As crazy as it might sound there are times when I find myself missing umpiring.

Unlike some umpires who can tell you right down to the day how long they have been officiating, I can not. If I were to hazard a guess I would say I umpired baseball and fast-pitch softball for between 15 and 20 years. The only reason I gave it up was because I realized I was doing it for the money rather than the love of the game. I had umpired with people whose motivation for stepping on a ballfield was the cash and I did not want to become like one of them.

While I will not blow smoke and say I was a great umpire, I believe I was decent. Years after "retiring" I was talking with an administrator at South Shelby High School about a non-sports topic and he mentioned how much they used to enjoy having me out there to officiate. I took that as one of the nicest compliments related to umpiring that I ever received.

Something that I took pride in while officiating was my volume when making ball/strike calls while working the plate. As a fan I know how frustrating it can be to have someone whose volume tends to make one think he or she is in a library when calling pitches. God gave me a good set of "pipes" and I always tried to utilize them when on a ballfield.

These days I miss having what I used to refer to as "umpire mode." Now, in part because of age and Parkinson's disease, I have difficulty generating much volume. That can lead to some real challenges in the middle of the night when I need help answering nature's call. Fortunately thus far I have been able to awaken my wife, Nancy, who sleeps in a different room, by calling her name a few times.

My concern over being heard heightened recently when Nancy went on a week's vacation at Oak Island, N.C. Filling in during her absence as my primary care provider was our oldest son, Caleb, who expressed doubts that he would hear my soft voice in the middle of the night, while sound asleep and two rooms away.

What to do? I considered calling the school district to see if I might be able to borrow an air horn such as is used to indicate the end of a quarter during basketball games. However, my intent was to wake my slumbering son, not every neighbor in the block. I also thought about a starter's pistol, but decided a random gunshot in the middle of the night, while not uncommon in the "Hood," would not be taken lightly by the Hannibal Police Department.

What we ended up using was a bell. It was the same bell that Nancy's father had used to summon assistance while on hospice near the end of his life. After his passing Nancy had brought it home and placed it on the fire place mantle where it had sat in silence until its services were again needed.

Caleb responded to the bell whenever I rang it, regardless of the hour.

After Nancy returned home from vacation I was concerned that I might have two care providers showing up when I rang the bell. After all, Nancy had weeks of conditioning to respond to the bell while caring for her dad and Caleb had faithfully appeared for an entire week when he heard it sound.

On Nancy's first night back when I rang the bell only Caleb came. I guess on that particular night he decided he was still the one for whom the bell tolled.

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