Happy Father’s Day
When I think of my Dad…I think of hikes in the nearby woods.
I think of footraces in the backyard. The ones where he hung back until finally pulling past me. He didn’t let me win, and that was a good thing.
I think of the 36 years he spent working behind the barbed-wire topped walls of a medium-security state correctional institution. Also known as a prison. Know what medium security means? That at least 400 of the 2,100 inmates are serving life without the possibility of parole. Like those odds? That’s hard time.
I think of him teaching me. Like when I asked him about those inmates, him saying to me “They did some things that were wrong. You treat them the way you’d want to be treated and everything is fine. Same as anybody.”
I think of him smoking, rarely, Phillies cigars after getting out of our non-flashy but still effective above ground backyard pool.
Speaking of Phillies, I remember us leaving really early from our home in Northeast Pennsylvania, before the heat rose, to drive to Philadelphia. Eating hoagies in the parking lot then heading into Veteran’s Stadium to watch the Phillies play. The heat was way up by that time, but it was still a fun time. Then getting back in the car to drive home. That’s what a guy who pulled his 9-to-5 behind prison walls did on the weekend: Drove four hours round trip to sit in the summer heat so his kids could watch baseball.
I think of him coming out of the stands – after a day behind those barbed wire walls – to substitute umpire my Little League games. He’d never go behind the plate, though. Once, I remember, when I was the second baseman, applying a tag high on the runner trying to steal second base. He called the runner out. Blew the call. After the game I said “Dad, that was a pretty high tag I did.” “I know,” he said “but you were right there and the throw came in pretty good. I just called it.” (Today, if a parent blew a call, some other dumb parent would probably start a nuclear incident.)
I remember him trying to teach me how to tie knots on a strap of old clothesline. I was horrible. He was great, ex-Coast Guardsman that he was.
I remember him, one late Sunday Fall afternoon that smelled like wet leave after a hike in the woods, making me a sandwich with TOASTED WHITE BREAD! I thought that was the most exotic thing I had ever had, and to this day, may be the best sandwich I ever had. Because he made it.
I remember him shoveling snow in the winter, raking leaves in the fall, cutting the high new grass in the spring, washing the car in the driveway in the summer.
I remember him being there when I needed him to be, hanging back when I didn’t.
I remember him teaching me, even if he didn’t know he was doing it, what it meant to be a father. So that now, me with three little kids and a reservoir of patience that ebbs and flows, trying to do the right thing, to not raise my voice, to show, to teach.
Just like my Dad.
To all the fathers out there, Happy Father’s Day. We’re part of a great club.
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