Archive for December, 2010

Chance Meetings and a Gem Amongst the Pebbles

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

It was November 17 and I was standing in a pasture just outside of a cut corn field. Although the sky was dark there was no threat of rain. A steady wind cut across the valley and slapped me in the side of the face. It made the temperature feel 10 degrees colder than it actually was.

As I stood there I could hear a distant hum of dirt beneath the tires of a m0ving vehicle. When the noise grew louder I could see a full-size white pick-up truck  slowly approaching from the tractor road that ran along the side of the field. I didn’t recognize the truck or the two people in it.

A young guy, who I guessed was the farm-hand, and his buddy pulled up beside me and started shooting the breeze. I quickly noticed the driver’s features. He was a young man of about 30. He was unshaven and had a long, reddish brown goatee that peaked at the end. I must say that he had a unique look, almost unforgettable.  Even with a quick glance his image could easily burn into anyone’s memory.

When he reached forward and presented his hand for a friendly hand-shake something struck me that made my heart skip a beat.

A few years earlier I started writing a novel. Since I had a lot of extra time I figured I would get a jump on it and see where the road would lead me. I wanted to be very particular with my characters and their names. I sat on my couch in complete silence trying to find a name that I thought would be fitting for my main character. As names came and went I couldn’t find anything that really stuck.

Then, one night I woke up in the middle of a dream. The name was on the tip of my tongue. I quickly jumped out of bed and reached for a pen and piece of paper on my desk. I glanced at the clock and it read 3:10. I scribbled the name on the paper and clicked the light off. Within seconds  I was fast asleep.

The next evening I started writing my novel. Now, I had my character and away I went. I knew that once I had a good start I could come back to it at any time and continue my journey to the top of the mountain.

Well, time has gotten in the way and I had to push the novel aside in order to write and publish my first book on hunting. The book is filled with real-life stories and was very easy to write.

As I extended my hand and it met his, he didn’t have the hand-shake that I expected. I thought it would be very firm and rugged. Instead, it was a nice easy shake. Then, he introduced himself.

I stood there motionless and speechless. I’m not sure what he thought or even if he recognized it. When his lips moved and his name came forth he was the character in my book. His name was exactly the same. How was this possible? When I picked the name it came from nowhere. I didn’t know how or why I picked it, but now I was staring at a real live human being who had the same exact name.

He didn’t fit the description of my main character. As a matter of fact he wasn’t remotely similar, but the name was unmistakable. I didn’t ask him to repeat it because I heard it just fine the first time.

I haven’t thought about that day a whole lot until just recently. I realized how unique some meetings are. People are sent to us and it’s our job to find out what purpose they will serve in our lives. Some people are sent to help us through hard times, others are sent to make us laugh, while others are there to break our hearts. Each and every person we come in contact with has their own place in our world.

Every once in a while we meet that one person that we are absolutely certain we’re not supposed to miss. It’s almost like our prayers have been answered and they couldn’t have appeared at a better time.

Then, sometimes the person might appear at a great time to help us with something, but the wrong time for everything else. Life is funny about things like that. That’s why we should never get too far ahead of ourselves. We should take things at the speed that they happen and not rush forward. If we are patient things will play out the way they’re supposed to. The situation might bring us happiness or heartbreak or both, but we can’t force the issue.

A few days before the incident I wrote about above, one of my good friends had a similar situation happen to him. He had been working on a novel for the last handful of years. Earlier in the fall he had completed the book and sent it to the printer.

His book was a novel about hunting in the Adirondacks. He was on a personal and spiritual journey at the same time. As he tracked the buck he was after he eventually became close to him in a spiritual way. He called him Old Lefty because the buck had a chip in his left hoof.

Eventually he caught up to Old Lefty and completed his quest, both spiritually and personally. The buck sported 9 beautiful points on his rack.

Well, the same week I met the main character in my novel, my buddy met Old Lefty. His long-time hunting buddy who is a character in the book shot a nice buck that week. It was a main frame 9-pointer with a chip in his hoof. How ironic is that?

Sometimes the things that happen to us are beyond amazing. If we think about things long enough and hard enough they sometimes become a reality.

The last couple of weeks I can’t get these couple of things out of my head. When I met my character I knew instantly why I met him, but I haven’t been able to find out why he was sent to me if that makes sense.

I’ve met a few really significant people since early fall. That happens when you travel a lot. The more contact you have with people the better the chance you have of meeting a really unique person.

I’m still searching for an answer for a few of them. Sometimes the timing of the meeting makes the meeting much harder to comprehend. It seems as if the person appears just a little too late or a little too early. There are times that I wish I had the power to turn back time. If I could turn back time right now I would do it to help someone other than myself. If I had the power to do it, it might even give me everything I ever needed out of life. It’s so hard to tell.  Since our days are so limited I never want to rush forward because I thoroughly enjoy every day.

