Sunday, June 21, 2015

Dad

I can't be sure if he wanted to teach me the game, or just get me familiar with it.

This must have been around 1957. I was six years old and dad had taken me to Little Lehigh Parkway, a relaxing scribble of greenway in the middle of Allentown, PA, where people went to get away from the meat packing plants, steel mills and accounting houses of their daily lives.

Dad teaching some English.
Dad brought a bat, a ball and two gloves, and there he taught me how to hit, catch and throw like a ball player. He'd hit me lazy pop ups or soft grounders that died before me in the lush grass, but I learned how to get down on the ball and catch everything with two hands.

I think that's when I first became a baseball fan. With my nascent understanding of how it all came together, he took me to American Legion baseball games, where we'd watch a few innings from the car, licking our fast-melting ice cream cones and keeping score.

How could I know then that I wouldn't become a baseball player, but rather, a sports writer who covered games for a living? For a career. For more than 30 years.

Isn't it amazing how these things play out?

Dad wasn't a player, either, but he was a teacher. A high school English teacher. I have no doubt that he was probably a decent writer, although I never saw anything that he might have written. He probably kept it personal.

So he didn't teach me how to write. But he taught me how to observe. How to formulate ideas. How to anticipate what might be next. I still use those skills.

He later found his calling as a Moravian minister, and when the time came, he officiated the marriage of Kim and myself. That was a pretty good day.

Later in both of our lives, we each learned how to play golf. By then, we each lived in different states, hundreds of miles away from each other. But our vacations were filled with quality time — although not quality golf — while discussing life, families, and the Phillies during our curiously satisfying strolls to 16-over-par.

Cancer took dad when he was only 58, and just like that, I lost my mentor and one of my best friends. That wasn't fair, but he'd taught me that life wasn't particularly fair, either. So I learned about inner strength in the midst of adversity. I learned something about him, and it still makes me smile.

Happy Father's Day, Dad.



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