Yesterday, I gave my son a fountain pen. He's all of 10-years-old. Fountain pens confuse many adults. Most don't fool with them, if they use pens at all. I could, at any time, find his hand or even his shirt, covered in blue-black ink. But, I gave him a fountain pen. He wanted a fountain pen because I write with a fountain pen.
I always wanted to feel closer to my dad. He was always there. Our needs for clothing, food, and shelter were always met. But, there seemed to be an impenetrable barrier between the two of us. We just didn't feel close enough.
"Your mother will always be the best friend you will ever have," he often said. But, I wanted it to be him.
If there was a soundtrack to my childhood, the first cut in the grooves of side one would be Harry Caray singing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game." One of the ways my dad and I shared company was watching the Chicago Cubs. We loved Harry Caray.
We watched Sandberg hit the two dingers ("It might be. It could be. It is! A home run! Hoooooole-ly Cow!"). We watched them fall to the Padres, and later the Giants. We watched the losing streaks ("Three up, three down; nothing across."). It didn't matter. I was with my dad.
Baseball was my first great, and is my must enduring love. My son, Jack, who is named for my dad, Jack, knows that. I've been careful not to push it on him. He's just beginning to take an interest himself.
This year, being the one when the Cubs were favored to finally win it all, I was determined to follow baseball as closely as I possibly could. I cancelled all the premium channels in my television package in favor of the Major League Baseball plan. I watched the Cubs on my TV, on my laptop, and on my iPhone. When I couldn't watch the games I kept up with an app or I streamed the radio broadcasts. I lived it.
When Jack was by my side, during these games, he would ask questions. I would explain why that or this was happening.
"Who is your favorite Cub, " has asked, as many times as it took for him to remember the answer.
"Probably, Anthony Rizzo," I'd say. I explained why. Anthony Rizzo is a hard-nosed player who always has a smile on his face. He owns the plate. He has fun. It's obvious he loves baseball (as much as I do). It's obvious he cares. He's a good guy (like I want my son to be).
Suddenly, the wallpaper on Jack's phone is a photo of Anthony Rizzo. What does he want for Christmas? He wants an Anthony Rizzo jersey.
My son watched me melt into tears when Rizzo caught the throw to first to make the final out against the Dodgers.
"Why are you crying," he asked, confused by the situation. "This is a happy time."
"I know," I said. "But, you don't understand how many times they have broken my heart." I told him about the Padres and the Giants and the Marlins. "I've been waiting for this my entire life."
Most of the World Series, Jack was with his mom. But, we talked every day. I watched every last bit of it. Jack watched what he could. He knew how happy I was. He understood how much it meant to me. He shared my enthusiasm.
After it was all over, in mid-November, I was telling a friend and fellow Cub fan about Jack's interest in Anthony Rizzo. He invited us to join his family in Rizzo's Walk-Off for Cancer, which was then a couple weeks away.
Rizzo grew up in Parkland, Florida, about 30 miles from where we live. That is where the Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation's Fifth Annual Walk-Off for Cancer took place on December 11. We stood at the foot of the stage when the Mayor of Parkland and the Broward County Commissioners declared it Anthony Rizzo Day. His high school retired his number and presented him with the jersey. More importantly, he and members of the families the foundation has impacted talked about the work they're doing. They raised more than $500,000 that day.
My son and I met the guy who scored the winning run in game seven of the 2016 World Series and trivialized the curse of the billy goat. My son shook his hand and introduced himself as "your biggest fan." I shook his hand and thanked him for giving me the opportunity to share the type of moment with my son that I never got to share with my father.
The truth is, my son doesn't love baseball. He doesn't yet, anyway. He loves me. And yes, we got to be in close proximity to Anthony Rizzo, who will, now, be forever a legend to Cubs fans like us. We even have the picture to prove it. But, it was really an opportunity for us to be closer to each other, because his love for the Cubs first-baseman is an expression of his love for me.
Yesterday, I gave him the fountain pen. On Christmas Eve, I gave him the pinstriped jersey. On Christmas, his mom gave him the road blue. The blue looks better on him. It brings out the color in his eyes. He has my eyes. We have blue eyes. We got them from my mom.