This correspondence -- or whatever this is -- is long overdue; my apologies. But there are a few things I wouldn't mind getting off my chest, if that's okay.
I'm sure you never knew this -- I mean, how could you? -- but I have always preferred a face-to-face meeting to ... this, but ... well, you know.
And especially lately, these last few years; I just couldn't see you like that anymore. No attention span, worse all the time. No train of thought. Couldn't do it. Couldn't.
Besides, with the exception of all those fabulous marathon discussions in which we engaged after my high school games, long into the early morning, we never really ... I mean, that ironclad religion stuff and uncompromising lifestyle was more than a little intimidating, you know. Especially for a kid. For my part, I know I didn't exactly ... but why didn't you ... ach, let's just forget it.
Upon reflection, my first clue that something was really wrong should have been when you presented me with that beautiful new jock jacket, from the old high school, for my forty-sixth birthday.
By the way, just wanted to point out (I'm sure you noticed): in the paragraph before last, my use of "... in which we engaged ..." as opposed to "... which we engaged in ..." -- which, of course, would have been wrong. See, I remembered what you told me.
First of all, I already had one. You were there when I bought it, way back when. I remember getting your coaches' discount. Secondly, it was a couple sizes too big; probably would've fit you. And it must have cost at least four-hundred. That isn't you. Maybe you figured I'd grow into it. That was never you.
Same day: you told me you didn't remember your first two heart attacks. I sure did. That was a long time ago. Should've known.
Which reminds me, you may or may not recall: in one of my first published stories, I referred to "Our Father" as "... the perfect example of a perfect example." That probably wasn't very nice. I remember when you first read it. You didn't say anything, and I always wondered why not. Kinda like when the guys at the Y call me "Arnold." Perfect, perfect. I should've gotten a fifteen-yard penalty for piling on. Sorry about that.
And I never took the time to thank you for being so supportive when I was a kid, in high school, in everything, everywhere. Football team goes to Duluth, you're there. Basketball team to Moorhead, you're there. Choir goes on tour -- twice -- you're there, times two.
And in a related memory, you're still the only parent/spectator I've ever known to be ejected from an American Legion baseball game. Actually, from the entire park.
Is that funny?
I remember thinking, standing out there in center field, that I should be embarrassed, but I just couldn't.
Never wanted to be like that.
I retain many fond memories of playing razzle-dazzle football in Tim's side yard after school, one day in particular. We were about ten or eleven, I guess. His dad came out to say goodbye, out of town business or something. They hugged. When we were done playing, I asked Tim if that was uncomfortable for him.
I wish I could remember what he said.
But I will never, ever forget what you said, after I graduated, when I told you I was giving up football:
"Are you sure?"
It's the only time I ever remember you questioning me, my decisions, at least to my face. I could tell you were hurt.
Minor news flash: so was I. I was hurt that you were hurt.
But in college, when I hung up the cleats for good, opting instead for the theater ...
... guess what, surprise, surprise? Front row center, or damn close, every show.
Darn close. Or just "close"-- that's what I meant; just "close."
You even tried a little acting after that -- a couple church shows, remember? I know the only reason you did 'em was because I was in 'em -- Mom spilled.
Lord knows how hard you tried.
Now that has to be funny.
Mom died, you know. Quite a while ago, actually. I was afraid to tell you, last time we ... I wasn't sure ... I'd never seen you cry. Didn't want to chance it.
Did you know? Do you? Don't know how that works where you are.
Been dying to ask, though, for a long time -- I know you knew I drank like a fish in high school. How come you never said anything?
Or did you?
It just occurred to me: writing this ... thing, whatever; exactly for whom am I writing it, you or me? What do we think?
I like the Twins this year. Got a good feeling, I forget why. Remember '87? Picked 'em to win the Series that year, too, after finishing last the year before. You thought I was nuts, as I recall.
Oh, before I forget -- I figured out the sex thing on my own; you probably knew that. But not as early as you thought, I'll bet. Does that make you feel ... I dunno, anything? Wish I knew more about where you're at.
Just looked at a calendar. It's been twenty-five years since we won our first state softball title. And again, I want to apologize -- I'm really, really sorry -- for trying to give the MVP trophy to you. I've always maintained you deserved it more than I did, and I'll never be alone. But it was dumb. I should have walked up there, thanked the guy, and taken it like a man. I know that's what you'd've done.
Just looked at a calendar. Do you know, it's taken me three months to finish this ... this ...
Hell, now I might as well just wait and deliver it in person.
Shouldn't be long now, Dad.
Ooh ... I hope it's okay I called you that.
Heck -- I meant to say heck. Let's forget I even mentioned ... well, you know.