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Three score and ten or more

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Back to my childhood stories

I am sure that my Mom and Dad were normal people and argued and fought like other folks, but I was never aware of a disagreement except for those occasion when I pushed Dad further than he could go, and he would lose his temper, at which time Mom would step in and protect me from the worst of his anger. I don't mean that Dad was abusive. He wasn't, but I knew how to push his hot buttons, and I am not sure that sometimes I didn't do it on purpose, just to get Mom's attention.

Dad was a slender man, quiet most of the time, and Mom was heavyset and boisterous with a loud laugh and a big voice. I am sure that most people thought that Dad was henpecked, but nothing could have been further from the truth. Dad was the acknowledged boss in our house, not because he pushed, but because mom thought that was the way it should be. Mom would not have thought of doing anything seriously out of the routine without consulting with Dad. On the other hand, most of what Dad did was in consultation with Mom. They had one of the best marriages I have ever known, and I got a really good foundation for my life.

My dad was a really good athlete, and I don't know how it worked out with my brother Doug but I know dad was frustrated, at times with my almost total lack of hand-eye coordination. He would take us boys out in the back yard and play catch with us. The only time in my life that he really hurt my feelings came from that, and it was unintentional. We had been out in the backyard for quite a long time playing catch, then Dad went in and I stayed out for awhile, throwing the ball up onto the roof and letting it roll back so I could catch it. I quickly tired of this and went in the house where I overheard my dad say to mom, not knowing I could hear, "I don't know what to do with Dickie (yes, I was called Dickie by everyone at that time), he throws like a girl." I was cut to the quick, and I think I probably hurt dad's feelings, because I never willingly played catch with him again. I did play softball at recess, and out in the street with other kids, but from that day on, I knew in my heart that I would never be any good at it-- and I wasn't. Dad still tried, and he always encouraged me at everything, but he finally gave up and quit trying to get me to play baseball with him.

On the other hand, one of my two or three most precious memories of my dad has to do with baseball. I don't remember how old I was, but I must have been ten or eleven when my dad took me, alone, without Doug or anyone else, to a baseball game. We had a St. Louis Cardinals class C. baseball team in Pocatello. It was a Pioneer league team, and Salt Lake City, Boise, Butte, Montana, and for some of the time Idaho Falls among other cities had teams in the league. Along with many of my friends, I spent as much time in the summer at the Ball Park as I could. One summer I used money from my paper route to buy a "Knot Hole Gang" ticket which got me a T-shirt and allowed me to sit in the bleachers near left field for ten or so games.

Most of the time, like many other kids, I was a member of the REAL knot hole gang, watching the games through cracks, knot holes, and the occasional pocket knife "created" knot hole in the fence, occasionally climbing up on the fence to watch (and being chased away periodically by "ball shaggers" who were high school kids paid by the team to collect foul balls and home runs hit over the fence, and to chase the younger kids off the fence.) I was a real fan. When I couldn't go to the game, I listened to as many of the games as I could on the radio. I got to see many men play ball who later became big leaguers and even Hall of Famers. I particularly remember Solly Hemus and Red Scheindinst, and I remember one occasion when I watched Jesse Owens who had won the 1939 Olympics and was billed as "The fastest man in the world" win a race against a race horse before the game. I was thrilled to watch, and since seeing the movie about Jesse Owens life, have gotten the impression that many thought that this was demeaning to Jesse Owens in some way. I only know it was one of the high points of my young life.

The best game of all was when my dad took me to the game. We walked to the game. It was about a mile, and we got there before complete dark (The games were always played at night "under the lights".) I showed dad my favorite spot to watch the game (right center field, just far enough from the scoreboard that you could see the score), then we went in and sat in reserved seats to see the game. My dad bought me real popcorn, peanuts and a crackerjack, as well as some soda pop and a hot dog. We yelled and screamed and had a marvelous time. I am not even sure who won the game, but I think Pocatello must have, because I was in a great mood when we left the game. We walked a long way home, wandering around, and I had a footrace with my dad, which I lost miserably, but which didn't make me feel bad, because I felt that my dad must have been the fastest man in Alameda (The little suburb of Pocatello, Idaho in which we lived.) It was an almost perfect experience. I am in tears now just thinking about it. I don't think I slept a wink that night, I was so happy. I don't know if it was that meaningful to my father, and I regret to this day that I never, to my memory, told him how important it was to me. I have done a lot of things with my children, (as I have also ignored them at times) but one of my greatest hopes is that somewhere, in each of their memories is at least one memory of me that is as precious as this memory of my father.

1 Comments:

At 12:30 PM, Blogger Michael Nielsen said...

That's a beautiful story, Dick. Everyone should have memories of their parents as sweet as this one.

 

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