Spending time on what matters most

First off, I’ll confess—I’m not a sports fan or a spectator. I like driving my car on the race track but don’t get too excited about watching the professionals race. So when I started taking my dad to see the Winston-Salem Dash play baseball in 2014, after Dad relocated to North Carolina, I wasn’t an enthusiastic fan. Dad was a high school football and basketball coach and played football in college (on Montclair State’s undefeated 1947 team!). He is a life-long devotee of team sports. Actually, it’s worse than that—I wasn’t a fan and I wasn’t even very good company. Dad knows me pretty well, he could probably guess I was counting down the minutes and wondering if I’d be able to persuade him to leave after the 5th inning. I often brought a book to read.


What changed? Over time, Dad lost virtually all of his vision to wet macular degeneration. He still loved the ballpark but could no longer see what was going on on the field. Ron pointed out that we would need to start calling the plays for Dad. He would do it when he came to the ballpark and I started paying attention so I could do it when just Dad and I went. This was incredibly hard work for someone who knew nothing about the game—often I had no idea what was going on. It also required a lot of concentration which, after a day at the office, was in short supply. We persisted and I got better (still have a long ways to go!). Dad does unpredictably see some and will occasionally surprise me when I’m not on the ball (pun intended):


Dad:       “Did they just steal 3rd?”

Me:        “Oh, I guess they do have a guy on 3rd now, I must have missed that…” (while wondering if that player was just dropped by aliens?)


But what I slowly came to realize was that by bringing my entire self and being present, I had regular opportunities to connect with my dad, through our shared baseball experience. We enjoyed talking about the game, the players, the new manager, both at the park and while anticipating the next game. And that feeling of connection improves both of our lives—for an older person like Dad, so much of what he values in life is gone, leaving little for him to share with the people he loves. And for me, it gives me a chance to have back a little piece of the father I’ve known for most of my life who is slowly disappearing over time.


In an exuberant mood during a game in 2017, I asked Dad if he would like to attend all of the 2018 home games. He agreed that that sounded like fun and, just like that, I was committed. As the season approached, I had to question the sanity of offering to attend 70 baseball games while holding down a job. Dad ended up getting to 69 of the 70 games—he chose to go see the Glenn Miller Orchestra and miss one game. I made it to most of those and, thankfully, my partner Ron was able to take Dad to the couple of games I couldn’t fit in.


Dad and I got to know all of the ballpark regulars, including the valet parking folks and stadium workers, and the cameramen for the TV stations who set up right next to our seats. About two months in to the season, Chris Lea, the sports anchor from our local WXII TV station, realized that, whenever he was at the ballpark, we were too…and asked if we were attending all of the games. Hope you’ll enjoy this lovely story Chris did about Dad and me:


WXII12 Story


Attending 70 baseball games is a big commitment, but Dad is determined to make all 70 this year and so am I—our quality of life depends on it!

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