For now I keep flowing down the river like a drop of water. As I’ve said before, it’s a long and winding journey to the ocean. I will be battered against the rocks, tossed against logs and sent free-falling down waterfalls, but I will arrive in the ocean one day. I won’t try to find or force my way there. Instead, I’ll keep floating and know that the current of the river is in control. Hope will carry me where I want to go and my patience will be rewarded even if it requires a very long wait.

I often wonder if some people close to me have encountered situations like I’ve explained above. Have I ever been someone like my main character was to me? Has anyone ever met me and thought “He was sent to me for a reason?”

It’s probably one of those things that I will never know, but it’s kind of neat to imagine. Was II an established character in a novel before someone met me or was I a godsend for someone who needed some hope? I’m pretty sure I’m not a character because I have a rather boring name so I guess I’ll just hope that I was a hidden gem amongst a beach full of pebbles. Just maybe someone kicked away the lifeless pebbles and gently placed me in the palm of their hand for good luck on their journey. I can only hope so because I would love to go along for the ride.

Two Book Signings

Friday, December 17th, 2010

I’m doing a book signing at The Crossroads store in Chestertown on Saturday 12/18 from 11am-2pm. I hope to see you there.

I’m also doing one at John’s Outdoor Sports on Dix Avenue in Queensbury on Tuesday 12/21 from 4-6pm. Stop in and say hi.

Little Wonders and Timing

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

Today was a rough day on more fronts than one can imagine. Dad made his trip to the doctor’s office to find out what’s going on with that horrible cough that won’t go away. After the visit he learned that he has to be tested for everything under the sun to start ruling things out. Hopefully it won’t take long for them to figure it out.

I worked 11 hours today but it seemed like I didn’t accomplish anything. I couldn’t center my mind and it dashed from one thought to the next. When I finally decided to go home I couldn’t remember anything that I had done throughout the day. It’s amazing how we can go from having a relatively quiet mind one week to an overwhelmed and packed mind the next week.

Whenever I think that I have things figure out something comes out of nowhere and slaps me in the back of the head. All of our lives are based on timing. Some of the best things in our lives come about because of perfect timing while other things are lost in the shuffle because of horrible timing. There’s nobody that’s exempt to the results of good or bad timing.

Timing affects all aspects of our lives just as split second decisions do. Today as I sat at a redlight on my way home from work I recalled an incident at the same redlight from four years ago.  I still remember the day. It was late afternoon of New Year’s eve in 2006. I was in the beginning stages of what would turn out to be an eye-opening and mind-boggling divorce.  Not only was I lost in my own sorrow, it was also the same night of what would have been my anniversary.

I was coming down the hill toward the redlight that day. There was a slight coating of snow on the road and I glanced ahead at the redlight. My mind was a zillion miles away in someplace that I had never been. I really don’t know what I was thinking about. I looked up at the light and noticed that it was as red as Rudolph’s nose. I didn’t acknowledge it and continued on. Just as I got into the intersection of the main road I realized what I had done. I quickly glanced to my left and saw an 18-wheeler coming straight at me at what I guessed to be 50 mph. Although I saw it coming I never reacted………I just kept on driving.

Within seconds I was horrified. I realized that I came within a few feet of most likely losing my life. I realized that timing is everything long before that day but I was assured of it after that incident.

The timing of everything in our lives leads to something else. My divorce led to me writing and publishing my book. Without that experience I would still be doing the same old thing and living in a routine. I would be a single candle in the window of  an empty home on Christmas Eve. I’m not sure if I would be better off or worse off if I was still there. In the end it is what it is and new doors have opened for me.

I had a very long conversation with a friend of mine today. It was one of those conversations that was filled with happiness and a little sadness at the same time.

Throughout the conversation I thought about the whole timing thing again and this was before I even stopped at the redlight on the way home when it hit me like a ton of bricks.

I’ve always tried to help people with any problems that they have. If I’m able to give some insight or lend a hand I’m more than willing to do so. There have even been a few times when I sat there without anything to say because I simply didn’t know what to say.

I feel very fortunate because I’ve helped people with lost pets, parents, siblings, friends and lovers. We all go through it and it’s nice for people to know that they have a person who will listen and offer thoughts from their past that might be similar.

When my world caved in it was nice to see that I had so many people who wanted to help me. I accepted some of it, but for the most part I figured I would keep things to myself and take it on the chin. Heck, I can handle anything……..or so I thought.

