It's been a bit of a rough start to 2024 for my family and I. The last half of 2023 was no cakewalk because of my father's ongoing health struggle. Getting him in front of the correct doctors and the correct care he needs while living a couple hours drive and raising a young family has taken put me into survival mode. In all of the absurdity of real life things happening, I chose to bring this blog out of mothballs and also start sending out TTMs by the boatload. I will also just briefly mention the subject of career fulfillment and maybe elaborate on it in the future.
Finding beauty and peace in life has not always come easy. I had a somewhat rocky upbringing and I believe that it is only by God's hand that I have been able to turn out as decent as I have. (Taking credit or self-praise also something that is not easy for me to do either) I still search for answers and ask daily for the purpose of why I have succeeded in life to the degree I have.
There have been few constants in my entire life. Baseball cards have been always been around. They will be here long after I am gone.
My father has been around for my 40 years of existence. I don't know how much longer he's going to be around. It's a struggle every time I go to see him. The drive is long and boring. It is very tough to carry on meaningful conversation with him even when he remembers who I am. There are only so many pictures on my phone I can show him and ask what he had for lunch. We will watch whatever football game is on that particular Sunday but he couldn't even tell me what the score is. Its tough seeing "Super Dad" in such a lowly state.
The third and final constant was my Grandpa. As I type this, it was exactly one week ago I was having one of the toughest moments of my life. I had to make the choice with the doctors at the hospital to only provide comfort care for my grandfather. The plan was to wait for Monday morning and come up with a plan to get him home where he could pass into eternal rest on his own terms. It was not to be. In the wee hours of the morning on January 22nd, 2024, my Grandpa passed into the afterlife with me by his side. It was quick, and I pray that it was painless. He sat up in the bed and I asked him "Are you OK, Grandpa?" He replied "I don't know." I rushed out of the room to get the nurse and when we returned ten seconds later, he was gone. It is the only time I had ever heard my Grandpa say that he didn't know.
That was the great man my Grandpa was. He was the most genuine person I'd ever known. He was the rock of our family and never wavered or changed until he padded. He lived 90 full years of life and was a farmer right up until he was 85. The only reason he quit is because my grandmother needed care during her terminal battle with dementia. To me, it always seemed he knew exactly what he was doing and exactly how he was going to do it. It's funny that he became a farmer. I can assure that if he had chosen to be an astronaut or a police officer, he would have been the best around. He had the drive and determination to be the best. He was the best farmer around. He always had the straightest rows, the healthiest crops, and the highest yields. I will always treasure the countless times I rode with him in the the tractor, combine, or grain truck. Even as I got into my teens and was able to help him stack seed bags, he could still out work me.
Our many fishing trips out on the Potomac River will always have a place in my heart because it always seemed to turn into "catching" instead of just fishing. It was on one of these trips where I witnessed the only time he ever showed the slightest bit of frustration. Somehow, while casting is line out, he lost his grip and accidently casted his whole rod into the drink! He waved his hands toward the water in disgust and sat down on one of the chairs in the boat. Luckily, after a few casts of my rod, I was able to somehow catch is gear and pull it back into the boat. The only time in 40 years I experienced my Grandpa get upset.
So, in going through some of his belongings late last week, I came across a baseball. I had never seen it before, nor had it ever been brought up in conversation. See for yourself:
Its a bit beat up, but you can see it says "Homerun Ball, Reedville, April 14, 1949." That was his Senior (or maybe Junior) year of high school. Since it is in his possession and the only known one in existence, I believe this ball is more valuable than even a Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, or Stan Musial homerun ball. There are plenty of baseballs from fancy major leaguers floating around in various collections across the globe but there is only one Weymouth Hughes homerun ball, and I have it. That is the definition of priceless.
Take a look at the other side of this ball:
I think since the ball is missing this section of rawhide, when he hit it, the cover actually came off of it. Nobody has told me otherwise, so that's the story I'm going to go with. My dad told me stories of how he was told how great of a baseball player Grandpa was during his youth and as a young adult. There was a league in eastern Virginia called the Chesapeake league that he played in. He was named pitcher of the year a few times and was also an awesome hitter. He later played in the men's fastpitch softball league that was huge in the Northern Neck and Middle peninsula area of Virginia in the 60's, 70's and 80's. He had hung up the spikes by the time I was born in 1983. While I never got to see him play, I have no doubt that he was the best baseball player I ever knew.
It is a testament to his legacy that so many people showed up to pay their respects today at his funeral. In a small town everybody knows everybody and everybody knew my Grandpa. I even reconnected with folks I knew when I was growing up that I didn't even know I was related to today. It was an absolute honor to stand in front of them today and tell them what he meant to me. At the same time, it was one of the toughest things I had ever done and one of the easiest things I had ever done. It was wonderful to hear each and every person I spoke with today told me how great of a guy he was. We will all miss him.
I Love You Grandpa