We’ve got two outs here in the bottom of the 6th…
The count is three balls, two strikes…
Swing and miss, strike three! He got ’em to chase the high fastball to end the inning. Let’s pause ten seconds for station identification. You’re listening to the XYZ Baseball Radio Network.
I heard a lot of baseball on the car radio when I was little. Sitting in store parking lots, driving down dark country roads, waiting in sun-drenched, gravel ball field lots for my own youth softball games to begin. My dad loves baseball. And if he can’t watch it, he’s going to listen to it. The crackling AM radio play-by-play announcer, interrupted occasionally by interference reminiscent of a dentist’s drill, was the soundtrack to my early youth.
I didn’t pay much attention then. It was just sound. It was soothing on late night, long drives home from my grandparents house, while I sat alone dozing in the pitch-dark backseat. But this week I was the one tuning in the College World Series on my AM dial as I drove home from work. I just intended to catch up on the game until I could get home to watch, but those familiar sounds took me back to all those years ago.
My dad will be in his seat at the College World Series again this year. He’s been to every College World Series since he was a toddler. He went every year with his own father until my grandpa passed away a few years ago. I started thinking about baseball and about my dad.
I may not have written about my dad as much as I have my mom, but just like the stitches on the seams bind two pieces of leather together to form a baseball, my childhood memories of both my mom and my dad bind pieces of each of them together to form the person I am.
So this Father’s Day I’m going to share some of my childhood memories of my dad.
Some of my memories of my dad are actually memories of stories my mom told me about him over the years.
Like the time she and he went to some sort of large event and arrived late to the darkened arena. As they stepped from the concourse into part of the seating area the booming sound of the Theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey started filling the arena. You know the song, daaaa daaaa daaaa DA DAAAAAA Boom Boom Boom Boom Boom Boom. At the crescendo, my dad stepped out and raised his arms in a Victory V stance and slowly turned as he glanced around at his surroundings. Although not many people would have seen them where they were, my mom still pretended to be embarrassed…even though she secretly thought it was hilarious.
Or when they were first married and it was his turn to cook. He chose a recipe for soup, did the shopping, kept her out of the kitchen while he prepared it, and brought to the table a dish containing four bulbs of garlic…as opposed to the four cloves of garlic indicated in the recipe. She said the entire apartment building smelled like garlic for days. She also wondered if it was a plan to get out of cooking in the future. Whether that was his plan or not, it worked. He didn’t cook much after that.
She also told me every time the Chariots of Fire theme would come on the radio, he would fake run in slow motion up and down the hallway.
One of my favorite stories though, was when my mom would tell me about how when I was a baby, every night when my dad came home from work he walked straight to my room to pick me up and say, “Hellooo, peanut!!” She always told me, “He loved you so much!”
Most of my childhood memories of my dad are like snapshots in an album in my head.
I remember him teaching me how to tie my shoes.
I remember him convincing me he could control time. There was a giant clock hanging in the middle of our local mall. He and I would sit on a bench while my mom shopped. He would (unbeknownst to me) watch the giant clock hands for a bit, timing them on his watch, and then when he knew the minute hand was about to move he’d tell me to look at the clock because he was going to make the hand move…NOW. Magic!
I remember him perplexing me by flipping a coin and saying “Heads I win, Tails you lose”. (I was a bitter kid when I finally realized that game was rigged.)
I remember him letting me sit on the back of his easy chair combing his hair into funny styles while he read the newspaper and watched tv.
I remember him hiding Easter eggs around the house for me to find, over and over again. Longer than most adults would be willing to hide things, even when being begged for “just one more time…pleeeeze”.
I remember going to his softball games when I was little and playing amongst the trees on the hill with the other kids.
I remember pushing a toy lawnmower around the yard while he mowed the grass in his 1970s maroon plaid pants.
I remember him playing with me every father-daughter recreational sporting activity available in the 1980s. Miniature golf, bowling, batting cages, shooting baskets at the gym, playing catch in the backyard, frisbee, trips to the arcade.
I remember him leaving me at the neighborhood gas station as collateral when I was nine after he put gas in the car and then realized he’d left his wallet at home. I’m not sure who was more scared during the fifteen minute wait for him to return with the money, me or the teenage cashier who was suddenly responsible for a nine-year-old stranger. When my exasperated mom found out later, she suggested my dad might have left his watch there instead of his daughter.
I remember him keeping the score book at all my softball games.
And, just as this story began, I remember countless nights sitting in the quiet, lamplit parking lots of every store in town while my mom would go in and shop in peace and my dad and I would stay in the car on breezy summer nights. I would turn the car into my ice cream truck, taking orders as I sat on the edge of the door through the open window, using the roof as my counter, then squeezing between the bucket seats to the backseat where I scooped my invisible ice cream on to my invisible cones for my invisible customers. My dad would sit with his eyes closed, listening to baseball on the radio, happy to place his order for invisible ice cream whenever I asked.
I know he reads every one of my blog posts, that he is very proud of me, and that he loves me.
I love you too, Dad. Happy Father’s Day!