To me, it will always be my brother. Gripping that bat with all he has. That single bead of sweat falling from his brow. That glance to my father at first base. The sign to swing away. The knowing nod of reply. And the glare to the pitcher, the foe, an acknowledgment of understanding of what’s to come. It will be with all the force that pitcher has. A patient glare. A last clench. That windup. The release. The ball spinning into an almost unhittable corner of the strike zone. The reach. The mighty swing. The pause in the stands. The delayed sound. The crack of the bat whose actual initiation is heard only by those present at home plate. The power, the vibration in the bat, felt only by my brother. The ball sailing. A delay in emotion in the stands as the ball lifts into the air, floating beyond physics, defeatedly retreating beyond the farthest wall in the outfield. Elation like no other.
Screams bottled by seconds of anticipation open up and pour forth so that the air is praise. My brother dropping his bat and running towards my father. My father swinging his arms in wild, enthusiastic circles around and around. My brother’s foot planting into the bag. A look from father to son. Pride from eye to eye. A split second that should last forever, a split second that does not notice the noise, the jubilation all around. A smile from my father and a lasting pat on the back as my brother passes the bag and moves on-on his own. From second. To third. And finally resting both feet on home plate where the whole team waits to hail him. Hail my brother. Raise him on shoulders which, at that moment, could carry anything. We feed on the energy my brother left for us all floating freely in the air. And we parade him around the field for all to see. My dad still at first base. Not moving. Soaking it all in. Just watching. Watching and nodding. And smiling.
Kip stopped playing baseball after that first big heart attack. He didn't want to do it anymore. Not without Dad. I quit, too. But, truthfully, I would have quit eventually, anyway. I had been hit by a wild pitch that sprained my hand at my very first at bat. And, from that moment on, it seemed the only way for me to get on base was to be hit by a pitch. I just liked to be there with them. But, Kip loved the game. Loved that Dad was there. And he was good at it. He pitched and hit and could play any position. And, when Dad recovered, he moved slower-both in thought and action. He couldn't coach. So, Kip wouldn't play. We were young, then. And how do you pay tribute to a man who gave a career to the navy, who rode ships for months at a time, who held the stress of memories of moments and atrocities no one should have seen, and still found his way home to coach his kids? Kip gave up playing baseball. It was something he loved and he wouldn't do it without Dad. But, I will tell you this. We kept growing. And, though he moved slower, Dad was always there.
And Kip became an amazing father.
Happy Father’s Day to my Brother and my Father.
Dad, we miss ya. But, your signals were always clear, your love is always here, and I can think of no one who is more proud of the father that my big brother has become.
Originally Posted On Facebook.