“You, who are on the road…”
Dateline: The Family Section
The measure of a man comes not from,
the bass raised on stage,
the trophies raised on stage.
The measure of a man comes from,
It is our children who are us, when us is no more. Children are the whole point of human beings. We are not a one and done species. It is a short generation when no young ’uns are born.
We are the past.
We are what was.
We are connect-the-dots, in socks.
Listen not to the so-called “Childhood Experts,” those in suits, those in white lab coats, those behind desks or next to couches, the bigger the words, the bigger the smoke.
Listen to Mother Earth.
The grand scheme of this planet comes down to just this,
when you pass through,
leave it better.
The future is always behind us.
The future lies crying in a crib.
The future begins with the words “Love” and “I Do” and comes in colors of pink and blue.
It is the future that will fix the mistakes of the present.
It is the future that will care for the present.
And while the confetti fell.
And while the claps and cheers filled the auditorium.
And while the present took to the stage,
next to me sat the future,
and the future,
made a prayer request,
“…must have a code…”
“db would you like a Starburst?”
“A red one, I love the red ones.”
And, with that, Laker Howell, Randy and Robin Howell’s 12-year-old son handed me the cherished red Starburst candy, and while I was opening it and chewing it I thought to myself, had that been me and if I was the one holding the candy and a pink Starburst would have been next in line to give out…I would have palmed it and pushed off the awful orange Starburst on the dude with their hand out.
But Laker, instead, gave me his favorite piece of candy.
And I knew that in that one small gesture,
that Randy and Robin,
you are leaving,
During the last day of the Bassmaster Classic, I was sitting in the family section of the auditorium, sitting in fact in the Howell family section.
Randy and Robin Howell are two of the closest people to me out on the tour, and when I asked if I could sit with the family during the final weigh-in, there wasn’t any hesitation in Robin’s answer, “We’d love that, db.”
I came there as a friend, but I also sat there as a reporter, told myself, let’s see how the wife of someone who may win the Bassmaster Classic handles the pressure of a win…or a loss.
The human drama, the famous “The Agony and The Ecstasy” of sport, up close in row “M,” seats 1 and 2.
No admittance unless your dog is IN the fight.
Robin sat in the aisle seat to my right, to my left was Laker in the third seat, and his 8-year-old brother, Oakley, was in seat number 4. All up and down row “M,” and row “N” were Howell family members and friends…even two ladies who Robin told me, “They, when they were younger, used to babysit our kids.”
Robin’s left leg was bouncing up and down constantly. Every once in a while, she would take a deep breath, and slowly release it; she would shift in her seat, run her hand through her hair, look at the hundred’s of txt messages coming in to her iphone, show me some, read me some.
But, in her hand, she held – and would on occasion, rub – a tiny, tattered piece of paper.
“What are you holding?”
“Oh this? It is something Oakley wrote a few months ago at church. I taped it up on Randy’s bathroom mirror so that he would see it every day; it’s a prayer request that Oakley filled out.”
And then she, with trembling hands, showed me the piece of paper that her 8-year-old son had written at church,
and this is exactly what was written on it…Oakley’s prayer request:
“That my dad wins the Classeck.”
The story, it turns out, was not to my right,
but to my left.
“…that you can live by…”
Me: “Dude, how long now have I known you?”
Laker: “Since I was five, I think.”
I used to camp in the same campground as the Howells; and at the beginning of each season, Laker would knock on the door of my RV and tell me that for something like 2-bucks he would come by everyday and take my garbage to the campground trash bin.
Half an hour later, his brother, Oakley, would come by and tell me he would do it for a buck.
It was Laker who would always bring bugs to show me, whether I wanted to see a bug or not.
The bigger the bug, the sooner I saw it.
I think, in the beginning, I scared the kids as much as they scared me; I was like the old granddad the mule dragged home. They didn’t understand me much, and vice-versa.
But it was Laker who showed me nature, one thing in a jar at a time.
It was Laker, who in a family bass fishing tournament, caught the first bass and shouted out to me so that I would see it.
It was Laker who would come by and just ask, simply, “…how you feeling, Mr. db?”
So, as I sat there next to Laker, I leaned over to him and said, “Hey, dude, I want you to do something for me.”
“I want you to take this pen and this pad of paper and just write down how you are feeling right now. Just tell me man, how you doing?”
And with that I handed him my pen and paper while saying, “You write it down, and I promise I won’t look at it until all this is over…deal.”
I have never shared this with Randy and Robin, but back in the media room of the auditorium this, written in the handwriting of a 12 year old, is what I read:
“I feel anxious, I feel excited. I’m about to go crazy. I’m a little scared. I hope my dad wins.”
And so he did, dad won.
Randy & Robin…bask in your great achievement, your win,
raising young boys.
Maybe we’ve got this all backwards, maybe the music should blare, the confetti should fall on the true champions of this planet,
parents who, while excelling in what it is they do, also excel in raising good, decent, loving children.
Some would say that’s a pretty boring idea, whoopty-do-dah, unless you asked the cops, unless you ask the teachers, unless you asked the drug counselors, the welfare workers, the EMTs and ER Nurses.
Once we give life to another human being, to a child, it is flat out our responsibility to raise that child the best we can…no freakin’ excuses.
And money, or lack of, isn’t a factor.
The only factor is,
Randy & Robin, this next year will be a whirlwind for you, Randy, you will now always be known as Bassmaster Classic Winner Randy Howell; last Sunday you picked up three new names, and I congratulate you for that win and those three new names attached to your name.
The name you wear that I am most impressed with has nothing to do with fish.
It is the name…
And to my young friends, Laker & Oakley, whether your father ever wins anything again in his life, it doesn’t matter, your father is not defined but what he does in a boat or up on stage,
your father is defined by his prayers for your well-keeping, defined by the things he does with you, defined by the things he does for you, and for your entire family.
And it is YOU who will define his legacy, you who in time will say prayers for your children, you who will do things with your kids, for your kids and your entire family.
You see, Laker and Oakley, the true heroes of this planet do not score touchdowns, or hit the long ball, birdie, drill three’s, score a hat trick, or catch a 10-pound bass.
The real heroes on this planet are the ones who wipe your snotty nose, hold your hand and say prayers at the table, read to you, drive you places and pick you up.
The real heroes on this planet are easy to spot,
they’re the ones that worry about you,
they’re the ones that love you,
they’re the ones called,
Randy & Robin.
And they are true champions,
“…your children well.”
“Teach your Children”
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young