Social media is buzzing today with tributes to fathers across America. Pictures ranging from childhood well into the latter stages of life dance across the pages with every click of the mouse. Some people celebrate the lives of their fathers who have passed and others enjoy a few special moments with the men responsible for giving them life. Still, others send heartfelt thanks from out of town.
Yesterday I spent the day with my father shooting in the New Hampshire IBO State Championship. We’ve attended the tournament many times over the last 15 years, but one thing has remained constant. Through the aging process I’m still my father’s boy. In all reality I feel no different than I did when I walked off the little league field at 6-years old when I suffered my first crushing playoff defeat. After receiving a life-lesson about winning and losing he promised to take me trout fishing the next day and that’s what he did.
He filled his backpack with goodies for our trip and made sure he had everything he would need to take care of his son who suffered from Type 1 diabetes. At the end of the day we headed out of the woods with our daily limit of trout. Teaching me the laws of nature he fried them up when we got home. Anything we take from nature should not be wasted.
Throughout little league I was fortunate enough to make every all-star team until those years came to an end. At 13-years old I played in a league called the Senior League. This was my introduction to politics. The coaches played the kids in the clique, including their own kids. The starters weren’t based on talent, rather favoritism.
I wanted to quit midway through the season, but my dad told me I had to finish what I started. I learned the lesson of never giving in to unfortunate circumstances. Sometimes in life you will come across things you have absolutely no control over and these are the times when you must stay the course. Instead of letting other people determine your actions you have to swallow your pride and understand things will come full circle at some point in time.
At the end of the season he encouraged me to get away from baseball for a little while and think about playing again in high-school. Since I loved the game I followed his advice.
When I arrived on the big stage of varsity baseball in my junior year I was glad I listened to his advice. The coach wasn’t overwhelmed by pressure from parents. He kicked a few kids off the team for smoking and he didn’t play the favorites from little league. Actually, the “superstars” from little league had disappeared from the game. I was granted with an opportunity to wear the Tigers uniform and it made me proud.
The Foothills Council was always one of the toughest councils to win. In my senior year our team won the council. Now, 28 years later, I believe that was the last time the Tigers won the council. I guess it’s the little things that we sometimes hold close to our hearts. The things that go unnoticed can bring a sense of pride. I’d never feel it if it wasn’t for my dad, so I must thank him for that as well as a myriad of other things. He got awarded the best fan of any parent from my teammates, too. He never missed a game. Even if he had to come from work he would get to the game and return to work when it ended. Many parents get involved in all of the politics. He never said much. Instead, he came to support me whether I stunk the joint up or seemed like an all-star for a few seconds every once in a while. The support never wavered. Just as it existed back then it still exists today in all of my endeavors, whether it’s authoring books, writing stories for magazines, playing adult hockey, playing softball or shooting in archery tournaments. The support has been strong and steady. Nobody could ever ask for more.
Next to senior pictures in my high-school yearbook there was an option to have a quote listed. For my quote I wrote: College; To one day become as good of a father as my father has been to me.
Unfortunately I never had children, so I missed out on that opportunity. They say everything happens for a reason. I’m not sure if I ever could have matched my father’s parenting skills and for that matter I’m pretty sure very few fathers can actually compare to him when it comes right down to it.
Then, there was the time in college when he spent the night with me in my dorm room. He was 40 years old. Some of my friends couldn’t believe he was my father because they had siblings almost as old as him. When the fire alarm rang at 2 o’clock in the morning we had to file outside. Wrapped in a blanket he made his way outside and asked me what the hell he was going to do. I told him to drop in line and walk back in like he was a student, so that’s what he did. It was awesome. I’ve never forgotten the little things.
One night when my mom had gone out with her friends he drove down to see me at college. He took me and my friends to Binghamton to watch the Adirondack Red Wings play the Binghamton Whalers. On the ride back to campus we learned with disbelief that Mike Tyson had been knocked out by Buster Douglas. The most feared and unbeatable man on the planet had been knocked out. I still remember where I was because the news was so unbelievable. From there Tyson’s career spiraled downhill, mostly because he lost the person who gave him guidance and support while keeping him grounded.
Anyhow, on that night after my friends climbed out of the car I told him he could stay with me, but he decided he would just head home. When I looked at him he said to me, “I love you bud.” Shocked, I couldn’t believe he said it because I had never heard him say it. I knew he loved me, but the actual words stunned me. I told him I loved him and got out of the car. Just as Tyson had been knocked out my father told me he loved me. Sometimes things seem so insignificant, but in reality they are things that stick with us for the rest of our lives.
Since the college days we’ve become inseparable. I’m not sure whether we’re more like brothers or best friends. We’ve traveled all across the country shooting archery tournaments and hunting. We’ve sat in the upper deck of Yankee Stadium as well as right behind the wall in left field. We’ve shared some incredible moments along the way. Many days I think I’m living in a dream and I never want to wake up. Life is so good I feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day to fully enjoy it.
A few months back one of my classmates from Hudson Falls asked a question on Facebook that made me sit back and reflect before attempting to answer it in my own mind. Although I can’t quote the exact wording it was something along these lines: When did you realize you were an adult and no longer your parents little child?
I thought about it and realized that I still feel like my parents little boy. Although I’m on the downhill slope to 50 I still feel today like I’m 12 years old. When I have a bad performance in archery I hear the confidence in his voice even if I can’t find it in my own head. If I miss an elk or a deer he always has an answer. If I don’t know how to do something he always knows how to do it. If I’m looking for something, he knows where it is.
How lucky am I to have both of my parents alive and together? I don’t take a day for granted and that’s why I’ll continue being the little kid with brown eyes who always searched for answers when I asked why this, why that, why, why, why.
Today’s the day to say thank you. Thank you dad for having such an impact on my life. Thanks for picking me up when I was down and being quiet when you knew I didn’t want to talk. Thanks for giving me the chance to do things that others have only dreamed about. Thanks for making me such a big part of your life and giving up things that you might have rather done along the way to make sure I was happy. I never could have asked for more.