The One About How My Dad Taught Me What Love Is

Oct 16, 2013

Read time: 4 mins

My dad loved the fact that I played baseball growing up. I don't think he played when he was younger; I'm pretty sure he only learned about the game because I was interested in it.

We'd play catch in the back yard. He'd hit me grounders and fly balls and practice with me whenever I'd like. I wanted to learn to pitch and he built a mound and a home plate so I could throw whenever I wanted to. He sat on a 5-gallon bucket with his thrifted catcher's mitt as I wound up and hurled a baseball as hard as I could in his general direction.

The high school I went to (and dad worked at) had a well resourced baseball building with batting cages, pitching machines, hitting tees, weights, etc. I'd sweat and sweat and he'd keep loading up the pitching machine and critiquing my every swing. Afterwards, we'd go get a soda and talk about the game the night before or whatever else was going on at the moment.

Though, it wasn't just baseball, it was anything I got interested in. I started collecting baseball cards (still baseball related, I know) and guess what, so did dad. He still has both of our collections in boxes. The ones that are actually worth something are separated in plastic sheaths and we still get them out to look at every so often, giddy about that Roger Clemens rookie that we found in a random card shop in Altus for $7.

When I was even younger I got a set of electric cars that ran on a track. It had two controllers, we'd race them for hours, mostly seeing who could take that final turn the fastest without the car flying off the track. He didn't like how small the track was so he built one on top of a pegboard that was the size of my wall. We'd hang it there to show off how awesome it was then pull it down and put it on the floor in the living room on special occasions for crazy electric car battles.

As I got older it was real cars. Muscle cars. Of course he loved this, because he grew up in the '70's. He helped me shop for, purchase, and fix up my first car — a 1966 Ford Mustang coupe. We replaced the interior and put in a stereo that I could hook up my discman to with one of those cassette tape adapters. We'd spend a Saturday breaking down engine parts just to clean them. Pull the car into the front yard under the tree and get out the buckets of soap water and a water hose to shine it up. Days like that still resonate in my heart.

The list goes on. Anything I was interested in, he was too. Music, cooking, art, motorcycles, etc. Whatever, he didn't care. He just liked being around me.

As his birthday came and passed this week (he's 55 now), I thought about all of those moments. Wondered why he found such an interest in me. Why he jumped from thing to thing with me as I was trying to figure out who I was, what I liked, and what I wanted to become.

I called to talk to him the evening of his birthday. It was 9:30pm or so, and I knew he would be in his basement, sitting in a recliner, watching Pawn Stars or some other cable television show as he relaxed after a hard day of work. My step-mom Glenette answered the phone, I asked if dad was home. "Sure just a sec," she said, "he's in the basement watching Pawn Stars." I was right. He grabbed the phone and it was immediately like we had just finished batting practice all those years ago and were driving to grab a soda, simply excited about life in general. He was as happy as can be to hear my voice.

Even now, when I don't give a crap about baseball or muscle cars, he'll sit and listen to me go on and on about a new website I built, or a new pair of shoes I found, or whatever uninteresting thing I have to talk about. I've come to realize that my dad is the perfect example of a friend. A human version of what love must look like.

I remember the day he told me that he was getting married again. My parents divorced when I was 17. Those years are quite the blur for me, but I do remember just a few years after that dad remarried to Glenette. He sat me down and told me that Glenette was his best friend in the entire world and that he wanted to spend what time he had left with her.

My dad was that friend to me my entire life. My best friend. We didn't have to be into the same stuff. We aren't into the same stuff now. I've grown, he's grown, yet he would still throw everything aside and talk to me about whatever it is I'm interested in. He would build me a pitcher's mound in my backyard again if I asked him to.

That's how he loved me, that's how he taught me to love.