I'm never sure how many kids I have. Some days there will be nine and on others, 12. There are upsetting days, like the one recently when I had just four. And then there are days like our first game, when I had 15, which finally convinced me that elementary school teachers should be paid like doctors.
No, I'm not a Travis Henry-type who can't keep up with all his children; I'm just a 21 year old Little League coach of a group of mostly seven and eight year olds, who are fascinated with the dirt in our grassless infield, but want no part of the ball rolling in it. More than once, I've asked my little guys, "what are you doing, picking daisies?" and more than once, they've replied, "No coach, I'm picking worms!" Sometimes coach just doesn't get it.
But what I do know is that I've watched most of them collect their first hit without a tee and all of them learn that it's called "first base" because you run there first. Some fathers have joined me at every single game, rooting for their sons and laughing when they do something ridiculous.
Most have not been there at all.
Considering the wonderful group of parents and guardians who do show up for these children, I'm sure most if not all have okay home-lives. But I can't help but think about what my life would be like without my dad. I never had to wonder why he wasn't at any of my games because he made it to almost all of them – too many if you'd have asked me six years ago.
Today, on his 26th Father's Day, I thank him for never being a question mark.
My dad was there the day I was born and still there this morning to answer my phone call letting him know that I love him. He was there to hug me before my first day of school and around to do the same when I graduated high school. He packed his car with all of my stuff to move me in to college the same way he used to pack my teammates into the car for a long distance trip to our fall ball games.
He saw my first hit, first homerun, first basket, and first soccer goal (he was my coach for that one). He was also present the first and only time I was brought home by the police and he was definitely there to yell when I got an F in Biology one marking period in high school. As easy going as he is, he still has expectations.
He and I will probably remember all of the classic moments forever, but what I think I appreciate about him the most is how he listens to me. Sometimes, my Little Leaguers will come to our games and tell me about their school projects or how their neighbor hits bombs in wiffle ball. I find myself pretending to be so interested that I actually end up asking questions. I picked up that skill directly from my father, who has listened to me relate everything to sports for the past 15 years.
Thanks dad, for always listening, pretending and ultimately caring.
Recently, he has been a little more pessimistic than normal. You could say that life has dealt him a couple consecutive bad hands, but he doesn’t really like gambling. What he does have is a pair of children he loves to talk about, to brag about really, to anyone willing to listen. There are probably hundreds of people in West Haven, CT that know more about me and my sister than some of our friends thanks to him.
He doesn’t know this, but we do the same with him. There are people he has never met all over Boston and Providence and New Jersey and Seattle that think the world of him, just like us.
This post might come because of Father’s Day, but we make sure to tell him we love him every time we speak to him. He wrote a letter my senior year of high school telling me how happy that makes him.
The same letter told me how proud he was of the man I had become.
I can only hope he knows how proud I am to be his son.
Happy Father’s Day.