I was an only child, born late-in-life to my parents. My dad never acted as though he wished he had a son, but I know he was frustrated through the years with my lack of athletic ability.
To say my dad loved football would be putting it mildly. He played football with a leather helmet in high school, packed his footlocker and went away to play briefly in college, and was a referee for fifty plus years in high school and college games. My mother spent hours getting his white referee pants free of grass stains, and I remember how carefully he hung his black and white jacket on its special hook during “the season.” Every once in a while I would sneak out his whistle and blow – never when he was home, but somehow he always knew.
Many years later our son became a football player. My dad was already 73 years old when our son was born, so unfortunately the two of them never spent a lot of time tossing the ball or discussing strategy. But my dad was oh, so proud that there was (finally) a football player in his family. He would often point a crooked finger at Mark and say, “Be aggressive! Don’t let them get at you first!”
My dad passed away the year our son was a freshman in high school. A friend of mine noted that it just didn’t seem right that my dad didn’t get to go to Mark’s high school games and watch his grandson follow in his footsteps.
“I wish he were sitting there with us in the stands,” I replied. “But he’s definitely watching the game.” In response to her confused look, I continued, “Mark says he hears ‘Be aggressive’ in his ear every time he lines up for a play. Mark says it’s like having another coach. Daddy is definitely Mark’s biggest fan.”