If you look at him, you really wouldn’t say that he looked 80 years old. In fact, I hope I look that good when I hit 80. Last Wednesday turned out to be quite an emotional day for me when it actually dawned on me that my Dad was turning 80. I don’t mind saying that a few small tears trickled down my cheek as I sat back and reflected on what that really meant to my life.
80 years-wow! The first thing that hit me, being the sports-minded person that I am, is how many of the monumental sporting events of the 20th century my Dad could remember. Now, granted, the news didn’t fly around like it does today so I wonder how he found out that Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier. Did he have any clue that Joe DiMaggio was on a 56-game hitting streak? Where was he when Wilt Chamberlain put up 100 points in a game? I guess the logical answer to those questions would be to have that conversation and ask him. Likely, he will say that he remembered most of them in between hitchhiking from Ripley to Higginsport to meet a certain woman who he has now been married to for nearly 60 years.
As I travel to the different sporting events in the county, people often stop me and say they enjoy reading my work and I truly appreciate those kind words, but I suppose I should tell them that if I have any writing talent, I inherited it from my Dad. He wrote a column in the local paper for many years until he got tired of doing it for free and it was he who encouraged me to write about Pee-Wee basketball games for that same paper when I was just a small lad. You have to start somewhere.Life takes you on a lot of detours but I believe that you always end up where you are supposed to be and sitting in front of this screen and typing this column might just be where my Dad always thought I should be.
Now obviously you can’t write about sports if it hasn’t been part of your life forever and again I have to thank my Dad for that. He’s still the only coach I ever played for and those memories are so special. Well maybe except for the one where he made me come back and apologize to the home plate umpire after I made a crying spectacle of myself after a called third strike. All I had to do was swing the bat! Lesson learned.
Sports were a common theme in our house, especially for my brother and I, though our sister would likely have not known the difference between a foul ball and a touchdown. At last week’s Reds Caravan, I had a conversation with Reds broadcaster Chris Welsh and I told him about how our family would get a hotel room in the city for the weekend and attend an entire Reds-Dodgers series when those hated rivals came to town and he thought that was special. So did I.
Though sports is a nice distraction, I hope that I learned a lot more than that from my Dad. Certainly there have been times when he was disappointed in me, but isn’t that why we have kids-to learn every emotion possible to humans? Disappointment one minute, joy the next. That’s being a Dad and I realized last week that it has never been anything he said to me that made a difference. All I had to do was just sit back and watch how he handled himself with class, grace, and humility. That’s really what he wanted us to learn. This is how you live your life kids. It was always right there in front of you. Just follow the lead.
On his birthday, he showed an aptitude for technology that I didn’t know he had when he posted a song on Facebook as a thank you for all the birthday wishes he had received. As soon as I heard the first few lines, I was a teary-eyed mess again. Look it up on You Tube—George Burns singing “I Wish I Were 18 Again” and see if you can get through it. When you get to be 80, is that what you want? To be 18 again? I don’t think Dad would want that, though I am sure that he would love to relive some of the days of his youth. I like nothing better than to sit and listen to he and his classmates talk of their school adventure in the early 1950s. I always said if Marty McFly brought his car by my place, I ‘d head back to 1952 Ripley and see if all the tales were true.
Now Dad is 80 and his hearing is not what it used to be and in a bit of odd reverse heredity, he has lost a lot of the sight in his left eye, something that actually happened to me first, which seems backwards in the life cycle. Thank goodness for those large-print books because Dad couldn’t get make it without reading everything in sight. Did I mention where I got my love for reading?
Memories are like the old sand through the hourglass. They drift away in our minds and soon are hard to get back. 80 years later, my Dad must have lots of memories, some good and some bad but that’s life. 80 years as a class act and the world is a better place for it. Thanks Dad!