This is one of those stories that is too sentimentally cheesy to be true but happens to be true nonetheless.
March 23, 2007, was my sixtieth birthday. The occasion was marked by a party in a room at a restaurant in Cedar Rapids called Daniel Arthur's. The little twist to this party was that on the reception table near the door there were boxes of baseballs for the guests to sign. One could pull out a baseball and with one of the Sharpies write, “Happy 60th birthday, Steve! Your pal, Phil,” for example.
That was back when I was still drinking, but I did manage to finish up that party only moderately drunk—moderately, that is, by my standards at the time.
Tomorrow it will be exactly two years since I had my last drink. Over the course of those two years, I have shed myriad little items of memorabilia that had come to inspire only painful memories of waste for me. Many of them are in the landfill back in Iowa. But for some reason I kept those boxes of baseballs. And for some reason I brought them with me. I had a vague idea that I might throw them in the Pacific Ocean or something.
Yesterday, I was driving back toward town in the pickup, bouncing along the narrow street of some little dusty hell hole of a village to get to the main road. I came upon five boys of assorted ages--six through eight maybe—fooling around kicking rocks in the street. In a flash of inspiration I jammed on the brakes, dug a box of baseballs out of the back of the cab, and launched five in quick succession out the truck window and into the street in front of the boys.
Jesus, what a scramble! There was a baseball for each of them, but you would have thought they were starving and fighting over food. As I drove away, in the rear view mirror I could see them jumping up and down, holding up their baseballs autographed by people whom I fully intend never to see again, and waving at me.
It was a very nice moment for me and one that I will not forget.
A belated happy sixtieth birthday to you, Steve.
And the truly beautiful thing is, I still have more baseballs in the truck.