The Zac Brown Band has a great song out, called “My Old Man.” It really resonates with me and brings back a flood of memories of my “Old Man.”
As a child, I looked up to my Dad. I sometimes wished I had an older brother to teach me the ropes. But the reality is my Dad prepared me for the challenges that lay ahead. He’s still teaching me.
I’ve always appreciated what he did for my brother and me. Baseball was everything to us growing up. I can still smell the oil we applied to our leather baseball gloves before sticking a baseball inside and wrapping them with one of my Dad’s old belts. That was how we would break in new gloves, especially catcher’s mitts, for the new season. Who else teaches you that, but your father?
I can picture my Dad in the garage, spray-painting batting helmets, then stuffing them into the green Army duffle bags that held our equipment. When All-Stars came around, he produced majestic helmets with and with “NVLL” on the front – for North Valley Little League. We didn’t have the resources of other leagues, but my Dad made sure we were proud to represent NVLL when we stepped onto the field.
I can’t imagine how many hours he spent at those little league fields, which sadly, no longer exist. He would tie a piece of chain-link fencing to the back of his white Ford pickup and drag it across the dirt on the fields. He did this every single night after games finished. Many nights and especially on Saturday’s, he and some other Dads parked their pickups beyond left field. They had their coolers full of beer to reward their hard work. Even after playing full games, and after dusk had settled in, my friends and I would play Homerun Derby, and make my Dad throw balls back into the field. More often than not, my Mom would have to come and pick us up.
My Dad worked most of his career Downtown, ironically, across the street from where I am working now. He usually took the bus to work along 4th Street from our home in Los Ranchos. He also traveled a lot, mostly driving throughout New Mexico, helping small, rural communities get infrastructure for water and wastewater. He still travels those roads, working part-time for an engineering firm. I bet there isn’t a community he hasn’t visited, and a diner he hasn’t frequented. Whenever I go somewhere for the first time, I usually check with him to ask about the best place to eat.
Although I’m not sure my Dad will ever fully retire, he has slowed down, and has taken the time to appreciate his five grandchildren. I feel bad because I know one of the reasons he still works is so he can spoil those grandchildren. I’ve never had a problem with that because he loves spending time with them, and he has devoted his life to providing for his family.
I hope Dad knows I’ve learned many lessons from him. I’m still learning. The most important lesson is pass on what I’ve learned to my own children.
As the Zac Brown song reminds me: “I hope he’s proud of who I am. I’m trying to fill the boots of my old man.”