March DADness

The call came on Wednesday; two tickets are available to the NCAA Sweet 16 — the Midwest Regionals in St. Louis. Two games on Friday and the championship game on Sunday. My immediate reaction was: The tickets are too expensive, work is crazy, I only have one day to make plans, I’d have to find a hotel, and St. Louis is a five hour drive. But then I thought of my dad. What if we could spend a couple of days hanging out together, away from the office, away from the wives (sorry honey), and away from the routine?

Next thing you know, Dad and I are inside the Edward Jones Arena watching some of the greatest basketball talent in the country play their hearts out in front of millions of people; three nail-biting contests, all decided in the final, precious seconds.

But of course this trip was about much more than basketball. This trip was about father and son. We had a chance to do something many fathers and sons don’t – or can’t do: we talked. Not endlessly, but just enough. I heard stories that were either new or forgotten. I caught a glimpse of life from his perspective which, in many ways, is entirely different from my own. Most of all, I learned that even heroes have their doubts. Even they sometimes wonder if they’re worthy of their own capes.

Being with Dad I thought a lot about “smudges.” Mitch Albom writes, All parents damage their children. It cannot be helped. Youth, like pristine glass, absorbs the prints of its handlers. Some parents smudge, others crack, a few shatter childhoods completely into jagged little pieces, beyond repair.

This parenting stuff is hard. I want to limit the smudges.

Sometimes I wonder if I’m doing okay. When I arrived home from my trip, my girls greeted me with giggles and tons of hugs. Megan handed me a card she had obviously spent a lot of time on. There it is in plain purple crayon: Welcome home daddy…love u.

Today it’s back to office, back home, back to the routine. Except now I know that my dad is proud of me and he knows how much he means to me.

If you’re reading this and you still have the chance, connect with your dad. Call your mom. Look up at the scoreboard. The clock is ticking. The seconds are precious. If you’ve learned nothing else from this year’s tournament, anything can happen. Only in this case there are no losers.