We come upon it, and it sits gleaming with partial concealment in the tall grass beyond the river’s edge. Whose was it? Was it a child who threw it, or a parent, grandparent, or maybe even a sibling? Did the child search for it, or was it forgotten soon after a futile search in directions otherwise unaccounted for?
Was there a party gathered, a picnic prepared and a blanket covered upon the grassy knoll; and were gloves included in the melee? Was there laughter rumbling through the forest beyond, slowly dissipating in voices joyfully warmth in the sunlight of mumblings incomprehensible and lost among the groves of wildlife hidden behind and beyond? Was the chatter of children full in the morning air, or lost in the heat of a midsummer’s dream? From a lost ball in the field, can reality be reconstructed, or are the imaginations of dreams forgotten and hopes still hinting of a future unfulfilled, forever to be a wistful memory of what could have been, was, or even might have been?
Perhaps, some over-exuberant father threw the ball and it sailed over the head of the child; the child, watching as it travels overhead, then behind, then beyond where the periphery of limits placed in a universe that has been foretold of dangers and mysteries, watches as it bounces a few times, then disappears. Perhaps there is a shout – something like, “Sorry, Tommy…let’s go find it!” Then, a rush and rustling of footsteps, and a made-up race to the finish line: “First one that finds it is the winner!”
Gleeful shouts and joyful shivers, even in the sunlight of warmth and happiness, because for this moment, in this slice of time, a lost ball is bound to yet be discovered, and it is merely a temporary delay in yet an incomplete day’s fun. But the search reveals nothing; the world conceals and refuses to cough up and unravel the mysteries of hidden meanings; and after a time, further voices calling for the consumption of picnics prepared and sandwiches to be unwrapped, and the sagging shoulders of a disappointed child must needs be the focal point of a universe otherwise uncaring and impervious.
Is this what happened, or did an old codger have a ball in his back pocket, was taking a walk with his dog, and it dropped silently out and rolled into the field, leaving behind any such creative imaginings to another page, an unfinished chapter, or a novel unpublished?
Things can be created out of whole cloth, or not at all. What we include in the narrative of our meanderings is a choice, of sorts. The child that walked away that mid-summer day’s loss – of what sorrow did he carry, and what tales did he tell tomorrow to his friends at school? We all carry around narratives; what we choose to relate is up to us.
For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who are preparing SF 3112A, Applicant’s Statement of Disability, in formulating a Federal Disability Retirement application to be submitted to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management – remember that, like the boy’s experience of the lost ball, the content of the narrative is important, and the delineation of the tonal quality of the facts is significant; choose with discretion the substance of the responses, lest the lost ball becomes found again, and it turns out that it was the old codger, after all, and not by the wonderment of a child’s unbelieving eyes.
Robert R. McGill, Esquire