Saturday, June 18, 2011

You Wanna Have a Catch?

Come on guys... admit it. You choked up at the end of "Field of Dreams."

It's okay, me too. But then I'm an exceptional case. I do the same thing at the end of "Sleepless in Seattle." But man... when Ray gets to ask the young, starry-eyed ghostly apparition of his Dad if he wants to play catch with him, what guy doesn't think of his own Father? There are two schools of thought here. The first: "Gosh, I wish I could play catch with Dad again like we did when I was a kid," or "My Dad never played catch with me! I only wish..."

I fall into the second category. Mr. Townsend next door was the one who taught me to play ball. He was a surrogate Dad in a lot of ways, even though he could be terribly brash with me. But I'm thankful he was in my life. I have mixed feelings on Father's Day, mostly because my memories of Dad are clouded with a lot of pain, and also because it's a bittersweet reminder of all that I'm missing with my kid. Zachary and I have never played ball. Because of his autism and other disabilities, his idea of a good time is spreading a blanket on the ground and running around on it by himself... over and over and over again. Dad isn't invited to the party. When he was 4, he had a grand mal seizure on Father's Day. I still remember the nurse saying, "This isn't much of a Father's Day for you, is it?"

But you know what? My Dad loved Jesus. He loved his country. In his own funky way, he loved his family. I know that even at my age, I still have a lot to learn about being a good father, husband, and Christian man. Can I hold my Dad responsible today for mistakes he made when he was 15 years younger than I am now? The bigger question, "should I?" The answer: Of course not.

Every day I wake up and see my Dad in the mirror. I look like him, and there's nothing I can do about it. I just don't want to repeat his mistakes. So whatever was in my Dad that was good, noble, trustworthy, and of good character, I hope to emulate. And a tip of the hat today to Mr. Townsend. Here's hoping I can be just as good a surrogate to my Godchildren.

And here's hoping there are baseball mitts in heaven. I'm holding out for a catch with my Dad.