Life speed

"Remember when the days were long

And rolled beneath a deep blue sky ... "

Dateline: Greyhawkin'

" ... Jimbo ... come out and play with me ..."

That, was the first song my son Jim ever heard.

I sang it to him.

Just me and him.

In a corner of the delivery room.

The nurse had just cleaned him up and had put him in this basinet thing that would keep him warm. Glass enclosed, except for two holes for hands.

As I stood above it, looking down on my few minutes old son, for some reason I bent over, my cheek next to one of the holes in the glass.

And I sang to him.

A stupid song.

A song I made up on the spot.

A song off key, barely above a whisper.

I didn't sing it for the room, I sang it for an audience.

Of one.

My son.

As I sang it, his tiny head turned in my direction.

And a dad fell in love with his child.

Moments, in life.

What life is, this.

What makes us humans, this.

She laid there.


Eyes wide open.

Fists closed.

Arms moving every which way.

Scared. Both of us.



So I bent over and gave her a kiss.

On her cheek.

Daddy's first kiss.

My daughter Ashley's first kiss.

She was 3 minutes old.

Then I rubbed her cheek with my nose, put my cheek next to her cheek.

Whispered, "Love you babe, it's OK."

And her tiny head came to rest on my cheek. Her hand wrapped around my finger as I held the hand of her mother.

There in the delivery room.

Our first moments as a family.

Don and Barb had just become The Barones. Two now three.

And a dad fell in love with his child.

Moments, in life.

What life is, this.

What makes us humans, this.

My son is now, 21.

My daughter is now, 25.

Tough to hug now — one lives in Texas, one is in college.

No songs sung.

No cheeks kissed.

Diapers to diplomas in but a blink. Life speed.

While I rode planes, wrote stories, I went from "Daddy."

To "Dad."

To "Friend" on Facebook.

To txt msgs.


And all of this is racing through my mind as I cross a parking lot and walk up to the mother of Elite angler Bradley Roy.

19-year-old Bradley Roy.

An Elite Angler who is not as old as some of the sweaters in the back of my closet.

As I walk up to Bradley's mom, Jacquie, several yards behind me, Bradley is standing in line, the best angler in the world line, standing waiting to have his fish weighed in, standing to take his place, with the best in the world.

A bunch of small talk between me and mom. Who I am, what I do, she says she knows. Dad is parking the car, a couple of minutes of more talk neither one of us will ever remember.

And then she says this, "We are just so proud of him."

And in my reporter's notebook I write this, "Just wish we could hold him in our arms once again." Parent to parent translation.

Because Jimmy, Ashley ... Bradley ... we are proud of you, very proud, over the top proud, some would say, embarrassingly proud.

And sad.

Because no matter what stage you stand on, no matter what trophy you hold high, whether you become President or Pope, actor or accountant, when we look into your eyes we will forever see.

The baby we held in our arms.

The newborn we sang to.

The tiny hand holding our finger.

Moments, in life.

What life is, this.

What makes us humans, this.

Life speed.

"... didn't have a care in the world

With mommy and daddy standing by..."

He has a six-foot-tall face.

This Bradley Roy.

A three-foot microphone is in his face.

This Bradley Roy.

From Yearbook.

To JumboTron.

In less than a year.

From getting Elite angler autographs.

To signing autographs as an Elite angler.

In less than a year.

This Bradley Roy.

"Just now db, as I'm standing waiting to talk to you, I'm standing, I'm STANDING next to KVD ... I can't believe it."

This Bradley Roy.

"Sometimes when I'm in the angler registration meeting I look around and I start thinking about getting autographs ... and then I remember that I'm in the meeting too ... AS AN ANGLER."

This Bradley Roy.

Born in 1990. Just graduated from high school ... a semester early so he could have all his credits and graduate, get some college behind him, 24 credits worth, and then go compete against the Elites ... against the best in the world.

As we sat and talked, I would ask a question, and he would answer, always beginning with the word, Sir, always ending with the word, Sir.

Quick answers.

Nice answers.

Canned answers practiced somewhere.

Bradley Roy talking about Bradley Roy. The public boy. Me on an imaginary porch, the child behind an imaginary screen door.

