My father has the tendency to over congratulate mediocre things. For example, he often goes through a play-by-play of his day with me over the phone, and it usually includes his stop into McDonald’s for a cup of coffee. “Their coffee is really good,” he says. Is it actually REALLY good? I’m not saying their coffee is bad; it’s actually pretty good, but I wouldn’t call it, “really good” coffee.
I took him to the ballgame yesterday to watch Felix pitch. We stopped for a hotdog and they were okay, not great, but not bad. Approaching the security line to get into Safeco dad said, “You know something, that hot dog was really good.”
Dad’s a pitching fan, especially pitching artists like Jamie Moyer. Before he even read the article I posted last week about Moyer, we discussed him over the phone and Dad pretty much said everything that took me four hours to research, outline, and write. Did I mention, Dad usually does chess puzzles at the McDonalds while he drinks his coffee?
Yesterday, Felix’s pitching excited him. “He’s really hitting them with the off-speed stuff,” he said at least once per the seven innings Felix took to the mound. “He’s slowing down his fastball. He’s keeping them guessing. Felix has retired 10 in a row. Four fastballs in a row? Geeeeeeeez. Six strikeouts and four hits—besides that mistake that cost him two runs in the 1st, Felix pitched great.”
Dad and I endured the cold weather and bats for the duration and then made it for the exits. “That was a really good game, Josef,” he said, and I didn’t say anything. We lost 2-1 on 2 hits and I wasn’t too happy about it.
I came home and sat down to finish David James Duncan’s, The Brothers K and thought a lot about family, winning and losing and decided after a few pages to put down the book and watch the classic film adaptation of W.P. Kinsella’s Shoeless Joe, Field of Dreams, starring Kevin Costner. Shoeless Joe is one of dad’s favorite baseball novels.
Though the movie is still great, it’s aged a bit and the storytelling is quite “easy” I’d put it. That said, it still captured the essence of the tug-of-war between a son and his father, where the son feels remorse for his juvenile efforts to assert his independence, while the father stands hopeless, lost at sea with the ebb of his past at his back, and the waves of mundanity nostalgic thinking can render the present into, stretching as far as his eyes can see.
The film sparked a memory of the day I moved out of the house. I was happy to leave and begin my life. I was also sad but fought that feeling back. I wanted to appear to my father as not caring about the end of my childhood.
However, I could see he was upset. He was quiet, his eyes were red. I ignored him and rummaged through the utility closet to collect more of my things and found our box of assorted balls, bats, and mitts. The sight of my mitt chipped the fragile veneer of my toughness. I was going to miss my old man.
I pulled out our mitts and asked if he wanted to play catch in the parking lot. He agreed, and he joked that he wasn’t sure if he could even throw anymore. We got four throws in and he began to cry.
I watched him cry and wished at that moment that I was old and vulnerable enough to cry too so he wouldn’t feel alone. I guess life hadn’t taught me enough yet to know how to react. Sixteen years later, it has.
I’m going to call him today and tell him that it was a really good game.