Sunday, June 15, 2008

Paternal Passion

In my family there was no clear line between education and athletics. My father is a teacher and a ball-player who plays his own sports and teaches others.

I’ve spent much of my “adult” (quotation marks used conscientiously) life trying to distance myself from my youthful escapades, and nowhere is that more obvious than in the realm of sports. As a kid, I played soccer, basketball, baseball, and even golfed a couple of times. This was largely due to the fact that my dad is a sports fan extraordinaire. Behind every one of these forays into the world of athletics, my father was my guide. Quite literally. He never hesitated to sign up as coach, if one was needed. In fact, I can’t think of a time that he has ever hesitated to step up and take the lead.

Given that I’ve spent the last 1.5 decades of my life studiously avoiding all things athletic, I was shocked when I found my mouth agreeing to a departmental softball game [Is that my voice? Is that my voice? Oh, well.] about a month ago. I’m glad, now, that my mouth was so agreeable. Not only was it a great time, but I also found myself remembering lessons my dad had taught me. That, and the fabled love-of-the-game actually resurrected itself in me. I ended up hitting 3 homers, and fielding pretty decently too. The result: the grad students squashed the faculty.

It is one of life’s quiet victories to realize that lessons, once despised, are, in fact, invaluable and irreplaceable. My two left-hand-only gloves (the softball mitt and the falconer’s gauntlet) are now peaceably reconciled.

I am grateful my dad taught me how to break-in a mitt. I am more grateful he taught me how to play a few of his most prized games. But most of all I’m grateful for his example of fatherhood: lovingly passing along his passions and teaching something much, much more than sports to the next generation.

Thanks for teaching me to throw and catch;
Thanks for showing me how to overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges, from a severe stroke to (heaven help us) raising two red-heads;
Thanks for being such a worthy hero, pops: I’ll try to teach my young’ns as well as you taught me;
Thanks for still being my teacher.