I was sweaty, tired, and could barely see the rim as the night grew dark. The court was lit by a single flood light, but I wasn’t done just yet. I half-heartedly launched what I thought to be my final shot of the night. The ball bounced off the rim, down our gravel driveway and settled by our neighbors barbed wire fence. I’d just made one hundred layups on each side of the basket and I could barely summon the energy to go retrieve it.
“End on a good note.” Dad would always say.
He always demanded that we make our final shot and usually forced me to shoot from my previous miss. I can almost smell the crisp summer night air, filled with freshly cut grass. I still hear the crickets and the neighbors playing next door. This is a memory as vivid as the lunch I ate, today. If there were a single childhood moment I could relive, that would be it. To dad, it was just another night of mowing the lawn and sacrificing his free time to help me with my fundamentals. Little did he realize, these were the moments that would make an impact.
When they involved my dad, the most trivial memories became etched in stone. On Wednesday nights, I remember him driving straight to church from work and meeting us there. I always wanted to ride home with him; by myself, if I could manage it. Every ride, I’d hear about how I had no idea how much he loved me. We’d listen to the radio and talk about the most random things. While listening to baseball scores, he once asked me if I knew what a “Philly” was. He burst into laughter when I informed him that a Philly was a pretty girl.
Dad taught me how to read a baseball score while having me run Reds updates to him while he was working on the mower. When games ended, he taught me about socket wrenches and just the right place to hold a light. He let me stay up late to watch the World Series with him on school nights and didn’t make me go to bed during the countless other games I’d sneak in to watch from behind the furniture, although I’m pretty sure he knew I was there. He took me to Buckeye basketball games and we’d stay long after most fans were gone, I remember dozing off in the back seat on the way home, listening to the post game with Big Bear commercials and Carmen Ohio dancing in my mind.
We all loved going places with dad, because he liked to “spoil” us. He once bought me a Giants jacket on a business trip to New York and it instantly became the coolest thing I owned. I wore it until I was so big that I could barely button it. Another time, he called before coming home from work and asked if there was anything I wanted. Much to mom’s chagrin, he walked in the door with a new box of Legos. Often, he’d get home from work with a new pack of basketball cards, open them with me, and would talk about the players and positions. Thanks to him, pictures of Mychal Thompson, Manute Bol, Jack Sikma, and Terry Porter are burned into my mind. I could go on for hours with these random memories, each as nostalgic and meaningful as the previous.
Mothers spend the most time with their children and are primarily responsible for development. They are unquestionably the most important and simultaneously under appreciated part of the household. Mothers are ever-present and their impact is molded into lives over the course of years through routine and tradition. They methodically sand away and refine our personalities. Fathers, on the other hand, appear less frequently and make a mark in meteoric blasts that, while far less graceful, leave impact marks for life. Ironically, we try so hard to manufacture these memories through special, planned events, only to discover that the lasting moments occur with almost complete spontaneity.
At five years old, I wanted to wake up when my dad was getting ready for work. I sat in the living room, adjacent to the bathroom where he was shaving and watched the news. Suddenly, I saw a headline and ran in to inform him that the stock market dropped over 100 points (the largest number any child can fathom) and closed. He just smiled and said “Craig, the stock market closes every day.”
Not all my memories with dad were so trivial. I remember him always keeping the +/- of the score whenever I was playing sports. He always found a way to build my confidence when I was down and, even with his work and travel schedule, he NEVER missed an event in which I participated. I remember him talking to me in fourth grade about whether or not we moved. He sat me down first to tell me that he had cancer, so that I could be strong for my siblings and my mom. My dad held me in his arms during some of the most traumatic moments of my life, and has been on the end of the phone when I could barely speak for crying. He taught me the importance of a man’s name, of hard work, integrity, and in the beauty of giving to someone who is incapable of paying you back. There have been numerous times at work when I use the phrase “my dad taught me.”
Being a father myself, I often wonder what memories I will etch into the minds of my children. It’s easy to get caught up in the frustration of everyday life and forget that there are two little people watching, admiring, and imitating you. Cailyn is beginning to approach the age where I was when my memory begins to take root. With this in mind, I try to make our moments together worth remembering. I desperately want her to remember times with me, the way I do with my father. Moments where the most powerful and important man in your world, made you the center of his.
There are a mountain of statistics that prove the importance of a father’s presence in the home. Even greater is the example that a present father sets. One of the most common explanations for a girl with questionable self-image is that she has “daddy issues.” If a woman wants to know how a man will treat them when they are married, the best indicator is to watch the man’s father. My wife often tells me that I act just like my father. Sometimes it’s in reference to some of my personality quirks, but more often she refers to the way I honor and praise her, just as my father with my mother, and my grandfather with my grandmother. It’s the greatest compliment she can pay me.
My dad may not remember many the moments I’ve recounted here. The importance of these events are not that they were as meaningful to him, but that he cared enough to have them with me. Now, my duty is to pass on he and my grandfathers’ legacy, by giving of myself so that my children will one day remind me of a relatively insignificant moment of my life that they will hold onto forever with a smile. That is the true and lasting impact of a father.