My parents moved to Arkansas in 1974 after my father retired from teaching at a northern Minnesota university. It was a culture shock for me, a kid of 14, to delve into an entirely different world. I had to ride the bus to school; in Minnesota, I walked to my school. I had to deal with the southern accent; in Minnesota, I talked like an extra from the movie “Fargo.”
It was a difficult adjustment to make.
But I had sports and that helped ease the transition. Sports is a universal language spoken in any accent and it can usually bridge many gaps. And to help me, I discovered the APBA games which made me a genius, compared to others my age, when talking about football and basketball players back then.
I played the games in the front bedroom of the house, rolling the games on my bed. I sat hunched over on a wooden chair and used a gooseneck lamp to lighten the playing field. And as I rolled the dice and wrote down the results of those games, I also experienced the life of a teenager. I fretted nervously about asking a girl to the high school prom, and I stayed up late being lovesick over the same girl back then.
I also learned heartache and disappointment in that room when the puppy love relationship crashed, as they always do. But I kept playing that game and it comforted me and, like I’ve said before, it was the only consistent thing in the roller coaster life of a kid.
So, years later, I drove by the house again and stopped on the road, looking at the window of that front bedroom. The house looked the same. It’d been at least 10 years since I had last been there. Both my parents are deceased and I ended up selling the house in 2002 when my wife took ill.
As I sat in my car on the road, an oldies station on the radio was playing Corey Hart’s “Never Surrender,” which was both ironic and overly cliché for the moment. Corey sang about asking for a little more time because his uncertainty could bring him down. “So if you’re lost and on your own, you can never surrender,” he sang. “And if your path won’t lead you home, you can never surrender.”
I’ve been lost since leaving my parents’ home and being on my own, but that day the path led me home and back to where my love of the APBA game began. I drove on and headed to my own house where, when I arrived, I rolled a few games, continuing the routine that I began in that other house nearly four decades ago.