My dad is gone from this earth 12 years this month and my mom 8 years in April. But the picture you see above is of them in happier times at my sister’s wedding 30 years ago. The second picture is of my dad and the one and only Honus Wagner who was the Hall of Fame shortstop for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Honus did a lot of clinics for the neighborhood kids in and around Pittsburgh after his career came to a close and this is a prized picture of mine of my dad as a youth. He is the guy in the middle with the black curly hair. You will notice the other fellows have ball uniforms on and my dad was most likely wearing his dad’s old pants and shoes. You see, my dad was the “accident” and had to live upstairs with his Uncle Charley because my grandparents did not have any more room. My dad worked hard after school and on weekends at his father’s tire shop in Bellevue,Pa and he and his folks, and my mom and her folks, were all part of that “Greatest Generation” that Tom Brokaw refers to in his best selling book of the same name. My dad put himself through Carnegie Tech on the GI Bill and eventually married my mother and became quite successful. My folks were the consumate entertainers and loved to have people around the house. My mom was a fantastic cook and my dad helped her in every way he could. The best part of their marriage was that they put each other first. My sister and I were secondary even though they gave us every opportunity. They got us into skiing, swimming, tennis and golf, all of which have gone by the wayside with the exception of skiing which is still my passion. My dad loved golf and wore yellow pants with bumble bees on them to his club and was a bit taken aback at my baggy shorts and running shoes. But I was interested in other things……and that’s ok. I can clearly remember telling my mother about the harrowing weather and conditions at Tuckerman Ravine in New Hampshire. The climbing and skiing up there is epic and when I told her about it, she remarked,” Oh that’s nice dear- would you like some more potatoes?” Talk about busting your euphoric bubble! But she really couldn’t relate and that’s ok. I would tell them about running down Commonwealth Ave in Boston at the end of the Marathon to the screams of thousands and my dad would say, ” Gee that sounds terrific, can you help me with this porch furniture now?” They were not uninterested but they just could not relate. As much as I tried to interest them in my outdoor exploits, they would be polite and certainly be supportive but their next party or their next dinner with friends was paramount to any mountain stories I had for them. But……..that’s ok.
Fast forward, I got my son Jack up and skiing when he was 2+1/2. It was probably more for me than for him but Janet and I had him out on the slopes early. We also taught him to ride a bike, a mountain bike, play baseball, swim and all the other activites that correspond to an active young life. He gravitated to basketball which was totally foreign to me but we went along. He is now out of basketball and has other interests which are foreign to me. I am getting better at remembering how it was with my folks and to let him pursue his own interests and not mine. He is the stong willed one and I can clearly remember times when I would explain how I would do things and he would say in a matter of fact confident way that ” I am not like you dad.” My ego didn’t let that sit too well and I thought to myself,” Well maybe he better be a little more like me if he expects to get along in this world.” But as the months and days have gone by in his 18th year, I am realizing that…….he is different than me……and that’s ok. I wanted him to be a competitor and a star athlete like all parents but it was not in the cards. He marches to a different tune. We are in the college search right now and it will be interesting to see where he wants to go and not where Janet and I want him to go. Jack will make his way in life and I am sure he will be just fine. We are different people but I need to respect that just like my folks did with me. I remember my mom standing on the side of the road in the first North Park Triathlon and seeing me suffer on the road bike up Pidgeon Hill. She had that look like the Blessed Mother at the crucifixion but the suffering was not nearly the same and her expression looked as if I was headed for the boneyard. She would have rather seen me on the first tee with some really swank Lily pants. But that was not to be. I wish Jack could have continued with his basketball and been the star of the show at his school and his last year in AAU. But that was not to be. We are different and ……that’s ok. Acceptance is everything and even though you try to steer your children in the direction that you think they should go, it is not always the path that they would choose.
I am 15 months from turning 60. I don’t feel that old but the 58 year old kid still has some things to learn. Parenthood is a challenge especially in the teen years. But my wife is a solid partner and maybe I need to take a page from my parent’s book and concentrate more on Janet and me than be obsessed with the boy. Their marriage and how they got to their stage in life is a great story. We all can have that great story if we put the right things in priority and live and let live. Am I on a soapbox or the old guy on the stoop again? Sorry about that. Have a nice week and thanks for reading.