Sunday, July 14, 2013

Pep Talk: "A Powerful Concoction"

The two hotties sitting across from your humble scribe and another man, leaned in intently as it was suggested, “Back in the day, we called you, The Hot Pants’ crew.”

The sarcastic remark didn’t faze the ladies - our mothers - one bit. They came back with an equal amount of good-natured needling. All this thoroughly enjoyable banter went down on a Saturday afternoon at a well-frequented gathering spot in suburban Kansas City. My home town. 

Bob Dernier, former big-league outfielder, contributor to the radio show and life-long friend, winked at me, and joked, “They’re like Kobe Bryant. You can’t control them. You just gotta try and contain them.”

Amen to that buddy.

What a reunion. What was supposed to be, perhaps, an hour lunch turned into almost three hours of laughing and remembering the good ol’ days of Raytown, Missouri. Where Bob and I grew up playing sports together with a bunch of other guys now in our mid 50‘s. It’s hard to fathom IHOP now had special deals for dudes my age.

We’ve all been knocked around a bit since then. Been to the penthouse and outhouse a few times when it comes to physical, emotional and financial setbacks that seem to frequently interrupt our best laid plans. Ever been there? Sure you have.

Dernier played ten years in the big leagues with the Philadelphia Phillies and Chicago Cubs. The father and grandpa was a Gold Glove winner back in 1984 when the hard-luck Cubs won the National League East title and almost made it to the World Series. He’s been involved with the game ever since retiring.

As we treated our mothers to lunch and chatted about the old times, it became crystal clear how lucky we were to grow up in a fantastic community like Raytown. A suburb of Kansas City on the east side of the metropolitan area.

Wherever we went as kids, we were always encouraged to chase dreams. Our dreams mainly revolved around athletics. Nobody fostered those dreams more than the two lunch guests who giggled like school girls as they caught up for the first time in, oh, probably 35-40 years.

Patsy and Jean should have their own reality television show. Each is approaching 80 years of age and are hilarious together. Bobby D cracked off another good one with, “If we have Anderson Cooper 360, you could call it, ‘Patsy and Jean 160!’”

All the practices and games to attend and sports laundry to wash. Our mothers were at ground zero of a sports-crazy world. Perhaps it’s no surprise Raytown is near the Truman Sports Complex, home to Kansas City’s football and baseball teams, the Chiefs and Royals respectively.

As youngsters, wherever we roamed, parents, teachers, coaches and the parents of our teammates, constantly reminded us of the importance of working hard, making healthy choices and showing respect for one another. It was the way we were raised. Marinating in that type of healthy and productive culture has never left me. For that I’m very grateful.

Life moved on, parents divorced. Moms became part of the earlier-referenced “Hot Pants” crew. Athletic dreams were realized at certain levels and then terminated for a variety of reasons, from head injuries to hamstrings. One-time young kids who chased athletic dreams, became adults, married, had children and divorced themselves.

The unexpected and unwanted twists and turns of life have taken the four people present at the luncheon on journeys none would have imagined long ago during those formative years of the 1970’s.

But there we were after all these years, together. Laughing. Joyful. Jean joked about one of her favorite hobbies this days, visiting the casinos that dot the landscape along the Missouri River: “There’s nothing quite like hitting ‘Jackpot’ at the casinos. It’s better than sex.”

Don’t know about that but this much I do know: Bobby Dernier and I benefitted greatly from growing up in a community that cared for us. Perhaps Hillary Clinton was correct in writing the book, “It Takes A Village.” The community of Raytown, - parents, coaches, teachers and others - loved, encouraged and supported the dreams and endeavors of its youth.

This week, wherever - home, work and elsewhere - attempting to help someone thrive and grow, let’s start with those three key ingredients. Love them. Encourage them. Support them. 

Love. Encouragement. Support. Unlike hot pants, a powerful concoction that never goes out of style.

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