I’d like to introduce you to Edward. He’s a friend of mine. Actually, he’s more a friend of my son’s. You see, Edward is stuffed. And he’s big. He’s big AND stuffed.
But he’s still cool. REAL cool
I took his picture in 2009, shortly after I won Edward at Elitch Gardens, Denver’s premier amusement park, complete with water park, roller coasters, and all.
Yep. “I” won him. Isn’t he big? That’s my full-sized external frame pack to the right of Edward. He’s a bit bigger than that, though, though not much heavier, if all all, being filled with…
My son named him Edward, I think on the drive home. Edward was so big I had a difficult time fitting him in the back seat of my full-cab pickup truck. Poor Edward! All scrunched up like that…
Oh, the baseball story! Sorry. I forgot.
Ok, so, my son and I were drenched, soaking wet from the log flume rid. I’ll find that picture here in a minute and post it below.
So we were wet, getting cold, and on our way out towards the exit when we passed by a stand full of stuffed animals. There were LOTS of stuffed animals, but there was only one Edward. You see, the only way one walks away with something like Edward is if you knock down all six milk bottles. That’s right, the old fashioned kind, heavy, made of metal, probably steel.
It was one of those rare moments in your life when it seems like things come into focus.
My son took one look at Edward, unceremoniously mounted in the most prominent position in the booth, and said, “Dad! Try this! See if you can knock down the bottles. You can do it!”
Such confidence! Such pride! Such wishful thinking!
Of course I couldn’t knock down all six bottles. Those games are rigged. Sure, I played baseball as a kid. Little League. I even took a few turns as pitcher, along with 2nd Base, 1st Base, Short Stop, and Catcher. I wasn’t a whiz kid. I didn’t have all the plays at all the positions memorized. But I know what to do in the positions I did play, more or less.
But my main position was Right Field. My dad had been throwing high flies to me for five years. If it was up in the air, I could usually catch it before it hit the ground, and in Little League, most right-handed hitters kept me busy enough.
I was pretty good at catching fly balls, which is probably the reason the coaches kept putting me in Right Field.
The key was learning to throw it home, accurately, or at least to one of the basemen as required. That’s something my dad forgot to teach me, as I was more like Wild Thing, throwing skips and bouncers as often as I’d throw it clean over the backstop. The first year I played, I’d be lucky to get it to the Second Base. The third year, my first year in Little League, I was as likely to bean some kid carrying cotton candy way behind the backstop as I was hitting the catcher’s mitt.
But I improved.
So here I was, August of 2009, still drenched, night time, exhausted from having walked all over the park all day long, but about ready to do my level best by my son.
I can’t remember if the two throws were two bucks or five bucks. Didn’t matter. What mattered was the opportunity to win something big, or far the more likely, to walk to the exit with my arm around my son’s shoulder, telling him how much I love him, how proud I am of the young man he was becoming, while dropping a hint or two that life doesn’t always turn out the way we want, that there’s always next year, that sometimes games are just rigged and we play for fun, knowing they’re rigged, but having a good time, anyway, hoping we can hit just one bottle, earning the consolation price, a trinket worth about half the price of the ticket.
But not Edward.
After Edward was home, I looked up shipping him to my son in California. The cheapest I could find was $150. Buying a local copy where my son lived would have cost the same so…
I kept Edward.
Back to that wonderful evening at Elitch Gardens:
Thus, out of even $5 tickets, I doubt less than 1 in 100 people ever won an Edward. Judging by the reaction…
The guy handed me two baseballs and said, “Practice throws. These don’t count. Take your time.”
I did, spending more time thinking about things like the distribution of mass of the steel milk bottles, their center of mass, and their radius of gyration. The way the guy was setting up the bottles, there was no way two baseballs were going to take out six bottles by hitting multiple bottles at once. Rather, it’d have to be more like bowling, where one shot took most of them out and a second shot cleaned up.
Being way out of practice, forty-five, cold, tired, sun-burned and hungry, my first shot went wild. My second shot, however, knocked down three of the bottles.
The attendant handed me the two two baseballs and stood back.
At that moment, an energetic calm quickly descended upon me. I relaxed, wound up like I was back on that old pitcher’s mound, and let fly, aiming for dead center.
Four bottles. Either by sheer dint of superhuman out of practice effort I’d somehow managed to best every throw I’d ever made, or the Holy Spirit was guiding my aim.
But two bottles remained, and they were the hardest split, the two bottom bottles on either side of a six-bottle pyramid. Having studied aerospace engineering, math, and physics, I knew that even if I landed a perfect hit, it was likely the friction of the ball against the steel milk bottle would be enough to knock it backwards instead of skipping it sideways.
But I had to try.
God always wants us to try. He always wants us to give it our very best, and not once in a blue moon, but all the time, day after day, often to just beat down the odds.
I knew there might be a spot which could kick the bottle sideways enough to hit the other one on the far left, but if so, it would be on the bottom right of the right bottle, and I knew I’d have to hit it hard, very hard, to impart enough energy to knock over the other bottle. These weren’t slick bowling pens whose mass was evenly distributed. They were empty steel milk bottles whose…
I wound up, knowing where I needed to hit it, but throwing with all my heart, mind, soul and strength just as the Holy Spirit confirmed God’s will just before the ball left my fingertips.
It certainly wasn’t me. Sure, God used all I had, and I’d just given all I had in faith and trust.
But this wasn’t for me. It was for my son. He’d been through enough hard knocks, through no fault of his own. God had just handed him a gift, one of love, that my son mattered enough to God that He’d chosen this particular moment to remind him — and me — that God was in control.
Sure, I felt awesome! Like Super Dad! But while I supplied the OOMPH!, God supplied the Ahh…, allowing the ball to strike in some impossibly small spot that would kick it almost 90 degrees sideways, and hard enough to topple its opposite corner to the ground.
We kept Edward for several years, always ready for my son’s visits, until a few years later, the day when it was time to let Edward bless another young child in the way that God had allowed that funny stuffed animal to bless both my son and I on that hot August night.
I know how hard it was for him to let Edward go, the symbol of triumph, Dad and Son against the world. Alas, after three years suggesting, he was finally ready, and a good dead was done.
I hope Edward is still out there, somewhere, making some kid happy, as happy as he made my son that night, and as happy as me made me. 🙂
God lets most people know he’s here, namely by telling them, “I’m here.” Often, those reminders are small. Mine sure have been over the years. But I heard often enough and didn’t turn away all the time. As a result, God blessed me with a wonderful son and some great friends.
Every once in a while, however, God might drop an Edward in your lap. Not without your trying, mind you, and trying hard – very hard — often multiple times without any apparent reward at all.
I must have caught a thousand pop flies thrown by my dad when I was a kid. It didn’t make me a great outfielder, but it gave me a leg up on catching fly balls. It took a lot of wild throws from near the fence, though, before my aim improved enough for me to accurately fire home, and when it did, it was OK for throwing pitches pre-little league, but I was back in right field my next, third, and last year playing organized baseball. I threw a football several hundred times after that, but rarely ever a baseball.
Not until that one hot, dry night in August when both my son and I were sopping wet and the Holy Spirit decided to drop in and say, “Hiya!” because wanted to show us something special, something wonderful, something beyond any right of ability or physics could possibly explain how we wound up with wonderful, lovable Edward. 🙂