Sometimes, it takes a long while to right a wrong.
This one took more than a quarter of a century.
And while it may seem insignificant to some, the wrong that was done to me back then continued to build on me, festering and making me upset whenever I thought about it over the years. The longer it went uncorrected, the more it pained me when I remembered it.
On New Year's Eve 1989, I left a doomed relationship, moved to another town and began a new life. I won't get into details about why this union was not good other than to say it had all the making that, if we had continued, the next time anyone saw me would be when I was a victim profiled on NBC's Dateline mystery program.
So, I left her, saving my dignity, my sanity and possibly my life.
A few weeks later I tried to get some of my stuff back. I had left a small stereo and some records at her place, along with some books and magazines. I got them back.
But I also had a set of 1985-86 APBA basketball cards there that I replayed that NBA season with. A majority of people familiar with the game would have left them at the girl's home, rationalizing that giving the card set to an ex would be vengeful and almost inhumane.
Alas, most people hate APBA's basketball game. It was a plodding contest that took hours to play a single game. Whenever you made a lineup change and brought in a bench player for a team, you had to stop and figure out math problems to set up templates for the team's fouls, rebounds, assists and scoring for the newest lineup. Make a change again, figure out a completely new template.
Even the game's instructions noted the slow play. It suggested a player use both hands to roll two sets of dice at a time to speed up play. Perhaps Kali, the mythological Hindu goddess of time with her four arms, could knock out a game in an hour or so. For the rest of us, the game took much longer.
There was even a version that shortened play. A player eliminated dice rolls for passing the ball among player and instead just tossed the die to determine who shot the ball. The instructions almost apologetically offered that option for which I embraced. Using the quicker style of play, I could finish a game in about two hours, provided I made few lineup substitutions.
Still, I loved that game. I got into the APBA gaming hobby with the football contest in 1977. A year later, I began playing the basketball game, and it was a mainstay with me for two decades. It was with me during the angst of high school and again when I got my first newspaper job in the northeast corner of Arkansas. I'd come home after a long day at the paper, sit in my sparse rent house and roll games on the floor late into the night.
The game was there for me as a crutch when my father passed away in 1987, giving me a distraction from the loss.
I bought the 1985-86 ABPA basketball season at the highlight of my fan mania for the NBA. A year earlier, I drove to Kansas City to watch the Kings' basketball team host the Boston Celtics in their last year in Missouri. I was hooked. The following year, the Kings moved to Sacramento.
It was Michael Jordan's second year in the NBA during the 1985-86 season. Larry Bird, Dominque Wilkins, Hakeem Olajuwon and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar were stars in the league. It was a great time to be a basketball fan and that APBA game helped convey the fandom for me.
So, when I left the awful girl, I got most of my stuff. But I didn't get the set of 1985-86 APBA basketball cards. She did not return them to me. It may have been an oversight, but I tend to think it was more out of spite. She knew I loved that game.
Since then, I bought a few other basketball seasons. But I got into APBA's hockey and baseball games and the basketball game took a back seat for years.
I still wondered about that 1985-86 season, however, and when I thought about it, I became upset. What kind of person would withhold something that meant so much to someone?
Then, recently, my Illinois girl whom I've often written about here, gave me a package for our one-year anniversary for meeting each other. I opened it slowly and … it was the set of 1985-86 APBA basketball cards. I told her about the loss of those cards once and she remembered! She tracked a set down and I was stunned.
Again, some cynics of the game would say that any girl who gives her guy a set of the basketball game cards probably isn't that into the relationship. I say that my Illinois girl righted a wrong. After 27 years, I was holding perhaps my favorite season in my hands again.
Since getting the cards, I've taken them out of the envelopes and made lineup changes on index cards. I fully intend to play some games. I won't complete a full season replay; I won't live that long. But I will be able to recapture a great feeling of youthfulness with that season, watching to see how many points Bird can put up on the hated 76ers and Moses Malone; how many rebounds the Twin Towers of Olajuwon and Ralph Sampson can grab for Houston and just how bad the Knicks really were that season.
There are always wrongs in life. Live long enough and you'll see plenty. But there are times when some can be corrected. This was one of them.