From Yesterday to Today: You Can't Always Get What You Want
A New Series
So I’m kicking around this idea.
I’m thinking this might be done in coordination with a weekly podcast.
Part of the reason why my proposed podcast has been delayed for so long is because I couldn’t decide what the central theme would be. I think I finally accomplished that goal.
Let’s see how it goes. Of course, this is just practice. I haven’t made the Podcast yet. Call it a teaser if you will.
Welcome to the Porch
The brilliant writer and philosopher, Leo Buscaglia, stated that the most important moments in his life were centered around the family dinner table, for it was there that he learned about love from his large, Italian family.
For me It was the front porch of a post-war brick home, Tacoma, Washington, during the 50’s and 60’s, and the lessons were about love and life. Some of them were spoken. Some were taught through actions. All were absorbed by a painfully shy, slightly-dorky, adopted kid, the son of Evelyn J. and Dale L. Holland.
I’d like to invite you to join me on that front porch, a time-travel sort of thing, back to my childhood.
Pull up a chair and get comfortable. It’s a pleasure having you join me.
It’s a funny thing about learning lessons as a kid. Very few monumental lessons about life are classified, at the time they occur, as being terribly important. They happen, we might give them ten seconds of our consideration, and then something else happens to capture our rather flighty attention and we move on with the business of being a child. So it was for me. My parents, my sister, my extended family, they were all teaching me about life daily, and obviously I learned from those lessons or we wouldn’t be having this front porch discussion, but at the time of the lesson it was like cherry blossoms falling in the breeze, lovely to look at but not likely to quicken the heartbeat of a ten-year old.
Today I look back and realize just how lucky I was. It could have gone in a terribly different direction, as I mentioned in my memoir “And the Blind Shall See.” I was given up for adoption at birth. Seventy years later I discovered information about my birth mother, and her life, and the lives of her other three children, and that information told of tragic lives ending in tragic ways, lives of addiction and crime and incarceration, all of which I was spared by the adoption. So I was lucky, and every single day of my youth was a gift, but at the time it just seemed like an average childhood lived by an average child.
I know better now!
My adopted parents were hard-working people. They were Midwest survivors of the Great Depression and World War 2, no-nonsense people who believed that hard work was the solution to all ills. There was absolutely nothing, at first glance, noteworthy about them, two people among hundreds-of-millions in the U.S. at that time. They had grabbed their modest slice of the American Dream in the City of Destiny, Tacoma, and there they lived out their lives, building upon a legacy given to them by their parents, and preparing to leave their own chapter in that legacy.
When they adopted, me my Dad was twenty-nine and Mom twenty-six. My sister, Darlys, from my mom’s first marriage, was eleven.
And little Billy Holland made four!
I was shy. I was quiet. I watched, I listened, and I learned, and what I learned is the impetus for this series of articles, and possibly podcasts, by the same name.
You Can’t Always Get What You Want
Can you hear The Stones singing their song of loss and wisdom?
God I loved baseball! It was the sport my dad played with me when he got home after work, going back to me being maybe three or four years of age. He would get home, clean up, we would have dinner, and then we’d grab our gloves, a bat, and a ball, and outside we would go, him teaching me to catch, to throw, and to hit. Those were magical times for a young boy looking to carve out a foothold on life, serious bonding times with the man I adored, a man and his son, standing under the setting sun, brilliant blue skies turning to gray, the warm breezes ruffling our hair. I swear to the gods if I close my eyes now, six-plus decades later, I can almost hear the distinct sound of a ball hitting the pocket of that leather glove, and I can almost see my dad’s smile as his son corrals another grounder and fires a strike to first base.
I was determined to be a Major League baseball player. I could close my eyes, as a young kid, and see myself firing fastballs by Mickey Mantle as he flailed helplessly with his bat. Strike one, strike two, strike three, and the Mick would doff his hat in my direction and walk, subdued, back to the dugout, put in his place by the young southpaw with a gap-toothed grin.
I slept with my baseball glove. Honest to God, I did. I would play catch with anyone willing to give me ten minutes of their time, and if there was no one around I would go outside and fire strikes against the concrete wall that bordered our property.
But it was not meant to be!
The Painful Reality
The percentage of kids who actually make it to the Big Leagues is ridiculously small, and there’s a reason for that: to be a professional in any sport, you have to be ungodly good. I wasn’t. I was a good Little Leaguer. I was a good high school player.
I just wasn’t ungodly good!
The reality of that fact hit me one April afternoon of my senior year of high school. We were playing some team out of Seattle, I was tabbed as the starting pitcher, and I got destroyed. It was like everything I threw, they were expecting. It was like the fireworks on the 4th of July, that’s how badly I was lit up by that other team . . . single, double, single, homerun, double, on and on it went for four long, painful innings, seven runs total, twelve hits, every single ball hit hard. Finally the coach pulled me and, with head hung in shame, I walked back to the dugout and realized the pros were not in my future.
I was still moping about it when I got home that night, and Dad put up with my whining for about five minutes.
“Let’s go outside, Bill, and talk about the game.”
It was a beautiful evening, a Chamber of Commerce advertisement for the Pacific Northwest, far too pleasant for my mood.
“You got the piss kicked out of you today, didn’t you?” That was my dad, no pulling punches. I nodded.
“You’re probably thinking there is no way you will ever pitch in the Majors, right?”
Again, the dejected nod. The truth is not kind to a teenager, not that kind of truth, not delivered with the gentleness of a bulldozer.
“You might not, buddy. Hell, you probably won’t, and I’ll kick it up a notch further and tell you there’s going to be a hell of a lot that you want that you won’t get in life. That’s just the real of it, Bill. But would you like to know what separates the real winners from the losers in this game of life?”
“The real winners in life get up every single day, knowing they are going to fail more often than they succeed, and yet they continue to try their hardest and they don’t give up. Now knock off the pouting, get up off your butt, and go mow the lawn, and I expect the best damned lawn-mowing you are capable of.”
You Get What You Need
Mick sang it, and it’s the truth. What I needed, from that experience, and what I needed a thousand other different times, was a philosophy about life which would help me through all of the setbacks and trials and failures, and Dad provided that philosophy. If you get your butt kicked by life, get back up and keep moving forward. You never give up and you always do your best.
Period! The Gospel according to Dale LeRoy Holland!
Interesting fact: the absolute best hitter in baseball fails to get a hit two-thirds of the time he stands at home plate with a bat in his hand.
A 67% failure rate determines the best in the Major Leagues.
I don’t know about you, but that fact makes me feel pretty damned good today.
Have a beautifully-flawed day, and thanks for sitting on the porch with me today.
2020 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping human to spread their wings and fly.”
H.O.W. (Humanity One World)