I love City Slickers. It’s got cattle drives, lots of talk about baseball, and Billy Crystal wears a Mets hat. What’s not to like? One of my favorite lines from the movie is when Daniel Stern’s character, Phil, talks about his father.
“When I was about 18 and my dad and I couldn't communicate about anything at all, we could still talk about baseball.”
Like Phil, I also had a period when my father would refer to me as “the contrary son.” I was rebelling, he hated my attitude, and we didn’t have much to talk about. Except of course, for baseball. My best childhood memories are the days my Dad took me to a Mets game in New York. He’d buy me a hotdog and a hat, we’d keep score and it was heaven. Even in the worst of times we could watch a game together and find some common ground. Love of baseball is just one of the many gifts my father left me.
My father died on Memorial Day in 1991, which was fitting because like other members of the Greatest Generation, the thing that most shaped his life was his service in the Big War. He never talked much about his experience in the Battle of the Bulge. I only learned the details after he died. But one of his proudest moments was years later at a reunion of his battalion, when he and many of his band of brothers got the Bronze Star they earned in Europe during the brutal winter of 1944-45.
For as much effort as I spent tuning my father out, he would be pleased to know that a few valuable lessons he taught me managed to sink in. Work hard. Pay your bills. Always treat people with respect. Never stop learning. Nothing is more important than family and friends. Be honest. Pick your battles. Be proud but not prideful. Stick with your team, even when they suck.
As Steve Goodman sang, “Now the old man’s gone, and I’d give all I own, to hear what he said when I wasn’t listening to my old man.”
Happy Memorial Day, Dad. This song’s for you.