Other than a brief time when I let a friend stay at my home while he recuperated from a rough divorce, I've played the APBA replay baseball games alone in the stillness of my own solitude for the past 10 years since my wife passed away.
At times, I may have played music in the background, or left a ball game on the television set while tossing the games, but for the most part the games were done in relative quiet. Other than the noise of the tumbling dice of the game on the rubber mouse pad I use to roll the die, there was mostly silence.
All that has changed and it gives some excuse as to why I've not written anything here in the past four months, and why I've not really fully delved into the 1991 baseball replay I began a year ago.
Frequent readers know about my Illinois girl — the girl I met in northern Illinois last September who changed my world and brought my heart back to life. I spent the ensuing nine months traveling to see her. There wasn't a lot of time to roll games or to update the replay when I was constantly on the road making the 554-mile trip to her home. I used up my vacation days at work by mid-year and on a few occasions actually drove up there on a Saturday and returned late Sunday. It was a 17-hour round trip to see her for about 20 hours then. Such is love.
I made the trip up there 16 times. On the 15th trip back, I learned what true love was, too. It's not the hand-holding in the park, starry-eyed gazes at each other, sharing food and giggling romantic montage while some upbeat Monkees' song plays in the background.
No, I learned the real meaning of love at 10:45 p.m in Effingham, Ill., on May 29. I was heading back home with my Illinois girl's two cats in carrying cases in my back seat. I brought them with me to help her out; she was in the process of selling her home and we felt they didn't need to be part of the chaos of moving.
They had dumped over their water bowls and cat litter boxes, making a thick muddy paste. The smell of cat pee, scented litter and Fear (both theirs and mine) sweltered in the car. Their yowls were loud enough to drown out my own. I looked in the back seat to calm the cats and I saw one's paw reaching out of her cage, clawing at the other cage in an attempt, it appeared, to free her brother cat. I still had more than four hours left to drive. I offered a prayer to the huge cross that serves as a tourist stop alongside I-57 at Effingham for peace and serenity among cats and drove on.
Other than the time with my cat passengers, I made the trip home alone 15 times. On the 16th trip back, I didn't travel alone. My Illinois girl came with me. She sold her house, packed her things, loaded the dog in the car, hopped in and and moved south.
I went from being totally alone to having a person, a dog, two cats, shoes and clothes galore, makeup all over the bathroom, healthy food in the refrigerator and noise. Blissful noise. And I've spent a lot of time learning how to care for someone again.
So, there's not been much time for APBA games as we adjust to life together. We walk the dog each night in the neighborhood, go to Wal-Mart and the grocery store often. We've joined a gym and watch movies and television (Some day I'll tell you about our binge watching of the Discovery Channel's “Naked and Afraid” program — that odd “reality” show where people drop their pants and live in some Amazon jungle for 21 days eating grubs and building things out of sticks).
But I did find time to roll a few games. And once, my Illinois girl who I will hence refer to her by name since she is now in Arkansas, actually rolled part of a game with me. It was a contest between Kansas City and Detroit in the 1991 replay I'm on.
I showed Holly how the game worked and explained in part my obsession of the APBA games for the past 39 years. Terry Shumpert was at bat for the Royals with one out in the bottom of the ninth. The Tigers were winning.
She tossed the dice on the mouse pad and the result was a “24” on Shumpert's card. The second basemen grounded into a double play, ending the game.
I'm still playing some games. The 1991 season replay is on the slowest pace I've ever done. But it's okay. The game has always been part of my life, regardless of where I was or who I was with. This time, it fits in between two cats, a dog and lots of love.