16 April 2009

Crookshank: the Prequel Prologue

At 53 years of age, Crookshank hadn’t set foot or sneaks on a basketball court in almost 25 years. He had become a shell of a man of what was once a life in full. His wife and baby daughter died tragically during labor when he was 28, and the loss of his great love and the little girl who had already stolen his heart before she was born, devastated Crookshank. Where once he loved and was loved, he now was aloof, occupied simply with busying his life with work. Young Crookshank moved kicking and screaming to Kentucky to live with his father when he was in high school. He found love there and then lost it. It was clear that life had lost its flavor for Crookshank, like chewing the same piece of gum on a long bus ride to California, and things like basketball and friendships were not as important to him as they once were.

That doesn’t mean that Crookshank hadn’t touched a basketball or shot around during that time; because he had. Every day, or almost every day, weather and schedule permitting. It was the one thing he allowed himself to do. But it was on the hoop hanging on a pole out behind the garage in the dirt. And, shoot he did. First his 100 free-throws, right-handed of course. Then his shoot around. Though no longer in his father's jersey as he once did as a boy. Crookshank played ball in work pants and boots, in his shirt and suspenders. And he still never missed. Or rarely.

He eventually became a gentleman farmer like his forebears and father before him, and worked as an accountant for many businesses in Prospect, Kentucky. His mathematical skills that he strengthened as a “sinister” left-hander in school had served him well. So, along with his seasonal farming duties, Crookshank also had seasonal book-keeping duties. But, it was the winter months with no duties -- the loneliest season -- that had their harshest impact on Crookshank.

When Crookshank looked in the mirror each bitter and cold morning before starting his day at 5:45am, he saw a bug-eyed, balding, middle-aged man with a crooked spine and splotchy skin -- sun spots where his hair had once occupied valuable real estate. This poor wretch of a man routinely wore a weathered blue suit with scalp detritus positioned accordingly on strong yet slumped shoulders. Crookshank walked the streets of Prospect, Kentucky with a limp from his crooked spine, and one could swear that an audible, painful groan, though ever so faint, could be heard every other step as Crookshank placed one size-13 black laced-up wing-tip in front of the other.

Of course, none of this was reality; this twisted visage was all in his mind. What was once a random thought, or a feeling sorry for himself had slowly become Crookshank's self-image and "reality." This poor, poor wretch (I say wretch, because that’s what he allowed himself to become) of a man needed help. Not the sort of help from a psychiatrist or group therapy session (though those are quite helpful and appropriate at times); but the sort of help one gets from oneself when you decide to take a stand. To make a mark or draw a line in the dirt of one’s life and say, “it changes right here, my life.” He needed that kind of change.

But, someone else needed help more than Crookshank did, and it was only Crookshank who could assist this person if only he could get out of his own way. If Crookshank could see and face reality as a whole man should, and must, in fact, if he is to help his family, community, church or neighbor.

And, here’s where the legend of Crookshank begins again. I sort of get a lump in my throat because I’m very happy to share this story with you, dear reader. It’s the kind of story that makes your parents happy, and your little brothers cheer (loudly, in your ear). And, it makes you glad that you didn’t make the same mistakes that Crookshank did. The minor legend of Crookshank started when he was 13 and came to its glorious and humble fruition when he was 53. That’s 40 years separation – almost two generations of Crookshanks were born and around to see their most talented Hoosier warrior grace the homestead. Let’s go back to when Crookshank was 13 to set the stage once again, again. Well, one more time. You know what I mean! Shall we?

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