When I was little, I wanted to be famous. I’m not sure exactly why, but I would guess it had something to do with reading lots of history and sports biographies and a wish to improve upon a lower middle class life in New Albany, Ind.
First I wanted to replace Eddie Matthews as third baseman of the Milwaukee Braves, but at 13 I couldn’t hit the ball out of the infield and was, to be honest, afraid of the ball, so I shifted my career goal to being President of the United States. History suggested that a lot of politicians had gotten their start as lawyers, so I studied hard, made good grades, and graduated from law school.
Again reality worked its way into the life equation, and the ever-shrinking goal of being president, then senator and then representative vanished. So I was stuck being a lawyer at a law firm representing Lloyd’s of London and other British insurance companies. Boring. It wasn’t that bad, but it sure wasn’t as good as hitting a homerun to win the World Series or negotiating an international peace treaty.
By the time I was 40 years old, I began to realize that what I liked best was being Dad to my three sons. I loved the part when as babies they turned over, then crawled, then walked like little drunken sailors. I especially liked it when they started talking. They were so fresh and uncynical. I bet Marsha and I laughed out loud raising them every day for 10 years.
When they started playing sports and I could coach them, I knew I had to go all in on being a dad. I’ve been to over a thousand games, watching the lads go from T-ball to college. Today I go to their adult soccer games. Kind of weird. I had so much fun. Glorious victories. Crushing defeats.
But it wasn’t just about sports. I read aloud hundreds of book. Where The Red Fern Grows was my favorite. Both Chris and I cried at the end when Dan and Ann died.
I tutored. I edited. I cooked (my sugar toast was legendary). I refereed, announced and coached simultaneously backyard and basement games/brawls. We’d skip church to play skee-ball on North Avenue. Fun. We bombed alligators with golf balls in Florida. More fun. We were the only people in a theater for an 11 a.m. showing of Braveheart. Freedom!
Now they’re grown, and they (and Marsha) are the best friends I have. Chris and I destroy Nick and Phil in golf. OK, maybe not so much the last five years or so. We went to the Bulls’ Game 2 loss to the Heat. Bummer. We watch the Bears together most Sundays in the fall.
Now Chris has two little girls, Lily and baby Ava. We are so lucky that they live in the area, and we babysit them most Mondays. These little ones remind me of the boys when they were little. When Lily gets up from her nap and says, “Hold me, Popa,” it’s like a warm current rushes through me. The flood of memory takes me back to when the boys got up from their naps. A living breathing photograph.
So I didn’t play third base for the Milwaukee Braves, and the highest elected position I achieved was the District 97 school board. I was an average lawyer in an average law firm.
But I am and always will be Chris, Nick and Phil’s dad. I’m very happy it turned out this way.
Happy Father’s Day to all.