I love that new commercial where the dad and son are playing catch in the front yard. The scene opens with the son throwing a wild ball. The dad encourages him and then demonstrates the same throwing form. Even though it is funny, what I like about the commercial is the fact the dad is at least there for his son. It reminds me of my younger days.
Before I ever joined a team and played organized football, I played and practiced countless hours with my dad.
I thought we were just bonding. I didn’t know that he was giving me the tools that I would need to succeed at that sport.
I was too young to know that luck is what happens when opportunity meets preparation.
I just did what my dad told me. His favorite line to me was, “Make it happen.” If he ever said that to me, I was expected to immediately engage in some action.
As a result of all that hard but fun work, I instantly excelled when I finally joined a team. Each Saturday’s game became our family outing. My mom would wear a shirt with my name and number on it, a tradition she continued throughout my career.
I believe my mom ran for as many touchdowns as I did. I loved the look of pride I saw on my parents’ faces after I played a good game. My dad would accept handshakes and pats on the back from his army buddies, and for each touchdown I scored, my dad’s friends would pay me a dollar.
All of that action was fun and good, but what I really played for was that free hamburger and coke. It was moments like that that made a kid think, “What a country!” Where else would you rather be then right here, right now?
After one particular game, I basked in the adoration of my fans for too long. By the time I arrived at the hamburger stand, all the burgers were gone. I took off my helmet and threw it down in protest.
My dad saw me do this and marched across the field.
What I saw was not pride on his face. Instead, he had a look that made a kid think, “I would rather be anywhere in the world but here.”
“Pick up that helmet,” he said. I thought I had displayed some speed during the game, but I demonstrated true speed in retrieving that helmet. I tried to give a weak explanation for my actions.
Dad stood as close to my face as a drill instructor does a new soldier and said, “I will buy you a burger, but if I ever see you act like this again I will whip you butt!”
Funny how quickly things can change. I no longer cared about that hamburger and coke.
My new priority was to survive this and get to go home without getting a spanking.
What happened that day remained with me for life. It was yet another lesson that my dad taught me.
I thought I was bigger and greater then I actually was. He corrected that belief with one close encounter talk.
Dr. James Dobson states, “How do you spell love? TIME.”
That’s what my dad and others like him did. Peer pressure and future problems were prevented and aborted each evening with the toss of a ball. It seemed that for every teachable moment, my dad was right there. His time reinforced my worth.
There would be times when I knew he was many miles away and I would have understood if he could not attend the game, but somehow some way he always showed up. And each time he did, I tried to have the game of my life.
Last Sunday, my dad passed away. He was not a perfect man, nor was I the perfect son, but he was the right dad for me. He taught me to set goals and work hard to make them happen. He taught me to work. He made me responsible and encouraged me to strive to be something good in life.
If there was one flaw, it was that he never expressed, “I love you,” but it was understood by his actions.
Apparently to my dad, I was born too old to cry, because as far back as I can recall, crying was frowned upon.
As I stood by his bedside in that hospital room, I did what he would not allow me to do in life.
“For all the things we should have said that we never said. And all the things we should have did that we never ever did.” – Kate Bush.
The scriptures tell us, “God knew us before he made us.” I am so thankful that God saw fit to give me a dad who gave me TIME.