When I was a 20-year-old college student, my dad invited me to join him and my grandmother for a Cardinals-Cubs day game. Grandma has always been a Cards fan, but ever since Superstation WGN was added to her cable lineup, she has been a fan of the Chicago Cubs, too. I didn’t think that was even possible.

Travis Naughton

The day before I was supposed to meet up in LaPlata with Dad and Grandma, my college roommate Mark offered me a ticket to that evening’s ballgame. Mark was from Chicago, and because his brother was visiting Missouri for the first time, it was decided that a trip to St. Louis for a Cards-Cubs game and some after-hours revelry was in order.

Mysteriously, I was somehow able to procure copious amounts of beer at the stadium and at various bars after the game, despite not being of legal age to do so. Allegedly. With a tall stack of empty beer cups in my hand, I was able to identify an unruly Cubs fan for the helpful security guards assigned to our section, and I received a standing ovation from my fellow Cardinals fans for doing so.

Later that night, I spent a few minutes making out with the Gateway Arch. Allegedly.

At some point in the evening, I was awakened by a loud knocking sound. I slowly realized that I was in the backseat of Mark’s car. A bright flashlight was shining in my bleary eyes. A police officer was asking me where the driver of the car was and I told him, with all sincerity, that I had no idea. It was that kind of a night.

By the time we finally made it back to Columbia, it was past 4:00am. I caught a couple of hours of shut-eye and then dragged myself out of bed just in time to hit the road again, with my 1979 Chevrolet Monte Carlo pointed north towards my grandma’s house, where I was expected to arrive by mid-morning.

The sun had not fully breached the eastern horizon yet when I started dozing off at the wheel. Deciding that it would be unwise to continue driving in my bedraggled state, I eventually pulled over to rest for a few minutes. I woke up four hours later.

Suddenly wide awake and almost sober, I turned the key and…

Nothing. In my stupor, I had forgotten to turn off my car’s headlights when I parked. The battery was dead, and I wasn’t exactly sure where I was. Another decade would pass before I would own my first cell phone, so I had no choice but to wait for help to come along.

Eventually, a kind stranger jump-started my car. By the time I made it to a payphone to call my father, he was quite upset. I explained that I had been having car trouble and that I would get there as soon as I could. I hung up the phone, got back in my car, and…

Nothing. The battery was dead again. I reluctantly called Dad back to explain my predicament and to ask him to call for a tow truck. After a long wait, help finally arrived, and I was off and running again. Unfortunately, enough time had passed that it became painfully apparent that we would not be making it to the game. I called my father yet again and apologized for ruining our plans. Then I turned the car south and headed back to Columbia, where I would continue drinking and hurting the people around me for years to come.

Last Sunday, my dad and I finally made it to a Cards-Cubs day game in Busch Stadium—27 years after he first invited me to do so. It was a cloudless, 78-degree afternoon. We sat in the right field bleachers, among an equal number of Redbird and Cubbie supporters, and watched Adam Wainwright pitch an eight-inning gem. There we were, father and son, each of us sober for the last two and a half years, enjoying a perfect day together.

Of course, the day was not really perfect. My grandmother, now 95-years-old, was not at the ballpark with us. She’s not healthy enough to travel that far, and I will never fully forgive myself for ruining her plans that day a quarter century ago. Nevertheless, I am pretty sure that Grandma Sweetie Pie has forgiven me by now. And I know that she is proud of her son and grandson for turning our lives around before it was too late. If you have been thinking about making meaningful and important changes to improve your life and the lives of those around you, then answer this simple question: What are you waiting for?

Don’t wait another minute. You will never regret allowing yourself to finally become the good and happy person you were always meant to be. And you may even get to see the Cardinals sweep the Cubs, too.

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