Roger Marolt: Roger This
June 17, 2010
Since Sunday is Father’s Day, and I know that you don’t have any experience with actually being a dad, I thought I would tell you a little bit about what it’s like to be one. It’s not that I know a whole lot about this vocation that I chose, but 16 years has given me some experience anyway.
When I was a kid my idea of who my dad was constantly changed. For about the first 12 years of my life I thought my dad was perfect. He was the strongest, the smartest, and the most interesting man in the world. He wasn’t afraid of anything and as long as I was with him there wasn’t anything for me to worry about.
Then, the most awful thing in the world happened to my father – I turned into a teenager. He never blamed me for this. Anyway, at about the time I turned 13, I was shocked to find out that my dad wasn’t nearly as smart as I thought. In fact, as I became wise to the ways of the world through my middle school experiences, I pretty much came to the conclusion that your grandpa didn’t know much of anything and even though he talked with authority over a wide range of subjects, he was mostly wrong about everything. I hate to say it because he was always loving, kind, and respectful of me, but I was pretty much embarrassed when he’d say stupid things like, “How’s it going, guys?”, when I’d be hanging around with my friends.
Gradually I grew up, though. I know you think I went to college in San Diego and worked for a glamorous accounting firm in Denver after that, which I did, but I also took a few courses in the school of Hard Knocks and put my time in at The Salt Mine (ask your mother). Let’s just say those institutions, where everyone spends at least a little time, offer a lot of courses in the humanities and humilities. It was after continuing my course load there that I realized that my father was neither the smartest or dumbest man in the world. He was human. And, loved me more than anything else in his world. Of course he had always been everything to me too, but suddenly I understood what that really meant.
OK, I see that I’m losing you now. This is stuff you’ll relate to later in your lives, but now it’s gibberish. Let me try to explain fatherhood a different way. I’ll make up a story. It’s about baseball. I know you understand baseball. I talk about that all the time.
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There was a guy one time that saw a baseball game and decided right then and there that he wanted to play. The problem was he had no idea how to. He read box scores in the newspapers; he read magazine articles about his favorite players and teams. He watched games and highlights on TV. He even studied the rulebook.
After he learned all he could about the game on paper, he decided that he was ready to play. There was no way to do it but to just get out on the field and go for it. At first he was clumsy and awkward. He figured out that watching other people play was nothing like getting out on the diamond yourself. Routine ground balls skipped off his glove and bruised his body. He had a hard time tracking fly balls and was scared to catch them when he did manage to get underneath them. He didn’t have a clue at the plate and was embarrassed to strike out most times up.
But the funny thing is, he never thought about quitting. Sure he got discouraged and frustrated, but he felt a calling for playing the game that he couldn’t have described to anyone. He loved it. He devoted himself to it. When he was on the ball field he knew he was exactly where he was supposed to be.
And, do you know what? He got better at it. No, he wasn’t perfect. He still made errors from time to time. He still struck out looking now and then. But, he also started to get into a rhythm on the field, ranging wide to the right and the left to make plays he never thought possible by him. He’d get a key hit here and there, too. As he found himself contributing to winning games, he became more and more proud of what he was doing.
Yes, there were lots of players better than he was. And, no, he wasn’t a star. He still found the game humbling and each time out he learned that there was lots about playing baseball that he didn’t know yet. It was kind of weird, but the game was so complicated, and he felt so inadequate at it, that he found getting better at it and contributing to the team more satisfying than anything he had ever done.
Nevertheless, there were lots of times that he went home dejected. It’s hard to imagine a strong athlete crying, but sometimes the game was so difficult and his confidence in himself so low that he would spend the hours before falling asleep at night in tears, wondering if he should just give up. Happily, he didn’t. His love for the game and his teammates was too great. He would wake up after those difficult nights and head to that beautiful emerald green field to find his teammates anxiously waiting for him, and he would be re-energized. So, he kept on playing and doing his best. By the time his career was over, his spikes were worn down to nubs, his uniform torn and stained from sliding in the clay, and his glove tattered from scooping infield dirt and soft from years of his sweat.
And now, of course you want to know how this story ended. Did he make it to the major leagues? Did he ever play in the World Series? Or, did he just play as long as he could and end up as one of the many anonymous guys who got into the game and stayed as long as they could, loving every minute of it, eventually learning to relish the pain as well as the successes realizing each are what make the great game worth playing.
Well, I don’t have an answer for you. Let’s save that discussion for 15 or 20 years down the road from now. I’ll be interested to hear what you think about it then. Remember, I’m patient. I’m a father.
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