Memories of a dear friend
Xs and Arrows
March 5, 2022
The last two years have been a troublesome ride for humanity. While the direct impact of the pandemic was felt by many, the indirect impacts and disruptions were experienced by all. This includes deaths, whether they were because of the illness gripping the media's attention or not, the weight of COVID and its impact to everyday life hurt so many.
I lost a childhood friend back in December and celebrated his life a few weeks ago, there is little doubt that the stress and tragedy of the last two years contributed to his passing. He was one of those important childhood friends, one of those guys that if they ever made a coming-of-age film about my upbringing, he would have a major role-played by some notable childhood actor.
See, back in early 1990s in Tehachapi we were just being introduced to video games, so their lure was limited, our life experiences happened together, and they happened outside and usually in some sort of competition. We had multiple basketball courts in various driveways, we had baseball, wiffleball and football fields laid out across the neighborhood as well. I cannot remember a time, no matter the weather, we were not playing something. We followed the seasons too, baseball/basketball in the spring, football in the late summer/fall with the occasional winter game whenever it snowed.
Reflecting on his death forced me into those much simpler and happier times when our concerns were centered around middle school assignments, getting grades good enough to keep our parents happy and what games we planned during our weekends and summer breaks. We invented as many games as we played too, mostly due to the availability of equipment and space. We managed to create an over-the-line baseball setup in a rectangular horse corral, and we were resourceful in a time when sporting goods were not easily accessible in this community, and Amazon was a rainforest, we read about in the Encyclopedia Britannica.
Of course, those games were social, we talked a lot of trash and touted our own skills immensely all the while secretly hoping we won so our comments did not come back to bite us at the end of the game, which was usually not marked by innings or a game clock, but of someone's necessity to get home for dinner. You never knew when the last inning, last touchdown drive or last basket was going to be announced. You lived in an eternal state of sudden death.
Somewhere along the line we played our last inning together, threw that last touchdown pass and made that final jump shot before calling it quits, thinking we would play again but that day never came. Whether it was relocation or the natural separation that life tends to push between childhood friends, at some point we walked off the field together for the last time. I wish I could remember when that was, better yet, it is best that I remain ignorant to that infamous time.
I hope his final destination has brought him the same amount of bliss and peace that being a kid in a neighborhood full of athletic dreams once provided him. Heaven is in fact an eternal front yard, where the games go on forever, the score never changes, and we play like the game will never end. Maybe we will have that opportunity to connect for one more high-five after a clutch base hit or one more touchdown spike after a spot-on pass. Maybe we will get to be kids again.
I have more questions than answers but in retrospect I have more joy than heartache, I am full of great memories, those that shaped me through countless pickup games, homeruns, strikeouts, touchdowns and dropped passes. And while there are only a couple of us still around from those days of innocent yet rigorous competition, I will carry those who have gone before me in my heart forever until my proverbial final at-bat and we meet up once again to swap stories and picks sides for another big game.
Corey Costelloe has covered NCAA, professional and local sports for more than 20 years as a reporter and broadcaster. He advocates for the value of athletic competition and serves as the Vice President of the Tehachapi Warriors Booster Club. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.