Yesterday was my little brother’s birthday. If he were still alive today, he would have turned 50 years old. Sitting with my notebook the morning, I took a few minutes break from worrying about the current global pandemic to remember him. Allow me to recreate a small moment when my brother and I were around 9 and 11 years old.
Working together, we carried the heavy box into our new family room. With its brightly colored orange shag carpet, this room was going to be perfect. So big! Removing the oversized Tinker Toys from the box, my brother and I excitedly initiated construction. For the next half hour, piece by piece, we built our first soccer goal in the new house. Over my brother’s shoulder, I gazed out our new downstairs window and watched as the Oregon rain intensified. Beside me, the Nerf soccer ball awaited quietly. Definitely a good day for indoor soccer, I thought to myself.
Finally, the goal was completed. “But wait!” I said. “We need a net, don’t we?”
“Hold on,” my brother said, his face optimistic. “I’ll ask mom.” Out of the room, down the short hallway, and up the stairs he dashed. In a few minutes he’d returned, awkwardly carrying an old, mustard-colored bedspread. “We can use this!” he chirped.
“Perfect,” I said smiling.
Many rainy days were spent in that basement family room playing indoor soccer. We really didn’t play competitively, but rather acted out improvised games between fictional teams we had invented. Since we were big Portland Timbers fans in the 1970s and attended many games with my parents, my brother and I created entire rosters of fictional teams and pitted them against one another in our own imaginary and dramatic league. My mother’s curtains in the basement, I will admit, suffered greatly, as many stray shots on goal found their way toward the plastic hangers. But the allure of pretend major league soccer games proved too great for my brother and I, so the damage continued on for some time.
The last time I spoke with my brother was February, 1997… 23 years ago. A car accident took his life that month, but he has lived on in my heart since then.
Happy Birthday to Sean Kelly Ball, born March 20th, 1970.