When Ken woke up the next day, his first thought was about what Ralph did to Peggy by assigning her to the drive in window late shift. I guess it could’ve been worse. Peggy will have to roll with it for a while. She’s tough; she’ll be all right.
His second thought was oh man; this is my last week of vacation! A week from today I start my new job. As he thought about working, he became animated. He was more than ready to start his working career.
Besides the baseball activities, Ken spent the last of his vacation days buying and installing shades in his house. Since he’d never installed shades before, things were difficult. After completing a few windows, he got the hang of it. In the end, each installation went faster. By Thursday, he’d finished. Now he was free to concentrate on the baseball game Friday afternoon.
When Ken got to the field, he saw Coach Bernie Davis talking with a very distinguished, handsome man. Ken guessed he was in his early 60’s. Bernie signaled Ken over.
“Ken I want you to meet Homer Tarrance. Homer is an old friend of mine; in fact he was on the University Board when they hired me years ago.”
Homer stepped up to Ken extending a firm handshake. “Hello. I’ve been hearing from Bernie what a great job you’re doing with these boys, Ken. We need people like you to inspire our youngsters.”
Slightly embarrassed, Ken muttered, “Thank you very much. I’m new in town. I took this coaching job because I thought it would help me get acquainted with some people before I start my new job.”
“What’s your new job?” inquired Homer Tarrance.
“I’m going to work in the University admissions office. As Mrs. Hennessey explained it to me; I’ll be showing interested students around the campus and making recruiting trips around the state.”
“Sounds like a good place to start. You’ll make a fine first impression for the University. I’m Chairman of the University Board Ken, so I have great interest in keeping the student enrollment up to capacity. If we have a shortage of even 100 students it makes a terrible dent in the University budget.”
“I can believe that,” Ken acknowledged.
“You know, I may run into you from time to time. My office is in the same building. I’m on the top floor. Keep up the good coaching, young man,” concluded Mr. Tarrance as he walked over to his car.
“Thank you,” Ken called after him. Then he thought, how can this man be so nice and his son so rotten? Peggy will never believe me when I share this conversation.
The game turned out to be a disaster. From the first inning on everything went south. Scotty walked three batters in the first inning. There were also four errors and many hits. The score was 8 – 0 after one inning. By the sixth, Billy’s Bombers were down 23 to 6.
Ken gathered the team into a huddle. “I know we’ve one more time at bat guys. I’m not throwing in the towel. Regardless of the outcome, I do want to say one thing to you.
“Some days you have it and some days you don’t. This may be a ‘we don’t have it day’. When the game’s over, I want nice firm handshakes with the opposition. We’re not losing this game; they are winning it. Please don’t forget this is little league. We’re here for fun. Be good sports.”
The final score was 23 to 8. After the handshakes and congratulations to the opposition, Ken called a meeting of the squad along the third base line.
“There’s something else that’s important I want to say to you guys. Sports is not only fun; it also teaches lessons for life. One of the great lessons sports teaches us is what to do after we lose. It’s important to remember someone loses every game. Sometimes it’s you; sometimes it’s the other guy. Remember, somebody always loses.
“The lesson for life is… after a loss, you have to put a smile back on your face and go forward. When you get to be adults, you’ll quickly learn the path is not always up. Sometimes there are downs. Sometimes there are major downs. The measure of a man is not what he does when he wins; it’s what he does when he loses. I hope you remember that.”
On the way home, Ken stopped to pick up this week’s gift for Peggy. Tomorrow night can’t get here fast enough!
Peggy asked her mother to sit with Ned on Saturday night. “It might be a good idea to come early so we can have a chat. Margo complied with her daughter’s wish. A few minutes before the time for Peggy to leave, they sat down with a cup of tea.
Peggy began with an apology. “I’m very sorry I blew up at you last Sunday. You created an extremely difficult situation for me. I realize now you didn’t know that Ralph Tarrance is a slime ball.”
Her mother smiled. “Honey, I’d never knowingly put you in a situation like that. After you stormed off, I knew you’d eventually understand that I was blameless. I also knew you’d forgive me. It still boggles my mind as to why Homer Tarrance’s son is so rotten.”