Measured words.

Answers at arms length.

A media pro before his legal drinking age.

I was bored with the whole interview.

And so was he.

So I asked this: "What's your favorite video game."

And I saw a slight jerk of his head. The imaginary screen door got unlatched.

"Call of Duty."

I know where you live Bradley Roy, and I'm coming for you.

"Really ... Modern Warfare ... or Modern Warfare 2."

Slight head jerk once again ... slight screen door crack.

"Modern Warfare ... 2."

"What about the game Halo."

"That's actually my real favorite."

"Cool ... what's your favorite tv show ...."

" ... Two and a half men ..."

" ... favorite movie ..."

" ... Shooter with Mark Wahlberg ..."

" ... Rock or Country music ..."

" ... both."

" ... Facebook or Twitter ... "

" ... both ... "

And suddenly, the screen door was gone, and before me stood a 19-year- old child.

Who just happens to be the youngest Elite angler.


" ... who knows how long this will last

now we've come so far, so fast ... "

"He's been fishing since he was 4."

Which technically ... isn't all that long ago.

Bradley's mom is sitting backwards on a spectator's aluminum bench.

His father, Anthony, is standing next to me, moving back and forth, glancing at me, glancing at mom, but mostly looking past us both to the dock, or the waters of Smith Mountain Lake.

For his son.

"In fact sometimes when his dad couldn't find a buddy to fish in a buddy tournament he would take Bradley as his buddy, and Bradley was, what, maybe 7 years old."

Dad nods yes, but never stops looking.

For his son.

"This is what he has always wanted to do ... fish with the pros. To tell you the truth, he was in the second grade when he started practicing his signature, his autograph ... just in case.

"You know, I still have a Mother's Day card from back when he was in second grade and it says, 'Love you Mom, from Bradley Roy.'

Mom laughs.

"It said Bradley Roy ... like I didn't know who my own son was ... it was classic."

"There he is."

Dad had just spotted Bradley pulling up to the dock, mom's head spun right, dad got up on his tip-toes ... and I stopped asking questions, gave them time to be with ...

Their son.

Their memories.

Their life speed.

And if they wanted to slow it down, be my guest.

I know the feeling.

So I put one arm up on the top aluminum bench and waited. Stretch it out mom and dad.

Slow it down.

Slow it down.

"db I used to have Bradley load the boat on the trailer for me while I was in the truck ... you know he was 8 years old, 9 years old, tops."

Dad was talking to me while still on his tippy-toes.

When that happens I know I'm not the one he's really talking to.

He's talking to mom sitting next to him.

He's talking to his son on the dock.

The baby he once held in his arms.

Mom: "I always get this fluttering feeling in my stomach when Bradley comes in ... did he catch fish ... please ... let him have caught fish ... I know his biggest fear is to cross that stage without fish."


I didn't need to look, I knew the shout behind me meant just one thing. His son had a bag of fish.

"YEAH ... a limit ... he's got the limit."

Five fish.

This Bradley Roy.

" ... and let me take a long last look

before we say good bye ... "

I never believed it.

Until I saw the Uhaul trailer.

Hitched to the rear bumper of my daughter's car.

Knew then, that she was leaving.

Leaving me.

On the worst day of my life.

As she drove off to her new life.

Without me.

I cried then.

I cry now.

For my daughter.

For my son.

Curse this life speed.

And wish the universe gave all the dads.

All the moms.

A pause button.

"db ... the hardest thing for me about Bradley fishing the Elite series ... "

Dad is now looking right at me, father to father, face to face, thumb looking for the pause.

" ... is for me to turn him loose because of all the time we spent together on the water ... on the water it wasn't like we were father and son ... on the water we were friends. He was my fishing buddy ... my fishing buddy."

We both turned to look at the boat dock.

And Bradley's dad saw his son.

His fishing buddy, leaving him, and moving on to be an Elite pro angler.

And when I looked, all I saw was ....

A Uhaul van.


"But this is the end

This is the end of the innocence."

The End Of Innocence

Don Henley


— db


Don Barone is an award-winning outdoors writer and a member of the New England Outdoor Writers Association and the Outdoor Writers Guild of the U.K. You can reach db at



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