John Lennon of the Beatles was a dreamer who loved sleep. He even wrote a song about sleep and dreams after his wife once shook him awake following a hard day’s night.
“Please, don’t wake me,”
“No, don’t shake me.”
“Leave me where I am,”
“I’m only sleeping.”
A fellow songwriter and poet from the sixties, Rod McKuen, was born in a charity hospital on a rainy day in Oakland, California; his father abandoned his mother. He said his stepfather beat him and relatives abused him. “Physical injuries on the outside heal,” he said, “but those internal scars have never healed, and I expect they never will.”
McKuen often wrote about the rain.
Dreams and rain are two of my favorite gifts from Mother Nature. When the rains come, I often open our large garage door, turn on my eight-speaker stereo, and relax in my zero-gravity lawn chair.
Last weekend I saw clouds gathering outside our window; gray, black, and hanging low. It was going to rain. The sprinkles came slowly, a rhythm like a percussionist’s drum, the drops hammering out a relaxing tune on the driveway and the cement entrance in front of the garage.
As the rain continued, I pulled out the lawn chair and was soon fast asleep.
Within minutes, my phone rang. It was Dave Carter, my former classmate and basketball teammate, calling from Texas.
“Pat, are you able to come to Cullman, Alabama, next week?” Dave asked.
“Why do you want me to go to Cullman, Dave?”
Dave told me he had entered “the old 1962 Wilmington Eighth Grade starting five” — which included Dave, Mike Cowman, Mike Smith, Mark Lane and myself — in a basketball tournament for those 70 years old or older. “I bought five nice Celtic green uniforms for us. Even the shoes are green!”
I told Dave I needed to think it over and planned to call him back within the hour.
Brenda was preparing dinner as I walked up behind her and said I needed to talk with her. “Can it wait until we have dinner?” she asked.
“No. I need to call someone back in an hour.”
“Why Cullman, Alabama?” was her only question. I shrugged.
I called Dave back and told him we would be there in two days. He said he had contacted Lane, Smith, and Cowman and they all were coming, too.
Two days later, we found ourselves in Cullman, Alabama. Our old team was excited. Recalling our record of 12-0 in 1962, we knew we could still be competitive. Dave brought out our uniforms and we all quickly put them on.
They were beautiful! Even the home crowd kept complimenting us on the shiny, green outfits.
We then walked out to the center of the floor and shot lay-ups. The team we were playing looked younger than us, bouncing over the floor and rarely missing a shot.
The buzzer blew, and we huddled along the bench. We were all a little winded but felt that would pass once we got our “second wind” when the game started.
We put our hands together and forced them down as we all yelled that once familiar team cry, “Let’s go!”
Suddenly, a thought entered my mind like an intense bolt of lightning. “Fellas, I just thought of something. I can’t run anymore!” I shouted.
All five of us stopped in our tracks. “I can’t either,” the other four yelled in unison. One teammate admitted he hadn’t run in years.”
We trudged back to the locker room in silence and reluctantly took off our uniforms. We walked up the stairs and re-entered the gym. Then our wives gathered around us, rubbed our heads, and offered their condolences.
We began our long trip back to Ohio.
“Honey, are you OK?” Brenda asked as she shook me. “I texted you three times in the garage and you didn’t answer.”
“I must have dozed off,” I replied in a stupor-like haze.
I told her the story of our ill-fated basketball trip and tournament.
She smiled and said, “That’s a powerful story.”
“Yes, it surely is,” I said, as I laid back in my lawn chair and brushed my hand slowly across my new, green Boston Celtics shoes.
At least it’s still raining, I thought as I drifted back to sleep.
Pat Haley is a Clinton County native and former county commissioner and sheriff.
His book, “Around the Fire: Stories from Here and There” — comprised of his nonfiction stories in the News Journal through the years — is available through the Clinton County History Center in Wilmington, or you can reach Pat directly at 937-205-7844 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org to purchase a copy.