“Wait until you hear what he did to me on Monday.” Peggy then related the story of the interview with Ralph and the resultant change in her work schedule.
Margo shook her head. “I never would’ve dreamed he could be so low. Thank you for forgiving me. I promise to stay out of your social life from this point forward.”
Her mother asked, “May we move to a happier topic? I can stay out of your social life a lot better if I know what’s going on. Can you tell me about this man you’re seeing?”
Peggy felt herself blush. “Well, we met when he came into the bank to open a checking account. He’s tall, a little over 6’ 2” I’d guess. He’s younger than I am, but not too much younger. He’s sort of well, rugged. He spent nine years in the Army, eight of them in Iraq and Afghanistan. It took some serious arm twisting, but he finally admitted he won the Bronze Star plus two purple hearts. He came to Hamilton University on the G.I. Bill. He lettered all four years on the baseball team. He told me his grades were good. He also told me the college girls were all too young for him. Consequently, he’s never been involved in a serious romance. I believe him.
“If you believe him, that’s an important thing, Peggy. Is there a reason you feel you can trust him?”
“Mom, I just do. He told me on our first date the only way to build trust is to always be honest. He just came right out with that. The way he looked at me when he said it…. . I don’t know how to explain it Mom, I just feel integrity and honesty whenever I’m around him.”
“That certainly speaks volumes.”
“Apparently he comes from humble beginnings because he’s worked since he was twelve. He never knew his father. After he graduated last June, his mother died of cancer.
“I don’t know why, maybe he’s always been that way, or maybe it was his mom’s death, or what happened when he was overseas. Whatever the reason, he’s the most sensitive man I’ve ever met. He’s even more sensitive than Peter.”
“Thank you for sharing. But, other than sensitive, you haven’t told me much about his personality.”
“He’s fun. We enjoy bantering back and forth. I enjoy being with him. When we talk on the phone, it’s well…. it’s special.
“Am I falling for him? I would say… I think maybe…. A definite maybe. Of course, there are still complications, especially Ned. I don’t care about Ken enough to bring Ned into the equation, yet. I don’t want to upset Ned, until I’m positive there’s something very serious going on between Ken and me.”
“So, he has a name. I was beginning to wonder. Are you concerned about how Ned reacts to Ken?”
“Actually letting Ned know I’m dating Ken is what I’m worried about. You see, Ken is Ned’s baseball coach. Ned adores him. If my son thought I might be falling in love with his coach, he’d be pushing me out the door every night to be with Ken.”
“If Ken is coaching little league he must like kids. That’s very important, Peggy.”
“Ken adores Ned. And Ned worships Ken. The two are really good pals. I….Mom….. I just can’t fall in love with someone because my son likes him. That would be falling in love for the wrong reason.”
Margo reflected on Peggy’s remark. “I think you’re absolutely right on that score Peggy.”
“That’s why I’m keeping him under cover.”
Mom gave Peggy one of those glances that told her a lecture was on the way. “I’ve been meaning to talk about this with you. Now I feel it may be timely. When a person’s in love with someone who dies suddenly, the survivor is deeply hurt. That hurt is very normal. What else is normal is that the hurt party may be too frightened to take another risk.
“Falling in love involves risk. The risk that the other person could be unfaithful, could walk out on the commitment, could die in an accident. It’s normal for a person who has been deeply hurt to be extremely cautious when considering the same risk again.
“But the gain from a new love may be well worth the risk. For instance, do you think I regret marrying your father? We loved each other terribly for 38 years. Would I give those years up to avoid the hurt when he died? Not on your life.”
“Look at you and Peter. Would you give up the ten years you had with Peter if you could avoid the pain of the last two years?”
“No, of course not. I’d never wish I didn’t marry Peter. Peter was worth the risk.”
“Well, this Ken might be worth the risk also.”
“Mom, he’s just a mirage on the horizon.”
“How often does this mirage call you on the phone?”
“At least once a day, sometimes even twice.” As Peggy responded, she could feel herself blushing.
“Sounds like a pretty specific mirage to me.”