Episode 24: Memories of Dad
Its been two months since my father died.
Some moments have passed between then and now that bring him unmistakably back to me. There is nothing conscious or intentional about these moments – they sneak up on me when I least expect them. They remind me of how much I loved and admired him; and what I admired him for.
Although at times our relationship was difficult to navigate (mostly through my years of growing into adulthood, sometimes rather awkwardly), we learned over time to settle for what brought us the most joy and to stick to those subjects. We were never going to find it easy to discuss religion, race, or politics – so we didn’t.
We did talk about baseball, golf, and grandchildren. Those were the things that made our relationship with each other the most rewarding. And so it is that in the two months since his death holding my grandson, listening to Opening Day of the baseball season on my computer, and watching the Masters golf tournament all found me both remembering times with Dad and wishing I could pick up the phone and call him.
I remember thinking as a young man, “Don’t be like your Dad!” And while there were things about my Dad that frustrated me, behaviors I did not want to repeat – maturity would teach me that being like Dad wasn’t the worst thing that could happen to me.
I remember the exact moment I realized, though, that I was my Dad. I was helping to coach a Little League team, and was hitting ground balls to the infielders. As I swung the bat to release the next ground ball to the shortstop, I yelled “Turn two,” meaning I wanted him to field the ball, flip to second and let the second baseman throw to first to practice their double play combination.
The shortstop cleanly fielded the ball, but as the second baseman came over to take the throw the ball sailed past his left ear and on to the first baseman. “Pay attention out there boys. I said turn two,” I shouted. The shortstop hollered back, “I thought….” I didn’t let him get any further before I called back, “Don’t think, listen.”
No one saw it, but I did a double take. I thought to myself, “when did you become THAT coach?”. Then it hit me; I heard my Dad say that a thousand times. In a flash, I knew I had become my Dad.
I look in the mirror now and see my Dad staring back at me.
I watch a baseball game and hear his voice yelling at the umpires.
I step up to the first tee to hit a golf ball, and I hear my Dad say – as he did everytime I told him I would be playing – “Hit one for me.” And so I do. A quiet pause that says, Ok, Dad, this one’s for you.
I miss him. He was a good man, and a good father. He had his flaws, but we learned to live with them. He was a great grandfather – I mean that in the literal sense, since he had four of them – and in the descriptive sense: he was truly everything a grandfather could and should have been.
Who do you miss? Who is it that sneaks back into the blessed gift of memory in quiet moments when you least expect it? While I won’t ever see my Dad again on this green Earth, I will continue to experience his abiding presence. It brings me joy. I pray that even in the grief of losing someone close to you, there comes as well the joy of living over and over again everything you delighted in when they were alive.
And may the joy of God’s own abiding spirit continue to abide with you on your own sacred journey’s Into the Mystic.