Harmon Killebrew died last week. If you're not from Minnesota or a baseball fan, you might not know who he was, but for me, a mediocre Little Leaguer in the Sixties, Harmon was a big deal.
I can still remember my dad laughing as Harmon ran to first base and then quickly swapped his batting helmet for his baseball cap, a swift, practiced move to keep people from seeing his bald head.
Of course, Harmon didn't spend a lot of time on first base, except when he was walked by some terrified pitcher who had nightmares about losing one or more limbs to a vicious line drive. More often, he was seen watching appreciatively as one of his home runs sailed out of the ballpark, which he followed with a gentle trot around the bases, and finally the batting helmet to baseball cap switch in the privacy of the dugout.
I read most of the eulogies in the papers and read one story in particular over and over. I'd heard it before, but it had slipped my mind.
As the story goes, when Harmon was a small boy, the all the neighborhood kids seemed to gravitate to the Killebrew yard. A herd of small boys bent on recreation can be a little hard on the average yard. One day Harmon's mother was staring in despair at her ruined lawn when Harmon's father came home from work.
"Look at this!" she said. "They're ruining the grass!"
"Mother," he said, "we're not raising grass, we're raising boys."
Nothing like a little perspective to slam your priorities back into order.
Harmon's father's message is even more valuable in this day and age. What I find interesting about the story, beyond the invaluable message, is that Mr. Killebrew wasn’t a philosopher, pundit or talking head. He was just a guy, a dad, someone who went to work in the morning, came home to his family as soon as he could, and knew what mattered.
We are surrounded by so many experts. They tell us to eat more fiber, vote for the wrong people, to live prudently but dance wildly. We’re supposed to drink more coffee, less coffee, red wine, mineral water and, after we’re well hydrated, get our colons cleansed. We’re told to watch over our children every minute to keep them safe, but at the same time let them live dangerously so they learn to cope with life. It’s all enough to make you a little crazy, particularly since so many of the advice givers are making big money with their bloviating.
When I was a kid, people got advice from the preacher and the guy at the end of the bar and that was about it. Now there’s no end to the number of the experts who make a living solving other people’s problems. What in the world happened to solving your own problems, to common sense? What happened to giving it your best shot, with the expectation that because you’re human, there would be failures?
I realize that Father didn’t always know best, but I don’t think that we’re any further ahead when Father is paralyzed with indecision because he can’t decide if two cups of coffee a day are good for him -- or is it one glass of red wine?
Some things really are simple. And usually, it’s the important things. Showing up on time, doing your job, keeping your word.
And letting the kids play on the grass.
Copyright 2011 Brent Olson