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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Who is Uncle Derek?

Yesterday, I gathered up my family to attend a memorial service for a friend from the baseball fields of PacWest Little League. Mike had umpired all of my five children at one time or another. I wanted to honor his life and the hours of volunteer umpiring that he had done over the 12 years we had been around the league. I didn't have the memorial service information as the information had come through my husband, Grant's email. We showed up with our kids and my ESL Homestay student from Korea, Rupert. We didn't see anyone that we recognized. I signed the guest book at Grant's insistence that I sign it for all of us. As I was signing, I scanned the names thinking I might recognize some of them. Not a one was recognized. Oh well, I only knew him from the baseball seasons. He could have known several people I do not know.

We all followed Grant into the community hall where the memorial service was going to be held. I looked around and asked Grant if he was sure that this was it. We didn't know anyone! And the people seemed to be mostly great-grandparent-aged people, clearly not what we were used to seeing at the baseball fields. Grant has coached for years. We should surely have known someone here. I looked around and there were pictures of old people on the walls. I wondered if they were there from some other occassion held at the cove, some kind of History of the Cove theme. I turned around and there behind me was one of Grant's former assistant coaches, Matt. I told him it was good to see him and that we were wondering if we were in the right place. He thought that was an odd question. I could see it in his quizzical look. Why wouldn't the memorial service be here. There is only one cove.

I saw a table with cards and what looked like a gift bag with yardwork gloves in it. I moved over closer to investigate what was written on the envelopes. "Uncle Derek! Who is Uncle Derek? We are here for Mike's memorial service!" Quickly striding over to Grant I whispered, "I don't think we're in the right place. The cards are addressed to "Uncle Derek". I bolted for the door. Grant disappeared deeper into the room. I wanted out of there. I signed the guestbook for someone I didn't know. If anyone ever reads the guest book they are going to wonder who is this strange family who signed Uncle Derek's book. Meeting back in the foyer, Grant told me he had gone over to the food table and saw a cake that read "Happy 90th Birthday Derek". "What? Who is Uncle Derek?"

We are party crashers!!!

Grant sends out a text message and learns that the memorial service is the following week at the cove. Grant mused that he thought Mike would have a good laugh at us. I hope Mike's looking down from Heaven laughing with us because on the way home we surely had a good long laugh at our mishap.

As we headed for the car and my embarassment subsided, I started to ponder that if I didn't think it was rude I would like to go back in and meet "Uncle Derek". Anyone who has lived 90 years surely has some good Victorious Adventurous Life stories to tell. Does he still garden? Does he have any good organic gardening tips for me? I saw there was something that said organic in with the yardwork gloves I had seen in the gift bag. Did he attribute organic gardening to his longevity? Uncle Derek has lived a long time. Mike had lived less than half of Derek's years. I think I want to live a long life, but I also want that long life to be a life well spent.

The part of Mike's life that I saw he spent it giving. He gave numerous hours to volunteer umpiring, a mostly thankless job. Rarely is the "rules enforcer" appreciated. I do appreciate him and that he gave his life to others. He gave in the way he served the kids, and the parents who support them. He will be misssed. And I hope, like Mike, that someday I may be remembered as a Giver.

In Memory of Mike Spridgeon, Umpire Mike.

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