My dad never said “I love you.”
Not to me, anyway.
There was a time when dads, as a rule, didn’t say “I love you” to their children. That was just the way things were done.
It’s not like I didn’t know he loved me.
My dad taught me to love reading and basketball. He taught me that the best beer must be properly chilled and the best practical jokes must be properly executed. (My practical jokes would make my dad proud.)
My dad taught me to parallel park by handing me the driver’s handbook with written instructions, setting up two sawhorses in the yard, and pulling the massive old grain truck up beside them. “There. Park it between those saw horses. You won’t hurt anything and once you can parallel park the grain truck, you’ll be able to parallel park anything.” Then he left. (I think he just got into his tractor and drove back out into the field.)
He left me alone to figure it out.
Basically, like this.
This may not be how your dad taught you to do things, but my dad left me to figure out a lot of things on my own. For the record, I am an amazing parallel parker to this day.
When I wanted him to teach me more about basketball, he handed me John Wooden’s book They Call Me Coach. “Read this,” he instructed.
“It’s not how tall you are, but how tall you play.”
When I left for college and then to the East Coast my dad would send me articles from the local newspaper, Sports Illustrated, and Time magazine, to make sure I read things he deemed important, adding notes and commentary in the margins.
He learned a lot by reading and he was determined that his kid would, too.
He called me “Kid,” long after I was no longer a kid. Until the day he died.
On the day before Thanksgiving 2006, my dad was in the hospital. No big thing. He hadn’t been feeling well and he was 81. He had diabetes and a wonky heart and the doctors would put him in the hospital from time to time just to check him over. Just routine.
While he never said “I love you” to me, I often said it to him. I said it more to make him squirm. It was a joke between us. I would say, “I love you,” and there would be an awkward pause and then he would say, “Mmmm-kay.”
And so, I called my dad in the hospital that day before Thanksgiving, to see how he was doing and he sounded pretty good. And, as we were wrapping up the conversation, I said, “I love you.”
There was that awkward pause.
“Whatever,” he said. And, then he hung up.
That was the last thing he said to me. He died the next day. It was Thanksgiving.
But, “Whatever” was perfect.
It said, “I love you,” when it was hard for him to say those words. Lots of people throw around the “love” word. They say they love ice cream and football and days at the beach.
But, I knew what “whatever” meant.
Love is generic. Whatever is forever.
Which reminds me …
Dear Baltimore Orioles,
You are making me so damn mad.
I know that you are rebuilding. It will take time, you said. It will be hard, you said. It will take patience and there will be bad days … very bad days … to come, you said. But, it will all be worth it someday.
I thought I was ready. I steeled myself for bad days.
But, it has been much harder than I thought.
With just 21 wins, you have the worst record in baseball. Many teams have won more than twice that many.
Even Orioles broadcaster Gary Thorne doesn’t know what to say when you do things like this …
“I don’t know.”
Last night, you lost 13-2 to the Red Sox. The night before you lost 12-3 to the Blue Jays. The Blue Jays!
This season feels like a cat chasing its tail. There are only two outcomes, neither are good: Dizziness and failure when you don’t catch the tail, or catch the tail and, well, that’s no good either.
Just dizziness and failure.
But, you know, my dad taught me something else.
He taught me to stick with whatever team you choose. Stick through the bad times, it’s up to you to find the good.
He wasn’t much of a baseball fan – but the Dodgers were his team – and if he were here today he would say, “Kid, I don’t know why you chose the Orioles, but you did. And, now they stink and you’re stuck with them.” Then he would chuckle, because the Dodgers are in first place.
He’s right, Baltimore Orioles. And, even though you stink, I kinda like these new guys you have hanging around. They might not be great, but they try real hard. Even as you’re giving up grand slams, botching routine plays in embarrassing new ways, or making base-running errors … you seem nice.
You know, it’s hard, sometimes, to say “I love you.”
Dear Baltimore Orioles. Whatever.
Your Forever Friend,
The Baseball Bloggess
P.S. Happy Father’s Day