My Favorite Father’s Day

My Favorite Father’s Day

From A 6th Bowl of Chicken Soup for the Soul

My Favorite Father’s Day

We cannot tell what may happen to us in the strange medley of life, but we can decide what happens in us—how we take it, what we do with it—and that is what really counts in the end. How we take the raw stuff of life and make it a thing of worth and beauty—that is the test of living.

Joseph Fort Newton

The summer after my son Kotter’s freshman year of high school, with the exception of senior league baseball, was spent home alone. He wasn’t happy.

Without any malice on Kotter’s part, he made a typical adolescent freshman mistake that caused the loss of his closest friends. Afterward, he called them on the phone, but they were always too busy to talk. He biked over to their houses, but they were always gone. He often walked with his head down or stared out the window at nothing. I watched the hurt overflow in Kotter and bled for him as well.

I decided to give up what I too often considered my own precious activities to become Kotter’s summer companion and help him through this stormy, confusing period in his life. In earlier years, Kotter would often call me his best friend, and now I would work to earn that privileged title.

So I became Kotter’s buddy during the summer ball season. I biked with Kotter to and from the games. I took him camping. We went to movies. I cheered Kotter’s accomplishments and comforted him in his failures. In short, I became the father that I always should have been.

Little by little, as the senior league season moved deeper into summer, I saw signs that the ice curtain of lost friendship was starting to melt. First, it was his teammates’ handclasps after a good play, and then it was the shouts of encouragement from the dugout. I pointed these signs out to Kotter and encouraged him to hang in there. Kotter and I, each in our own way, used these proclamations as our banners of hope.

During the latter part of June, a senior league tournament was held on Father’s Day weekend, and Kotter’s team earned the right to play in the championship game, which was held on Father’s Day. The evenly matched teams took turns taking the lead. Near the end of the game, Kotter’s team was behind by one run with a man on base and Kotter at bat. Kotter walked up to the batter’s box as tension filled the air. He would not be denied encouragement from his friends at that moment. “You can do it, Kotter” and “Come on, big boy” rang out from the dugout. Kotter fed on this affection as he stepped into the box. I cheered as well. I cheered to encourage Kotter, and I cheered inside for the affection I saw coming from the dugout.

CRACK!—The soft spot of the bat connected perfectly with the ball and sent it screaming out into left field! This ball was tagged. I gripped the edge of my seat and held my breath in disbelief. The left fielder stopped running, turned around and watched the ball sail over the fence! The home run sealed the victory for Kotter’s team.

Pandemonium broke out in the crowd. Every spectator was standing up and celebrating, except for one. I remained seated, trying to control my emotions. The home run no doubt made me happy, but the scene I witnessed at home plate overwhelmed me. My son, whose heart bled so profusely those past months, was now being hugged by his teammates as they marched triumphantly back to the dugout.

Once I composed myself, I hurried to the fence near the dugout to celebrate the home run with Kotter and to celebrate something even deeper—to celebrate the resurrection of human spirit that was occurring within him.

When I got to the fence, I saw something else that tugged at my emotions. I saw an old friend and teammate hand Kotter the home-run ball that he had retrieved from outside the park. The gesture brought back memories of these same two boys riding their bikes together the previous summer. I turned from the crowd so my lips could quiver more freely.

After the victory celebration, I went for a long walk to collect my thoughts about the game. I thought about the home run that fulfilled, for my son, a dream that all senior leaguers have. I thought about the crisis that helped strengthen the relationship I had with him. Most of all I thought about the human spirit’s ability to revive itself after letdown. This was truly the best Father’s Day that I had ever experienced.

Yet the warmest moment was yet to come. When I got home that day, I spotted a baseball sitting on the table with writing on it. I picked up the ball, read the inscription and started to cry. The ball I held was my son’s home-run ball, and the inscription read: “Happy Father’s Day, Dad! Love, Kotter.”

Jerry Harpt

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