We had good times growing up in Juniata Park. Sure, I can remember bill collectors calling. I remember showering with only cold water because the gas was turned off. I remember waking up way too early some days because I was assigned altar boy duties for the 6:00 a.m. weekday masses.
I remember my dad sitting me down after Mom found a copy of Hustler at the bottom of my underwear drawer on laundry day. I was thirteen. I wasn’t punished. Dad told me not to let my mom find the porn mags. Wise words because there was no way I wasn’t going to be looking at porn. Especially since the dude who owned the local variety store stocked tons of porn mags and never hesitated selling them to teenage boys.
I also remember the second time Mom found a porn mag in my room. That time it was an Oui magazine—high class and French! Not as high class as High Society, of course. That second time, Mom found the magazine in my sock drawer. I had taped it to the bottom of my underwear drawer, but apparently the tape didn’t hold.
Dad sat me down again. It went something like this:
DAD: Greg, mom found this in your room today [holding up the Oui magazine].
ME: I can put my own laundry away.
DAD: I told you to keep it out of sight. This is two strikes. If it happens again, you’re gonna be grounded.
Dad liked baseball. He tried out, unsuccessfully, for the North Catholic baseball team. That didn’t affect his love of the game. He would take me to Phillies games and then wait with me at the team’s parking lot for over an hour, after the game had ended, so that I could slip a paper and pen through the fence for autographs. It was cool that he worked a baseball analogy into the sit-down porn mag talk.
One of the things I remember most from back then was having catches with him. We were lucky enough to have a large, grassy field about a block down the street from us. It was owned by B.P. and sat next to an area with three good sized oil storage tanks. A few times each summer, we’d go down and have a catch.
As a kid, there’s nothing like having a catch with your pop. He’d toss pop ups as far into the sky as he could throw it. It seemed like the ball would soar twenty stories high. He’d show me how to position myself on those pop-ups so that I could throw to the cut-off man without taking an extra step. He’d teach, but never coach. That’s an important difference. It was always fun. And he taught well enough for me to make the travel team throughout my little league experience (He also made the cement base for my Johnny Bench’s Batter Up hitting tool).
Most times, we’d just toss leisurely toss the ball back and forth without saying a word. We wouldn’t have to and yet I don’t think any activity bonded us more. There was something magical about both of us taking our own gloves and heading to the field. An hour would pass and feel like mere minutes.
Those are some of the best times from growing up and yet so simple. Our own little BP field of dreams came to an end when they erected a fence to keep kids from playing football on the property due to liability purposes. After that, Dad would sneak me onto the Juniata Park Golf Course through a hole in their fence and we’d play four holes just before dark.
Those golf time were fun too, but different. We were always nervous that the Course Ranger would ask for our receipts. I didn’t know what Dad would say if we were asked. We never were.
If you’re a dad without a glove buy one. If you know a dad without a glove, do him a favor and buy him one. Dads need to have a catch with their kids. Kids need to have a catch with their dad. It doesn’t matter how good you are. It’s not about that. I can’t really say what it’s about, except that it truly is magical.
On this Fathers Day I say Thanks to my dad and any dad who has had a catch with their kids. I never revealed my third hiding spot and I never got caught again. Whoever lives in that house now may one day stumble onto a few vintage porn magazines.
Oh, here’s the commercial for that Johnny Bench Batter Up:
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