Today is Father’s Day here in Australia and as such I feel compelled to be honest. Admitting that the more I traveled, the more excuses I often found for not wanting to have children.
But, the truth is, when all was said and done, it could have saved me the effort. The truth is, it all boils down to more or less a single memory of an event more than thirty-five years ago.
It was an ‘event’ that started with little more than a pleading look and culminated in a sports triathlon in the late afternoon, in the front yard. As such, over the years I have often wondered, when it seems my memory has frequently failed me on other substantially more important matters, how or why did my long-term memory manage to hold on to such a fleeting moment?
The gaze would be an exchange of non-verbal communication between my mother and my father after I had ambushed my father to shoot some baskets in the front yard just moments after he got home after a long day. teaching in high school. Dad looked at Mom in the kitchen with eyes that silently begged him to speak.
Play the role of an obedient wife and explain to your older son that his father was tired. That he had to rest before going out, as he used to do, at night to referee a couple of basketball games. Or any of the 101 legitimate excuses to walk away from this unexpected date with a fatherly obligation.
As I recall, Mom shrugged and smiled. Then he went back to whatever it was he had been doing when we both walked in. His verdict delivered, all that was left was for Dad to change and we would go out. We did.
For thirty minutes we took turns shooting hoops before I was ready for a change and I ran to the garage to play soccer, after which father and son took turns running the passing routes for another thirty minutes that probably seemed like hours for dad.
And yet it was not over.
Because it was only then that each of us finally put on baseball gloves, where I went to hit countless unseen hitters while Dad squatted on his sore legs and his hand itched and eventually his shins repeatedly hit him with the occasional ball ‘on the ground’. Usually that was the sign that we had had enough.
For years, the images from the three sporting events that afternoon and the ‘look’ that followed stayed with me. I could hide behind the charm of all the smiles, memories and good times that the road had offered me, but the truth was that that memory of so many years before simply scared me. He knew what it meant to be a father, and as such, the bar had been set to a height he was not prepared to reach.
So things just happen.
Today, with just over two years in the making, while organized sport is still not in the picture, there are still books to read, movies to play, blocks to stack, trips to the beach, and too many parks to visit in any place. given the afternoon. And always, it seems, after not having had enough sleep.
It is in these moments when the exchange between my parents comes back to me, the sigh, the roll of the eyes, the shrug of the shoulders and the smile, and that fear buries much deeper.
It is then that, as my father did for me, I discover the energy that all good parents manage to harness. The energy to keep hitting the bar.