My dad has always been there for me. It started when I was little with a shared love of poetry...and softball. I was a very good student, and school came easily. Sports also came easily, but I appreciated them more because they required both talent and effort. I could get an 'A' without studying, but I couldn't field a ball without running to reach it. The team didn't get an 'A' if we 'just missed a few'; we lost the game. Sports presented a challenge I could understand.
I loved softball more than anything. Dad taught me how to hit, to field, and of course to throw. We would start close together, and move back a few yards after each catch. Whenever one of us missed the ball, we would move back in and start over. One day, when we had reached a considerable distance, the sun got in my eyes -- and the ball hit me square in the face. I fell flat on my back. Of course Dad made sure I was okay, but we did throw a few more times before heading home for ice.
I also remember when he bought me my first full-sized mitt. I had never seen anything so beautiful! Dad showed me how to apply the softening oil, place a ball in the pocket, and bind it up tight with rubber bands. I slept with the mitt under my mattress for three nights in a row, then three more.
Even after the glove was shaped, I slept with it under my mattress. I carried it hidden in my backpack at school, like a kitten stowaway that I could peek at during lunch hour. Thirty years later, I can still picture the warm color of the weathered leather, and the close fit of the glove to my hand.
When I turned 16, the allure of the mall enticed me forever from the playing fields. Dad and I found other ways to connect, and to this day we remain close. But oddly enough, some of the lessons of softball remain the most significant in my life. Here are a few of them:
Hard work can be satisfying...and even fun. This translates into almost any endeavor. WIth the right attitude, completing the annual budget or cleaning out the garage can make you feel like you hit a home run. Every once in a while, take the 'team' out for ice cream.
When you mess up, head back to where you started and begin again. When we learn to throw, we back up a little at a time, knowing that we will meet in the middle again when someone drops the ball. I went 'back to the middle' time and again, for help and reassurance while adjusting to college, finding a job, and countless other occasions.
Don't quit when the first thing goes wrong. Sure, I got hit in the nose, but I didn't quit the team. Sometimes a little pain is worth the effort. This lesson saw me through my first two jobs and even the 'cold feet' before my wedding!
Good things are worth waiting for. When Dad brought home that leather mitt, I wanted to try it out right away. He explained I'd only drop the ball; it hadn't been primed. If I was patient, I'd have more success. Lots of things are worth the wait, and in today's fast-paced world, that's hard to remember.
Make memories that last forever. I'm sure it wasn't easy for Dad to rush home twice each week to coach my team, but he did -- and you can see, the effort has paid off in memories that have lasted a lifetime.
Happy Father's Day!