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The life you affect may affect your own

July 26, 2005|by BOB PARASILITI

What do you want to be when you grow up?

It's that age-old grandfatherly question that has challenged generations of children.

The answers vary.

A fireman. A policeman. An astronaut. A nurse. A ballerina. A mommy. A daddy. A rock star.

President of the United States.

Cal Ripken Jr., Lance Armstrong, Shaquille O'Neal.

The list goes on forever.

Geography and background each have a large bearing on answers, which change as time passes.

I've decided the next time around I want to be Mike Bowers.

I figured that out after a casual re-acquaintance with someone who was a causal acquaintance from so many years ago.

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For me, it wasn't a blast from the past. It was more like a beat of a heart.

Or a blip that fell low on the radar screen.

I was out with my wife, JoAnn, last week when Mike re-entered my life for all of five minutes.

It started with him asking if his wife could sit in the seat next to us. He said they were in town for a couple of days and were trying to go out and visit every old familiar spot he could before he left this past Sunday.

The next 300 seconds became a beacon you only hope you can find when you are hopelessly lost in the woods.

And lately, I have felt really lost.

In Mike, I saw a lot of the things I believe in and have misplaced.

I felt an energy that I can only hope to rekindle.

And I witnessed a conviction to all things that are important as long as you believe and hold on to them.

Mike was a former North Hagerstown athlete, and very proud of it.

I didn't recognize him. He was one of those thousands of faces I've covered over 18 years here. But he remembered me.

As a player, Mike admits he wasn't an All-Star, an All-American or even an MVP.

I think he was saving any of those accolades for the present because he savored his past so much.

Our chance meeting became kind of special to Mike. With great conviction, he told me I was one of the guys who helped him become what he is today in my very small way.

Mike, a 1991 graduate, played for the 1990 North state playoff football team. It was something he was so proud of.

He remembered me covering his games.

He talked about the critical game North won against Walkersville.

Mike swelled with pride when he brought up what he thought was an 18-12 win over Middletown, which was a benchmark victory in any local team's season. It was especially big to Mike because he had the memory of being the fullback who came out of the backfield to catch the winning touchdown pass.

And he told me that I was the only one of the Fearless Forecasters to pick North to win that game and he always remembered me for that.

He proceeded to tell me that competing for North was one of the most important, most defining times of his life.

He was a product of one of my beliefs in sports.

Mike said he grew up without a father in his family. He didn't have a lot of male guidance in his life until he became a Hub.

He credits most everything that has happened since he graduated to two people - former North football coach Glenn Cross and the late Chuck Zonis, the Hubs baseball coach.

"They demanded so much of me," he said. "Here I am now, in the Marines, and none of the training I go through now bothers me. I remember all the things they were trying to teach us and all the drills they made us do to get us ready. I hated it then, but I appreciate it now.

"Those coaches were the most important people in my life."

Looking at Mike, that was evident.

He was a confident, squared away young man. In fact, Mike said he is a Marine major - one of the youngest in the service at age 30.

He knew what he wanted to do. He knew where he was going.

He was loving life. He was loving his surroundings. It was obvious he had the deep love of his wife, something which is so difficult to accomplish in this day and time. Her smile was shining proof that she was proud of who Mike was and just wanted to share in everything that made him who he is today.

Our 300 seconds, as it turned out, were just as important to him.

He told me that he had a chance to visit with Coach Cross and tell him much the same story and thanked him for everything he did for him.

And then, he extended his arm and shook my hand. "You may not think you do much, but I got to tell you, you helped me, too."

I have never been so honored. I was given a salute from someone who should be receiving one from me.

You see, Mike was joining a Special Forces unit. On Sunday, he was shipped out to Iraq.

And here, in a time when most would probably be panicking about the unknown ahead, Mike Bowers had all the confidence in the world because he firmly believed in the roots from which he came.

I only hope that I can find again those very factors to put me on the same path.

And so, if I ever get the chance to grow up again, I want to be like Mike.




Bob Parasiliti is a staff writer for The Morning Herald. His column appears every other Tuesday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2310, or by e-mail at bobp@herald-mail.com

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