I have a wine cork in my pocket and 50 cents to my name. Lunkhead that I am, I blew the grocery money on a Marriott in Irvine, and the big question right now is whether I can find my hotel room after a late-night strategy session with the other baseball tourney team coaches.
Obviously, this is a dangerous season to be a father.
What do I like most about Irvine? The sweeping sense of history, probably. There are places on the historic register down here that date all the way back to the mid-1990s. To say they all look the same to me would be to acknowledge that I simply don't appreciate architectural nuance. One day, I will move here to study it more.
Till then, I must locate my room. I have lost the little envelope with my room number on it, replaced it with a bag of pretzels. There is nothing noisier than a cellophane bag of pretzels at midnight as you fumble for your room card.
Slowly, I enter a hotel room that might be mine.
My buddies keep telling me these are the good old days, but I don't know. They insist that one day I will look back on these out-of-town tournaments with fondness.
I was reminded of this the other night when we ran into a coaching chum from 15 years ago. Soon we were laughing over old stories of meathead first-base coaches and the instructions our buddy Ulf used to holler from the dugout to our kids' famed infield of Itchy, Ritchie and Scratch.
At the time, we didn't know they were the good old days. At the time, we just wished to get through each game without our wives leaving us and our foreheads catching fire.
Yep, this is a tough time to be a dad. Seasons are winding down, as are sports careers. Kids are jumping from one grade to the next. Some are running off to get married — June is an atrocious season for such endeavors.
Change like this is tough on dads. More so than in late autumn, or the holidays, June means the end of things. There are more milestones now — graduations, weddings, the Stanley Cup.
Where there are endings, there are also beginnings. We are just starting this summer baseball tournament season, for example, and in a few months the little guy will enter the seventh grade.
With his school year ending, he's been bringing me sixth-grade souvenirs — photos from the spring play, a spiral notebook of his writings.
Each day, there is something else. I mean, what am I supposed to do with this junk? Build a fort?
His mother already maintains a Tupperware box with a few precious mementos from his childhood. It is roughly the size of a Lexus sedan. I think there might be a teacher or two in there. Maybe a bike.
So we don't need much beyond that, yet I don't have the heart to turn his little donations away.
"Sure, I'd like that," I say and take the item gratefully, pile it on my desk to figure out later.
Because right now it may not matter. Right now, I'm too busy trying to find my stupid hotel room. But eventually …
On Father's Day, we will celebrate the dads who spend their lives celebrating their children.
To that end I give you Jeff Diercksmeier of Costa Mesa, a dad who has figured out a way to stitch together some memories. Once his kid moved beyond youth sports, he had a quilt made of the boy's old sports jerseys.
You know how these things pile up, right? You can use their old jerseys to polish the car or buff the boat. Then what do you do with the small tee-ball shirt with your kid's name across the back? Toss it wistfully.
Instead, Jeff sent his son Grayson's jerseys off to a seamstress who made a quilt of them. He thought he'd give it to his son as a gift but ended up keeping it. "Maybe later, Dad," Grayson told him.
So on a recent night, when noisy neighbors kept him awake, Jeff went into a guest bedroom of his suburban home and pulled the quilt all the way up to his chin.
There, blanketed in this banner of youth, Jeff slept like a kid again.
MORE FROM THE MIDDLE AGES: