PLAY BALL

May 06, 2014 -- 10:11am

The television commercial showed a beautiful lawn in the backyard of a suburban home. A father and son were playing catch. The point of the commercial was that the dad had more time to do other stuff because he had the right mower to do the job quickly and professionally. He chose to play ball with his son. I've seen this commercial several times already and each time I think of my father playing ball with me in our backyard. Although we didn't have one of those picture perfect lawns, I wasn't interested in the grass. I was interested in throwing the ball back and forth with my father. I can't remember a lot of what he said on those occasions, though I do know he used to say, "throw it right here." He'd center his glove and have me wind up and throw the ball as hard as I could. He really liked when I got the ball right where he put his glove. We also just tossed the ball, however, he also would make me run for the ball. I was always ready and wanted so much to make him think I was a pretty good ballplayer. He let me be the star out there on our lawn and I can look back and see myself running around the lawn, catching the ball and throwing it back to dad. What a great feeling of freedom this was for a kid to run around and get dad's approval. The weekends in the spring and summer were made of ball playing in the backyard. I eventually got into more ball playing in the parks with my friends as I got older, but those times with my dad were my favorites. My dad passed away at the age of 90 in 2013. Before he did, we got to play ball one last time. He was in the hospital at St. Joe's in Elgin and for physical rehab, the physical therapist had him hold a plastic type of bat and hit a balloon that I tossed in the air. I'd try to catch the balloon after he hit it. We did this for about ten minutes. I can't tell you how great this was to play with him again. We didn't have to say anything...just throw and hit and catch. This simple thing of ball playing was worth all the words one could find to say to sum up this bonding moment. I'll never forget my dad's baseball playing on that day in the hospital, where he could barely stand and was less than a week away from passing. We had a moment...and then he grew tired and although he didn't say he was tired, the physical therapist could see that dad couldn't hold the bat as well as he did at first. The pt guy told him he could stop and my dad did. My last real interaction with dad spanned the years, brought us together, and left me with my final memory that makes me smile and wish I could toss him a few more balloons to hit. I love you dad, and for all the "boys" and their dads, don't let bonding opportunities pass you by.

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