As if I’ve stumbled onto memory,
I’ve tripped in distant past,
A moonlight park, a player’s bench,
An eternal moment cast.
To leave that place I’ve never left,
A soul in disarray,
An old man stares at that moonlit ground,
Still to feel his youth’s dismay.
To know such place as hallowed truth,
Is to know much mental fear,
And to know such ecstasy as was on this ground,
Is to know that he was here.
I shall not forget the sweat and tears,
I used to set me free,
And time can’t change what Love had made,
Where the Pitman Rink Used to Be.
The old place is gone forever. Torn down as time wore it’s warped boards and chipped is rugged asphalt. Yet to me this place shall always exist. It may be important to share such fond memories with those who were so integral in making them. We are not guaranteed any moment past this one, so to share it is a priceless gift.
It surely is an anonymous place to most, and there must be a million such places effecting a million such people as me. Yet I can still remember meeting Timmy Broger down there, and the many different characters who used to play hockey “just for fun” on the weekends and after work. I can remember having to sweep the broken bottles off the place before we played, or in having to shovel the surface before a league game. But mostly I can remember the laughter of friends and the bonds that were forged there. I can remember Derek and John in all of their youth and the teams that we made not just to win, but to just have so much fun that we would never forget those moments. God I owe Derek and John so much for taking the time to build those teams and the memories that will forever walk with me.
Of course we didn’t always use the rink for hockey. I can remember moments burned into my mind forever in the joy that only friends could share. It is remarkable what perspective one can gain with experience, but to relive those moments in my mind is as almost to shout “slow down Tom, enjoy this moment for all of its worth!” In my old man’s eye I look through my youth at such special memories.
To you, my friends, who made one place a bastion for such remarkable memories I can only offer my love in return. There are other places like this with other friends; places where we go by now only in passing but hold such valuable memories. For me such places exist like the Woodbury Height’s McDonalds where I have some awesome memories. Skater’s Choice…The Oak Tree…Ewan Lake…the lake at Marshall’s where I not only skated by where Vince saved my life…the Spectrum where I not only saw my first hockey game but saw my first concert and, yes, Van Halen at least six times…the Pitman apartment…Evesham Skating Center…Down on Mainstreet…Spuds and Suds…Veteran’s Stadium where Nana took me to my first two Phillies games with her old lady’s group…to the late Frank Centrione who gave me two summers of awesome memories with Sam Casella…to St. Joseph’s Elementary…to the Joe Louis Arena where I saw my first Flyer’s game out of Philly and to the 50% of their fans who wore Eric Lindros sweaters…to Aunt Kathy’s house that showed me there was hope and love when I thought neither existed…to Underwood Hospital for not only stitching me up more times than I can count but for also helping bring three of the most beautiful gifts into the world…to the football field at Lamb’s Road Church and the Sunday Slaughter that was only bested by the Friday and Saturday night get togethers…
To those friends who made this life so special, I send you love for the great times I can look back on (pardon for the maiden names). To John and Derek who tolerated me in my presence as well as in my long-term absences and who could see right through me…to Cliff Henderson who not only schooled me about Hall and Oates but who also had the best video store in town… to Mike Parker who helped me up after a beat down in Salem…to Frank Durso who was always there with a ride and a wit and who always was looked for a remedy for being thin (silly as that sounds) as well as for a way for a Chevy to beat a Mustang…to Terry Fisher for trying to understand a mind gone haywire and for forgiving (usually) I am not sure I can ever repay you…to Jeanine Bilderback for being a great friend in a time when I felt so alone in the world…to Kristy Pace who not only exposed me to a new way of thinking but challenged me to think (as well as for getting me to the Joe)…to Robbie Hopkins for being so nice and sweet and giving and to exposing me to her friends who were just like her…to Aunt Kathy who I love with all of my heart who knows…to Chuck Coverly who was my first best friend and will be always there…to Vince Coates who saved my life in so many ways and provided me an escape from hell every once in a while…to Debbie Kidd who gave me a place of refuge on so many levels so many times… to Sister Assumpta who I still cherish in my heart … to Dave and Kristin Fritz who are just too awesome for words…to Steve Bobo and the officers of 6-6 who make that place such a joy to volunteer for…
To my father who I lost as a young boy and have found again as a man…to my mother and stepfather who raised me and provided me experiences that would allow me perspective Now…to my sister who shared with me some hell and I hope will share with me some heaven…to my in-laws who are my parents in heart and mind and who have showed me so many things in such a short period of time…to my niece and nephews who have so much to offer the world the future looks that much brighter…
To my children who found me lost and gave me some light to head to and to my wife Veronica who has softened me with the tough love I needed and gave me a mirror to which I could see myself; she has seen the worst of me and the best of me and still has decided I am worth the effort…
I love you all.
I may add to this list from time to time as memory allows. I send this out in the hopes that we all can share in a special memory and/or a special place in our hearts. If the smiles and warmth I have felt in my heart from the gift of memory you have provided me in this moment can be shared then what a special gift it is indeed.
As for now I leave with some lyrics from a Pearl Jam song called “Just Breathe”:
Yes, I understand that every life must end, aw-huh,..
As we sit alone, I know someday we must go, aw-huh,..
Oh I’m a lucky man, to count on both hands
the ones I love,..
Some folks just have one,
yeah, others, they’ve got none, huh-uh
Stay with me,..
Let’s just breathe.
Practiced are my sins,
never gonna let me win, aw-huh,..
Under everything, just another human being, aw-huh,..
Yeh, I don’t wanna hurt, there’s so much in this world
to make me bleed.
Stay with me,..
You’re all I see.