My mind has been jumbled lately. I think it might be time to start talking again. My conversation today was nice because it was unbiased and non-judgmental which is something we all need once in a while.

I used to think that I was one of the few people that often felt alone. I’ve realized that many people feel that way. I’ve also realized that a few special people take that feeling away, even if it’s only for a few fleeting seconds here and there. Is it right to ignore the feeling or is it better to acknowledge it?

I’ve made a habit out of ignoring it, but lately I just sit there and smile. I’m not sure where the smile comes from or why it’s there. In the last few weeks for the first time in a very long time I actually felt fully “Alive.” I felt a small bit of satisfaction in knowing that maybe I do make a difference in a few lives.

I’ve basically babbled for the last half  hour and if you haven’t noticed I’m completely lost so I think it’s time to lay in bed and stare at the ceiling. I’ve done that for hours on end in the past and for some reason I think those days might be sneaking up on me again. I’m somewhat lost, but I know where I’m going if that makes any sense.  Sometimes when we’re driving on curvy roads we want them to straighten out so we can push the gas pedal closer to the floor. It’s something that’s not possible but we hope for it anyway. I’m on that road right now.

I’ll leave you with this link to a song that makes me smile. It’s by Rob Thomas and it’s called “Little Wonders.” Life is full of Little Wonders that we’re all able to experience. I’ve been very lucky to experience a few of them lately.  Until the next time try to remember, “The past isn’t usually as bad as we remember and the future won’t be as good as we anticipate. Live in the present because the present is a gift.” If you try to follow this as a guideline life will bring you where you’re meant to be. It might take a while to get there, but something or someone will surely guide you there. Be patient and enjoy the journey.

Little Wonders by Rob Thomas

The Worst Call: Steph Hamner, a Great Man

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

Today was hectic at work. Since I came back to work on Wednesday it was hard to get back into the flow of things. We had monthly data that was due today as well as the vacation coverage that started yesterday. I had all I could do to stay focused and plow through the piles of paper on my desk.

I had to stop at my buddy John’s store, so I figured I would make that my last stop before heading home. It was relatively slow in the store so we had time to catch up on things in between customers coming and going.

Around 4:35 I felt my phone vibrate in my pocket. I looked at it and was excited to see that it was my good friend Steph Hamner from Maine. I hadn’t spoke to him in a while so I couldn’t wait to bust his chops. When I said, “Hello” there was nothing but silence. I could hear a little background noise, but nothing more. I said hello again.

At that point I could hear a woman’s voice. She asked for me. After I responded she told me that she was Steph’s wife which I already knew because I knew the call was coming from his phone. I figured she was calling me to order a book for him for Christmas. Before she had a chance to speak I said, “I saw that it was Steph on my caller ID and I couldn’t wait to talk to him.”

She broke down at that point and I instantly felt a few tears trickle down my cheek. I was in a public place and I couldn’t hold them in. His wife went on to tell me that Steph had died of a heart attack. I was speechless and felt helpless all at once.

She was having a very rough time talking. I could feel every ounce of pain through her voice and it settled into my chest. She told me how much Steph talked about me and my dad. She went on to tell me how proud he was to be our friends and that he had shown her my website.

It was extremely hard for me to absorb. My mind exploded with thoughts after our brief conversation which lasted no more than a few minutes.

I can still remember to this day the very first time I met Steph. It was on a hot, humid day in Pine Hill, Rhode Island during the summer of 1995. It was the final leg (archery) of the IBO Northeast Triple Crown. I was in the top peer group and Steph was in the second group.

He was a big man and talked a lot of smack. He tried to intimidate people with his size and looks as well as his mouth. Since I’m rather passive I looked him up and down and smiled. He commented “I’m going to get you before this is over.”  I politely responded, “Give it your best shot.”

The tournament was one of the toughest ones that I had participated in up to that point. I held my own and gained a lot of points on the second place man, who was Al Lane from New Hampshire.  When the smoke cleared and everything came to a close, I took home third place overall in the Northeast Triple Crown, and Steph was right behind me. From that point forward, we had a mutual respect for each other, and our friendship blossomed.

Although he was a good 15 years older than me, he always treated me with respect. I introduced him to my dad and they hit it off immediately. We all became pretty tight over the next 5-7 years. We traveled all over together and routed each other on while pestering each other at the same time.

A few years after the incident I just wrote about, we were all at a big shoot in Fall River, Mass. At the end of the first day we decided to go out to dinner.  When we arrived at the restaurant we couldn’t find a parking place. Steph had volunteered to drive because he had a fully dressed van that would easily accommodate all of us. As my father rode in the passenger seat, he spotted and empty place near the back of the lot and pointed it out to Steph.

