senior in high school and somehow got his own apartment. The parties and good times we had in that place are times that I will never forget.
But more than just good times, we both had something that we wanted from eachother. He wanted the stability and love that I got from my own home, and I wanted his ability to go out on his own and to be able to take on life with the same vigor that he did.
He left me for good during the summer of '91 and I had never gotten over it. I have been bitter, lonely, and even cynical ever since. Until last night.
Laying in bed with nothing to entertain me other than my thoughts, Kelby came back.
"What's up?" he said with the same cocky smile he always had. "What the fuck you doing? You got another chance that I never got. Make it happen."
He said a lot more to me, but I am going to keep that for me and only me. Like I said earlier, he always had a way of keeping things in perspective for me.
Here's a guy who overcame so much in the short time he was in this world. It's about time that I start doing the same thing... I don't want our next visit being a motivational speech from him to me.
I want to tell him about being the head football coach at the high school we went to. I want to tell him about my daughters, two of them that I named after him.
But more importantly, I want to tell him that every time I start to feel sorry for myself he pops into my head and says, "What the fuck you doing?".