The walk has changed only a little over the years. It is one that has been made hundreds of times in my youth. To the west what was once an old decrepit farm house and adjoining fading red barn with mysteries inside that 10 year olds with nothing to do on summer days used to explore hoping to find something interesting under the various Folger's tins and rotted stairs. In its place is a brand new elementary school that once housed all six grades but due to budget cuts now splits those students between the older school a few blocks away that the 10 year old version of myself attended.
But the reminder of the landscape hasn't changed at all. The fields still filled with white and yellow "flowers", fields "1" and "2" still retained their metal bleachers and wooden benches for the various team that visited the mighty Orioles in hopes of coming away with a win. Several healthy trees spotted the grounds as I lugged sporting equipment home. Well, what was once my home, now just two people reside there, joined by a gaggle of little grandchildren as the engineer works his remaining days until he can finally enjoy the fruits of his many hard years in the construction business. The baseball bag on my shoulder wasn't mine anymore, a dull ache from a pitching injury years ago now comes back to life with every step of the black strap pulling down on the bone. It's a minor thing however as my attention is to the little hand wrapped around my ring and middle fingers happy that her father was there to see her pounce on a ground ball with the grace of a grizzly bear on ice skates.
I was once content to letting my life run its course, never changing like that ball field, the twin white hockey rinks behind it, and the old school to the east. A moderate income from a job that does not require much effort nor brainpower to complete, a content spouse, but it was watching the two kids that changed that. They were mimicing my sloth. Not to the point that it was obvious, but they stopped being curious, stopped asking questions (which some parents would throw a party for at time), stopped growing allowing the lights and advanced graphics of the Playstation 3 or Cartoon Network website to turn them into mindless drones.
One thing that a person with a hearing loss becomes whether they like it or not is being very observant. Watching every twitch, every movement, every blink to get those actions to speak so that the words you could not hear or understand would become a sentence. Hemmingway had a "five finger exercise" to paint a picture for the audience that would bring you instantly to my parent's backyard in enough words that wouldn't have the commentor stating "tl;dr" in the box. While I hope to bring my drunken ass to Key West again before I die and have another go on the mechinical bull (inner thigh bruises and all), grab a lap dance in a back-alley strip club, and enjoy being surrounded by friends at Irish Kevin's, that will depend on a little luck in the months/years to come.
Recent I have tried to better my life from a work and academic standpoint, learning more about the profession I am in, and also taking some writing courses which hopefully won't screw up my lispy "voice" too much that some seem to enjoy. But the pressure from being on the go, to be a good parent, student, husband sometimes gets me staring out my porch window at 2am wondering would it be easier to ditch all this for a life in a hotel room and no responsiblities beyond finding food and keeping a bankroll large enough to live. The dark specter of the gambler is one that I playfully state "it's for fun" "it's relaxing" but so tempting to dive into a rum and coke while piece of clay sit in front you and cards that randomly hit the felt determine if the night is a success.
For now and hopefully until I walk my daughter down the aisle or sitting on the porch of my retirement house adjacent to the 16th fairway of an unnamed golf course in Texas or Arizona, the family man who wants that little hand to squeeze a little tighter around his fingers will win out because when I look in the mirror I like that guy, as the gambler can wait as his turn, more specifically until December 2nd, 3rd, and 4th and ya'll will come see him and toast to being able to separate those two and enjoy both for who they are.