What can a son say about his father on this special day? What can a son say to the man who molded and shaped him into the man he is today? How can a son thank the man who sacrificed his own interests so that I could pursue mine?
I can remember a lot about my childhood and growing up in a small town in Indiana. But no matter what the story or memory is, my father is in every one of them. He may not know it or realize it, but he was always there with me. Sometimes he was there physically and sometimes he was there figuratively. No matter the circumstances, he was there.
I can remember as if it were yesterday playing baseball in little league with my father as the coach. He worked with all of the players making sure we improved our skills. He taught that fundamentals meant more than winning, even as our team went 16-0 on the season and won the tournament. I can't remember any of those games though. Not one of them. I do remember the pre-season tournament (called The Marathon) because we didn't win a single game! My dad was (and probably still is) a great pitcher. During the pre-season round robin tournament, for some reason the coaches pitched to the players. While the other coaches were lofting 'beach balls' to their hitters, my dad took a different approach. He was throwing heaters, curve balls, and even a few knuckle balls to some of us. This was from the little league pitching mound too so we didn't have much reaction time. At the time I couldn't figure out why he was doing it and it was pretty frustrating. Having grown up some since then I know that he was teaching us a lesson. If we could hit his pitches we could hit any little league pitches. My friends and I still laugh about it when we get together to relive the glory days. I guess going 16-0 helped heal some of those wounds. Dad, thank you for teaching me that fundamentals are the backbone for long-term success.
I can remember a time when my father first asked me to help him carry something into the house. I'm not talking about groceries or something small. This was an entertainment unit that was in the garage and we cleaned it up to take inside. He said, "Grab the other end." At first I didn't think he was serious or maybe there was someone else standing behind me because he had never asked me to 'grab the other end' for anything. I wasn't big enough to help him until then but with those four words, my relationship with my Dad changed. I was finally big enough to help and that meant the world to me. Dad, thanks for allowing me to feel like a big boy when I was still little.
I can remember the first time he let me mow the yard with the riding lawnmower. In my mind I was ready for the responsibility and had been asking (begging) for awhile. Finally, the day came. It was a mild day early in the summer. He made the first pass of cutting the grass around the edges of the yard and I stood on the top of our hill behind the house desperately wanting to mow. As he rounded the garage and headed toward the house I kept thinking, "Let me drive. Let me drive." He must have sensed my eagerness and sure enough, he pulled the mower up near me and shut it off. He said, "You want to mow for awhile?" I think I was on the mower before he was totally off. After a quick 'How To' lesson he said, "Let's go around once without the blades on, just to practice." I didn't care if the blades were cutting or not, I just wanted to drive the mower. So I agreed and took off. I knew that I wouldn't leave the yard but for some reason I felt like I had embarked on a journey that would take days to complete. There was responsibility placed in my hands; a passing of the torch in some way. As I rounded the garage and headed toward the house I was grinning ear to ear inside but acting like it was no big deal on the outside. He motioned for me to stop and I was going to pull up right beside him and shut if off, just like he did to me a few moments earlier. I pushed on the brake but didn't slow down. Of course I panicked and desperately tried stomping on the brake but still nothing happened. I got closer and closer to the house and eventually brought the mower to rest on the old style basement doors. You know, the ones that open up out of the ground made of flimsy metal? Yep, I was bucking up against the house and bouncing on those basement doors. My dad came to my rescue and turned the mower off before I busted a hole in the house and ended up in the kitchen. What I remember most though was my dad asking if I was ok. He wasn't mad and after a few more 'How To' lessons I was mowing the yard. Dad, thanks for allowing me to mow the yard even though I was probably to young to do a good job. (As the years went on that privilege became a chore and the enthusiasm wasn't as high but I really did enjoy mowing the yard. But I hated weed eating!)
I can remember when I quit basketball between my freshman and sophomore years. That decision was not easy nor was it popular in my house. My father played basketball on one of the best teams in our school's history. He played in college too. My grandfather was a basketball coach and my father coached high school basketball as well. To say basketball was in my blood is an understatement! So when I said that I didn't want to play basketball anymore, it was a dark day in the Hudson house. My dad said, "If you don't play, you'll regret it." I can't say that I regret not playing. Sure, I missed it and probably threw away a lot of natural ability. But what I gained was worth it. A buddy and I drove to IU three nights a week to play tennis at the IU Tennis Pavilion. I got to be pretty good and really enjoyed the competition. I like that all of the pressure was on me and I couldn't rely on someone else to carry me. If I missed a shot it was my fault. If I lost a game, set, or match it was my fault. That's a lonely place sometimes but it helped build my character. Sometimes to a fault. Sometimes I rely on myself and take on too many responsibilities without asking for help. If something goes bad I want the blame. As far as basketball went during my sophomore and junior years I played a lot of pick-up basketball in the park and kept my skills fairly polished. I did play basketball my senior year and really enjoyed it. Memories of playing basketball are some of my fondest of high school. I don't regret not playing but I do wonder 'What if' sometimes. As a father myself, I can't imagine the strength it takes to let your child do something you don't agree with. Especially something that means so much to me and the family. So, Dad, thank you for allowing me to pursue other sports and supporting me 100% in my decision.
I can't remember a time when I needed my Father and he wasn't there. He came to every game, match, after school event, and program I was ever in. Sure, he might have missed one or two along the way but I really can't remember a time when he wasn't there. Every memory I have of my childhood involves my Dad. Good and bad. Physically or literally. My Dad was there.
So, Dad, I just want to say 'Thank You' for always being there!