Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Countdown is on...9 More Days!

We are a sport-loving family. Hockey, football, baseball, soccer, track and field, volleyball, basketball, and the list goes on. If it's on TV my son Tyler, who is just short of requiring medication for a severe sports obsessive-compulsive disorder, will watch it for hours. The big sports go without saying - he'll watch the pre-game, the game, the post-game, and the post-post game. Golf? Loves it. Tennis? Okay. Fishing? Sure. The fine art of Curling? Riveting action. Doesn't matter, he'll watch.

We love to go to sporting events as a family. Most especially, we LOVE baseball. Our local team, the Buffalo Bisons, symbolize summertime for us. There is nothing like sitting in the stands on a warm, breezy evening, watching the kids gorge on fried foods and candy, dancing to YMCA blasting out of the big-board and wondering if this time you and the little missus will end up on the "Kiss-Cam". That's livin'.

Over the years our community at St. Luke's Mission of Mercy has been sending kids and grown-ups alike to games through the generosity of the Bison's. It has been a joy getting groups of folks down to Coca-Cola Field to take in the sights, sounds, and smells. For the big trips my wife, kids and I will grill up around 80 hot dogs (give or take one or two dozen), put 'em in buns, wrap them up in tin foil, and bring them to the game for all the fans from the Mission. By about the third inning hot dogs are flying through the air like little silver missiles in answer to "Pass a dog!". By then I usually turn to my wife with a smile and ask, "Is there a game going on?"

For many years the game wasn't complete without the attendance of our good friend, Odell. "Odie" lived at the Mission for several years. He was a big barrel-chested man, with a bigger heart. His mind was a little slow, which made him nothing less than a great big kid. As the game unfolded his loud, booming voice would yell, "Put 'em on that bus!" He ate more hot dogs than anyone at the game. Probably more than anyone in the state. He had a twinkle in his eye and a smile on his face, and those games were his joy. I can hear his laughter even now...

This Christmas Eve Odie was called home to Jesus. He was only 45 years old, but his big heart was just too big, and it gave out too soon. He was a good man. A simple man. He loved his friends and family with everything he had, and was as loyal as anyone I have ever known. He didn't get mixed up in the silliness that gets us into trouble in our relationships; he only knew that if he loved you, you were family. And family stuck together.

Odie and I spent many summers sitting at the ball park together. This year at the first game I attend I'll remember the fun, the laughter, and all that he was to me; to all of us. And I intend on throwing my head back and yelling with all my heart, "Put 'em on that bus!!"

Odell Stewart, Rest in Peace. Eternal rest grant unto him, Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon him. Bright, warm, sunny light, just like at the ball park...


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