Steph said, “Charlie, there’s no way I’m parking that far away. Reach in the glove-box and grab that thing in there for me.” Dad said, “What thing?” Steph laughed and said, “You’ll see it.”

Dad pulled out a handicap sticker and said, “This thing?” Sure enough that’s what Steph was talking about. Dad started ribbing him about it. Steph told us he had a bad back and he used the sticker in situations where he wasn’t sure his back would hold out.

Dad laid the sticker on the dash and all eight of us piled out and headed for the restaurant door. From that day forward we never stopped busting on Steph about his bad back and handicap status.

Although that was only one event, there were many more just like it over the years. He used to always make things up, too. I could never tell if he was being serious or if he was joking. I’m pretty sure he should have been a professional poker player or a spy…….he was that good.

One thing he was never shy about was his family. We used to always jab him about his wife. We asked how she could ever put up with him. We were convinced that she must be a saint. One thing that he said repeatedly over the years was that he never deserved anyone as good as his wife. He said that he couldn’t even begin to understand how she was able to put up with him. It was blatantly obvious how thankful he was for her and his family. I loved him for that because many men would never tell you that and mean it as sincerely as he did. He was truly thankful for his wife, and he loved her with everything he had. I’m not sure if it was obvious to anyone else, but it was really obvious to us.

I’ve struggled with the news for most of the evening and I’m sure I will for some time to come. Although I didn’t see Steph very often, I considered him a good friend. I know that he would have done anything for me if I ever needed something.

Although the phone call this evening was horrible, it also made me realize something. I must have had some type of positive impact on his life as he has on mine. If I hadn’t, I don’t think his wife would have contacted me. I’ll be forever thankful that she reached out during a horrible time for her and her family just to contact me and tell me the news. In some crazy way, it made me feel really good inside and somewhat special.

He had a voice that I will hear for the rest of my life. He was as unique a man as they come. To be honest, I can’t remember when the last time I saw him was, but I know that he was a guy that crossed through my thoughts on a regular basis.

We played phone tag a few times over the last year. Unfortunately we never connected, which is why I was so happy when I saw his name on my caller ID today. I knew that I was finally going to be able to chat with him for a while. I knew that he would bring a smile to my face, and I would surely get a few laughs. Unfortunately, that’s not what I got.

Instead, I felt a lot of pain in the voice on the other end and it instantly entered into my body. We’re all going to the same place at some point in time, but it seems that some of us go way too early. Steph was a great man and had a lot to offer anyone who was willing to get to know him.

I still remember the summer I saw him four years ago. Everyone around me didn’t know what to say or how to handle things. I was in the bottom of the barrel from my divorce. Most people tried to walk lightly and give the normal “keep your chin up” comments. I appreciated all of them. The one who took the big step was Steph. I hadn’t seen him in a while. We were shooting a practice round before the IBO World Championship in Indiana. He put his arm around me and said “I know it sucks, but you have to take control and make the best of it now. You have a new start, and you can do anything you want to now. I know you’ll do ok because you have it inside of you.”

That was all he ever said about it, and it’s all he needed to say. He was a true friend, and he spoke his mind as he saw fit. I respected him for that and learned a lot from it.We never spoke about it again, and from there, I went on to write and publish my first book.

We meet a lot of people in our lives. Some of them are insignificant while others play very important roles. Steph had his own place in my life. He was a man that I knew would take me in, in the bat of an eyelash, if I ever came on rough times. He was a good man who stuck to his word. If he was your friend, he was your friend for life. If you respected him, he gave the same respect in return.

I’m not sure where my life will go from here, but he will always be a part of it. He made me a better archer by breathing down my neck in tournaments. He let me know and made no bones about it that I would have to bring my A-game to beat him. He made me want to win even more than before.

I even remember one day that he was driving his 18-wheeler through town. He stopped at the archery shop that I shot out of just to say hi. I respected that and realized that I had a true friend.

I’ll always hear his voice and see his smart-ass grin when he knew he got me with one of his tall tales. I always remember shaking his hand or trying to. He would hold his hand out and pull it away at the last second. He would always make up for it by sticking it out, grabbing a hold of my hand and pulling me close to him while patting me on the back with his other hand. He always said the same thing over and over, too, which always stuck with me and does more than ever tonight.  He always said, “I love ya man, I love ya” and he would end it with a hearty laugh.

Well Steph I wish this wasn’t the way I had to do it, but it will have to be ok until I see you at a later date on my journey. I love ya man. I really love ya.

You will never be forgotten. In my world, every day from here is one day closer to you, not a day further away. God bless and goodnight. I’ll see you down the road good buddy.

Steph\’s Obituary