Finished, already? Great! Moving on…
As a father, if you’re worth worth the rock they’ll carve your name into one day, you want your children to have more than you did when you were a kid. No matter what your childhood was like, rich or poor, loving or broken, happily forgotten or cherished, you want more than that for your children.
As a child, I longed for the chance to attend a Major League Baseball Game. Rangers, Royals, Padres, anywhere, I didn’t care. I had an aunt and uncle in Atlanta that we visited during a few summers, yet for some reason, we never made it to a Braves game. Every time that we went to Karen and Tim’s house I would stow away all of my Dave Justice and Chipper Jones cards in my backpack hoping to meet them and get their autographs. Even when I knew we weren’t going to a game, I took them just in case. I was so worried that I would run into one of them on the street somewhere unprepared.
My aunt’s, Joy and Sharon, have lived in Illinois for as long as I can remember. To this day, I never made it up there to visit them. As a kid, I would lie in bed at night in New Albany, MS and think about what it would be like to go there and get Frank Thomas’ autograph. I can’t tell you how many times I fell asleep and dreamed of this, holding the “Big Hurt’s” cards in my hands.
Now, as a 28 year old man, I sit on my porch at 4 in the morning writing about the hobby of my youth, realizing that those days are gone forever. No matter how much I wish for it, I can never go back. Phil Plantier, Cal Eldred, and John Kruk are gone. So is the eleven year old lying in his bed, holding Frank Thomas cards.
But here I sit almost 18 years later, lucky enough to be able to give my son those opportunities. As long as he enjoys it, I can live vicariously through him. I can go back in time and do those things I never got to do.
As patiently as possible, Connor tried to understand the game from my explanations. He sat in my lap and screamed everything that I did. “Hit a homer, Quentin!” “We need a Base Hit, K.K.!” And my favorite, “Come on, Ump!! What kind of call is that!?!” Daddy’s little man.
Middle way of the game, Spider Man and the Incredible Hulk made their appearances at the top of the stands. This is what he came for. He chased the Hulk around growling. He posed for pictures and he got both of their autographs. When he met Spider Man, he was literally speechless. My son is NEVER speechless.
Late in the game, when the Braves had taken a 3-0 lead, I held Connor in my arms. He was as exhausted as I was. We stood on the very back row and he waved his “Number #1 Fan” Finger and his Braves “Tomahawk”. All of a sudden, everyone started doing the “Tomahawk Chop”! I was amazed! I could have sworn that they had quit allowing it for fear of offending Native Americans. Apparently, I was wrong.
My eyes almost filled with tears when Connor, still resting comfortably in my arms, began to follow suit with all of the fans at Trustmark Park. He had no idea what he was doing. The 11 year old in me was revived as I stood there teaching him the “chant”. We were both just little boys at a baseball game.
The night dwindled down. The 7th inning stretch rolled around and once again I held Connor in my arms as Lori and I sang “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” with him. Eventually the game was over. The fireworks display afterwards went as quickly as it came. We slowly made our way to the exits.
Everything worth doing ends too soon.
I revel in the fact that this won’t be our last trip to a ball game. We’ll probably make 1 or 2 more Braves games before the end of the season. We’ll watch MLB and NCAA together on TV and before you know it the World Series will come and go. Hopefully, we’ll end up in a Major League Stadium at some point.
Next spring, our 2nd season of T-Ball will begin. Not long after that, he’ll wave to me from the window of his school bus and then I’ll be teaching him how to drive. Connor will graduate and move off to college and in the blink of an eye I’ll get that phone call saying that he’s found “The One”. Then I’ll hold my first grandson in my arms.
I’ll bury my father and then my friends will all die one by one. I’ll find myself at a coffee shop talking about them. My “old man name” will be, J.L. Voyles. No one will call me Jason except for the beautiful woman with gray hair to whom I made the promise to spend my life with. We’ll dance in the dark to songs we fell in love to 50 years before. I’ll wake up one morning and she’ll be gone and my heart will never again look to the future, only the past. My hips and knees will cease to function correctly and Connor will take my car keys from me for the last time. Ultimately, I’ll lay down and close my eyes and people will cry and hold one another.
And in those last few seconds, when my eyes close for the last time, I’ll find myself forever standing in the bleachers holding Connor, waving our tomahawk, proud that I was his father and that I gave him more than I ever had.