40: Showing Up

40: Showing Up

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks Dad

Showing Up

Love is absolute loyalty . . . You can depend so much on certain people, you can set your watch by them. And that’s love.

~Sylvester Stallone

As a stay-at-home dad, my father wasn’t exactly a traditional father. He made us breakfast in the morning, packed our lunches, and had dinner on the table when Mom came home from work. He drove us to sports practices, chorus concerts, and dance recitals. He built us the tallest swing set we’d ever seen, taught us how to shoot a slingshot, and played video games with us on days we were sick and stayed home from school. At our Halloween parties, he dressed up as Igor and developed a limp and hunchback. Dad was always there for the fun stuff, and the tough stuff, too.

He was the one to break the news to me that I hadn’t made the high school basketball team. As an avid fan of the WNBA and the Connecticut Huskies, I’d had my heart set on it. But at just over five feet tall, significantly lacking in coordination, and dedicated to my academic studies (I would go on to graduate salutatorian of my high school class), I should have realized that making the team wasn’t exactly going to happen. My father broke the news to me in my bedroom on a Saturday morning with his hand on my back. But he had good news too. My father had asked the coach if I could still practice with the team. Although a part of me would always want to wear the uniform and be on the court when there were fans in the stands and the scoreboard was lit up, practice was a privilege I’d willingly take — and my father was the one who’d made it happen.

He drove me to every last practice, even those 6 AM ones that had us leaving the house long before the sun rose. While I wiped sleep from my eyes and packed my bag, he’d be scraping ice from the car and getting it warmed up so that by the time I slipped into it, it was warm enough for me to catch a few more minutes of sleep before we arrived at school. He could have said no to any of those practices, particularly the 6 AM ones. We both knew I’d never set foot on the court during a game. I’d never even suit up. But my father understood how much those practices meant to me, and that was enough for him. It didn’t matter that my lay-ups all went hard off the glass or that I could never get any spin on the ball when I took a jump shot. It only mattered that I wanted to be there.

At the end of the season, I was granted the chance to warm up with the team and wear the black wind pants and the maroon shooting shirt. My father came and sat in the bleachers while I ran out of the locker room and onto the court. Music was pouring from the speakers and jolting adrenaline through my body. He didn’t have to come. I wouldn’t play in the game; I’d sit on the bench keeping stats. But he did come, cheering and clapping when I hit one of my warm-up shots. Though my dad rarely said too much at once, somewhere along the way he managed to teach me how important it was to show up. I always showed up for practice and he always showed up for me.

I’m in graduate school now and my father still shows up, still calls to ask about my intramural basketball games. When I tell him we’ve lost to a bigger and more athletic team of undergraduates, he says that’s all right. He knows we showed up. He knows we played hard. And that’s what matters the most. Dad taught me that.

~Rachel Furey

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