Not surprisingly, a good number of the memories I have that involve my father also involve sports. Whether it was sitting on the porch listening to the Toronto Blue Jays on the radio; me with a lemonade, Dad with a can of Schlitz, or him taking me downtown on the subway to sit in General Admission at Exhibition Stadium and watch them play live. I can still hear the chants of “Er-nie! Er-nie!” echoing through the ball field and out onto the cool waters of Lake Ontario.
|If I was really lucky we’d sit in Right Field – Reserved Bench!
I have a family of my own now and my wife’s father enjoys heading down to the ballpark as well, so every so often for Father’s Day she and I will buy tickets for our dads and we’ll all go down to the ballpark and catch a Jays game (preferably against the Yankees). Where do you think Dad likes to sit? Yup, out in left field above the Jays bullpen – not too far from the old General Admission days at Exhibition Stadium.
By the age of 5 I had watched more games on Hockey Night in Canada than I could count. In 1979-1980 my dad, as the principal of a school, would bring home boxes of confiscated hockey cards (no shootsies allowed in the hallways!) and I would catalogue each and every one, diligently using the checklists to see which ones I was missing. Dad would sometimes get hockey tickets from a parent and take me down to see the game and if he was really itching to go to and didn’t have seats he’d hop on the subway and get some off scalpers. The most memorable moment would have to be the 1987 playoffs against St. Louis. Toronto won the series in 6 games on the same ice that I scored a goal on a little more than 2 years earlier. Dad and I were in standing room “seats” and I thought the building was going to collapse! After the game Mom said she saw us on the news; Dad carrying me on his shoulders as fans paraded up the street. Even if I didn’t know what it meant at the time that night was probably the first truly surreal experience of my life.
|1984 Thornhill Rebels crammed into a broom closet in the bowels
of Maple Leaf Gardens. I was 10 years old.
All grown up, able to afford my own tickets (and a knack for being able to actually get some), I would make a point of taking my old man to a game every year. The last Toronto Maple Leafs playoff game we saw was in 2001 at the new home of the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Air Canada Centre. Wouldn’t you know it, the Leafs would win in overtime and we were fittingly situated in standing room (it was the game Sergei Berezin actually passed the puck!) Dad didn’t put me on his shoulders but an usher did have to instruct him to get down off the railing and stop banging on the bottom of the press box.
Now, as any good hockey fan knows, when you’re not out on the ice you should be out on the course. When it came to golf Mom had more patience (and a hole in one!) but played a lot less than Dad. Not that Dad played a whole lot, but both his parents were avid golfers and he definitely liked to get out on the course and hack it around. Dad would let me borrow his clubs and I’d go out to the Unionville Par 3 course with a friend and just make a total mess of things. I’m pretty sure the only reason every club came back in one piece was the uncertainty of what would happen if even one of them came back broken.
Since Dad retired he’s played a lot more golf, and since I’ve grown up I have as well. Now, once or twice a year we go out on the course and shoot a round, usually 9 holes so it doesn’t take as long. I couldn’t tell you how many times we’ve played, but I can definitely tell you how many times I’ve beaten him: once. That’s right, I’ve only beaten him one time. I’ve never been able to hit his curve ball, and apparently when he’s around I can’t hit a fairway either. I bought him a round at the course by my house for Father’s Day this year and I have this sneaky suspicion that he’ll eek out the victory just like he’s done all all those times before.
|Pretend score card from the one time I beat Dad (as if I shot a 44)
If it’s possible to be influenced into enjoying a certain type of book I was definitely influenced by my father. He’s read all the classics of course, and as an English major from Waterloo Lutheran University and public educator for 34 years he has read his fair share of novels. The man loves to read, and one of his go-to genres is the one I head to first when I’m looking to buy a new book: suspense / thriller. I have borrowed many a book off of his shelf written by Dan Brown, Steve Berry, or Robert Ludlum and have certainly purchased many of their works or taken them out from the library as well.
Is it any surprise then that my novel, just a few thousand words shy of a completed first draft, happens to be a conspiracy suspense thriller? I’m 39 years old and still trying to get in my dad’s good books.
One thing I am looking forward to is writing on the inside cover of his copy and handing it to him sometime this year; heart in my throat, terrified he’ll think it sucks. I have another feeling though, that he will think it’s a perfectly readable book, and even if he doesn’t, one thing I know is he’ll put me up on his shoulders one more time and place my novel proudly on his bookshelf right beside Ludlum, Brown, and Berry – and every time I visit it will be surreal.