Filling these voids is an impossible task

November 01, 2005|by BOB PARASILITI

There is something empty about voids.

Voids occur when something present a minute ago is now missing from that spot. Here today, gone today.

Running backs love voids. They live for them. Voids open the door to long, enjoyable runs.

If the voids are filled, it usually means the runner is hit hard and can look forward to long, tedious stays in a whirlpool.

If you think about it, voids are a way of life.

There's grocery shopping, for example. You fill the voids in your refrigerator by creating voids on the store's shelves.

There is marriage and divorce. I'll let you pick which one is the void.

Finally, there is life and death. Life is the ultimate void-filler, death is its eraser.

Two voids hit my little corner of the world over the last two weeks. At best, they were casual acquaintances, but they had an impact all their own.


One, many people here know all about. The other, I can count, on both hands maybe, those who will know who I'm talking about.

The first was Ruth Monroe.

I only had two real instances to work with Ms. Monroe. From there, it was only waves and hellos when we crossed paths - and that, in itself, says a lot about the person Ms. Monroe was. She was calm and organized. She was also full of love and care for those near her and full of compassion for others who surrounded her.

The first instance came early in my career in Hagerstown. I was sent out to localize a story about Michael Jordan. The idea was to see if kids really wanted to be like Mike.

The quest for the perfect angle took me to the recreation center Ms. Monroe so proudly and regally watched over. I remember walking in the front door and to the window by her desk.

I told her who I was and what I was trying to accomplish. She was a little taken aback by it all.

There were a lot of reasons which could have caused that reaction which sociologists would have a field day dissecting, but I think mainly it was because she was worried about how the children who were playing there would react to having me interview them.

She consented, cautiously, and allowed me to enter her "kingdom." I walked around, talking to the kids while Ms. Monroe and some of the employees just happened to walk around, keeping a distant eye on everyone to make sure nothing happened.

Ms. Monroe wasn't untrusting, just careful to take care of all the neighborhood kids. Someone had to, and she took it upon herself to be that agent of all.

The second time I met Ms. Monroe was a day when every emotion she owned was tested.

Ms. Monroe's son, Rodney, was home to watch the 1992 NBA Draft. He had just graduated from North Carolina State and was the Atlantic Coast Conference's player of the year. Big things were expected on this day.

From out on their front porch, I watched the Monroe family and friends go from a huge high to a lonely low on that elevator called reality. Rodney's name was slipping down the list of top draft picks.

When the first round ended, there was utter disbelief on everyone's faces. All projections and dreams were off the mark for Rodney. He was crushed.

Sitting on the other side of the house, Ms. Monroe was feeling her son's pain. She was just as disappointed, but she was stoic in her approach. She embraced her son, told him it will all work out and reminded him that he was still her No. 1 draft pick.

Shortly after, early in the second round, Rodney was selected by the Atlanta Hawks.

There was still something big to celebrate and the cheer went up. In all the madness, there was Ms. Monroe, proud as a peacock, but holding her composure. She was maybe a little stunned for words, but knew the magnitude of the accomplishment her little boy had obtained.

Even in a time of great impact for her family, she was still calm and organized, full of love, care and compassion for all around, and thankful for the very things that were in front of her - family and friends, and the success that comes from being a parent.

The other person who glanced off my life on his way out of this world was a Cleveland sportswriter named Hal Lebovitz. He was a sports writing icon in my hometown for many decades. I was a sports page junkie and read his every word.

Lebovitz's accomplishments are ones I can only dream to match. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame for his work and still had time to be the voice and link of the common fan in Cleveland sports.

I never met the man, but he still made his mark.

My mother, ever hopeful that I would find a job near Cleveland, sent Lebovitz an envelope of clippings, hoping it might lead to a job.

He probably received much mail like that, and most busy people would have thrown the package away. But Lebovitz took the time to write my mother back.

He told her that he thought I had some talent. He said that to be good in this profession, you have to go out and work hard, to find a niche and remember not to forget that you are writing for people.

Lebovitz told her that he thought I was in the right profession, and that it will take time to get the experience needed to move on. And he signed the handwritten letter, wishing me luck.

I still have that letter somewhere. How well I followed his advice is all a matter of opinion.

Ms. Monroe and Lebovitz are two different people from two different walks of life who had a huge impact on the people who surrounded them.

Because of that, like The Eagles have sung, there is a hole in the world tonight.

Their work here is done. Hopefully, we are all better for having known them.

That way, just maybe, we can help adequately find a way to fill the void they left behind.

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

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