Those of us who play the APBA sports replay games do it for a variety of reasons. For some, we do it to recreate a season of baseball — or any sport for that matter – that resonated with us. Some play tournaments and others combine seasons for a “What-if” scenario. Could the 1998 New York Yankees, say, defeat the 1934 St. Louis Cardinals in a seven-game series? We also roll these games as a form of personal nostalgia; we can recapture the youth that has slid by so long ago.
But I venture to guess that part of the motivation for playing these games is to escape from the trials life has dumped on us. Stress at work, money problems, loss, broken relationships, illness, fear of change. There's a myriad of reasons.
But, in my case at least, the very game I play to forget about the outside world and use to escape into the familiarity of previous baseball seasons has led me to an entirely new world.
One of the Facebook pages I often visit is the APBA Baseball site. We share our own game stories, talk about current sports and post pictures of APBA game cards received in the mail. Some of us become “friends” with each other via Facebook. All that to say that I “friended” a guy from APBA who had another friend. She would join in during some of our posted “conversations” about sports or news items or just life in general.
It began over a year ago with the Facebook comments. One of us would come up with some spirited, fun discussion that we could all join in on. She and I began sending chat messages on occasion and, finally about two months ago, a phone call that lasted over three hours. The more I talked with her the more I realized this was a special person who was pretty like-minded with me. (We are seeking treatment for her on that behalf.)
So, that all lead to me gassing up the car and driving 554 miles to meet her in her town last week. Seeing her in person, obviously, was much better than talking on the phone and as the week progressed, I found that getting to know her was rekindling feelings I've not had since my wife passed away nearly 10 years ago. I am a hopeless romantic, but this had me bumbling around like an 17-year-old kid just before prom night.
For example, on the second night of my visit, we watched for the lunar eclipse that most of the country was waiting for. It was cloudy; we never saw it. It didn't matter to me. And later, when I drove her home and made the 4-mile trek back to my hotel, I sort of got lost —both in bliss and along the road. The trip was a straight line from her home to the hotel. A three-year-old who was able to connect dot-to-dot puzzles could figure out the path. But, I failed and I forgot where the turn was. Never mind the hotel is four stories tall and has signage and lights. I missed that. When I did find the correct turn, I pulled into the wrong lane and, when seeing a car heading for me, I drove over a median helter-skelter like, thumping over curbs, drawing the wrath of those who knew how to drive and embarrassing myself all the while bearing a goofy grin.
It was that kind of week. Blissful. We went to see a lighthouse and a beach and I took a bunch of pictures. It was the first real vacation I've had in more than 15 years. We also watched movies and on Tuesday, the last night I was there, we saw Shrek. Those of you who have kids know the movie. I've never seen it. The premise of the 2001 cartoon film is an ogre who lives alone in a swamp. His solitude is interrupted when he and a talking donkey are enlisted to rescue a princess. In the end, Shrek wins the princess and finds friends, all by leaving the swamp.
Later, as we talked about the week we had, she noted that I had “left the swamp,” after I said I broke from the routine of my own world and ventured out. I was glad I did.
I used to play whatever APBA replay I was doing constantly, often rolling four, five, six games a day. Others have lives — families, kids, friends — that keep them from playing as much. But I didn't. Until now.
The dice sat quietly on the table at home, unrolled for a week while I was away, the longest spell I've gone without tossing a game for quite a while. When I returned from my trip, the game was there waiting patiently, like it always does. And, after driving nine hours, unloading my car, going to the grocery to stock up on water and returning, I picked up the APBA dice, got the team cards out for the next contest and, in the stillness of the late night and the feeling of the road still in me, I rolled the game.
This time, though, it wasn't to escape, but instead to rejoice.