So I happen to see a guy wearing a t-shirt with a picture of Skip Caray on it and on the front it says "Hello Again Everybody...." On the back it simply says "So Long Everybody" I thought "I've GOT to have one of those t-shirts..." (To somehow tie this back into the point of this blog - my weight loss surgery - I'll say that it's awfully nice to be able to find and wear cool t-shirts again..I love me some t-shirts, but it's hard to find a good one in size giant.) I did a Google search on "Skip Caray t-shirt." I still haven't found the t-shirt but I did find this article from one of my favorite sportswriters Jack Wilkinson. He wrote for the Journal/Constitution for 20-something years and has written four books on Georgia Tech sports (which makes him a good guy in Tim's world.) He mentions having the t-shirt I'm looking for (and still haven't found) and, as usual, tells a good story about his relationship with Skip and how much he misses him.
The first thing I noticed about the article was the name of the website - "Like The Dew." It'll take anyone raised in these parts back to a time when one of the Atlanta papers (can't remember which...the Journal?) "covered Dixie like the dew..." So that was a good memory and prompted to me to bookmark this site for future reading. But what really caught my eye was the fact that Skip was buried with the ashes of several of his dogs. I'll put ego and macho aside momentarily to tell you that my eyes immediately filled with tears. Back in the spring two of my favorite souls on this planet were buried together when we had Mother's funeral. The day of her funeral we slipped the canister holding Buzz's ashes in her casket with her. It was a 'full-circle' moment of the umpteenth degree.
Buzz was a BIG, black Labrador Retriever. I'll probably always have dogs. I've seldom found one that I didn't love and that didn't love me. But no matter how much I love another one, there was only one Buzz. He was the Babe Ruth of dogs. He had the overwhelming desire to love and be loved that all Labs have. But there was a different edge to him - it was his world and we just lived in it...and he knew it! No conversation slipped by without his notice. He'd sit in a room full of people and turn his head back and forth listening to everything everyone said. He loved us all but it was obvious that he worshipped Mother. The intuitive sixth sense that all dogs seem to have let him know that she was the matriarch of the family. If he was in a mood to be hard-headed about something, Mama was the only one who could put the fear of God in him. A slam of her cane on the hardwood floors in her house coupled with a sharp "BUZZ!! WHAT ARE YOU UP TO??" could send this 130 pound bear of a dog into a fetal position.
In 2003, I turned 40 one week and Buzz died the next week. Honest to God, people sent sympathy cards. Everyone knew that he wasn't just a dog he was family. Mother was already in the early stages of Alzheimer's so she was initially spared the sadness the rest of us felt. But one Sunday afternoon not long after he died we took her to lunch. At some point she heard me mention Maggie (the yellow lab who had the unenviable position of replacing Buzz.) When she asked who Maggie was, I said "that's the dog that lives with Rhonda and me." She said firmly "BUZZ IS YOUR DOG." Uh-oh.... I went ahead and told her the truth. This woman who no longer had sense of time nor place suddenly had her eyes fill with tears while she gritted her teeth. She whispered "you should've told me." Looking back it was probably the last time I had the honor being scolded by my mother. The only blessing to her condition was that a moment later she had forgotten.
Mama loved to listen to Skip call a game. The fact that he was so good at what he did probably got him a free pass with her. Generally speaking, she had little tolerance for folks that were prone to make off-color jokes, speak rudely or were "bad to drink." But, because he could make her passion come alive on a radio or television he got that free pass. She liked him and she liked his father. They were - in her words - "baseball people." So when I read that Skip had been buried with some of his favorite dogs those aforementioned tears showed up. Mama would be the proud that she and Skip had something in common. The commonalities probably end there...Mama was never rude and never bad to drink.
Now I've got to get back to hunting down that t-shirt......