The Kid Who Wanted Me To Come Out and Play

The Grief keeps on coming. A couple of weeks ago a former next-door neighbor died. I didn’t know him well, but I knew him when.

In 1971, when I was a high-school senior, this much-younger kid would knock on our door. If my mother answered the door, he would say, “Mrs. Bowers, can Gary come out to play?” And if I answered the door, he’d look up at me with a confident grin and hold up his play-catch ball and say, “Wanna play Catch?” That’s the way I remember it anyway.

And we’d go onto the asphalt of Glendale, Arizona’s Pasadena Avenue and toss a ball back and forth, our throws getting longer and longer as we slowly backed away from each other. He was pretty good at throwing and catching for a kid his age. And sometimes I’d say after just a few minutes that I needed to go do something, and sometimes it was relaxing and fun to just keep launching that ball into the accepting sky. But my recollection is that he was never the one to want to end it.

He was Jay Yeomans, son of Jay senior. Everyone called him Jaybird.

Now he is no longer among us. He has died, of an aggressive form of cancer.

I learned a little more about him after he died in hospice. For instance, he liked Jack Daniels so much that one birthday he got several big bottles of it as gifts. And here’s documentary evidence of that, courtesy of a mutual friend.

20210205_221114

I look at this picture and I see that bold kid again, asking an older kid to come out and play. My message to him in the Great Beyond, which charges no postage but offers no guarantees, is, “Farewell, Jaybird and Jay. I’ll bring a ball to toss when next we meet.”

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