The Middle Ages: For Father’s Day, all we want is a good old game of catch

For Father’s Day, consider a collage of old team photos, like this one from T-ball in 1993. The columnist’s son is second from left.
(Chris Erskine / Los Angeles Times)

Mother’s Day is sort of astral, all violins and choirs, fancy brunches and armfuls of flowers. That’s OK, because mothers are God’s greatest work. Sunsets, mountain lakes and Willie Mays are right up there. But to see where God got it pixel perfect, just look at your average mama – a masterpiece in yoga pants and a sweater she probably bought on sale.

Then there’s Father’s Day. Yawn.

Father’s Day is such an afterthought it’s almost not a thought at all. The sense is that we have to do something for the old guy, but what? Sure, he might like a nice bloody Mary, but most dads I know would rather pound nails in their knees than go out to some fancy brunch.

Yeah, we don’t make much of a fuss over dad, and that’s OK. He’s not much for balloons, and good gift wrap is a total waste (my suggestion: wrap it in the Sports page).


No one is tougher to buy for. In truth, he’d rather purchase his own tools and though he appreciates any little thing you get him – because it’s from you – that new wallet won’t exactly make him sing inside.

In truth, he’d rather have a game of catch. If he coached you long ago in softball or baseball, see if he’d like to go to the park and play a little catch. Or find some photos from the good old days and make a collage.

It’ll fill a father’s heart to know, 10 years later, that you really appreciated the way he raked the infield or told a dugout joke when the game was on the line. These days, what they now refer to as “Daddy Ball” gets a bad name in youth sports from parents who prefer to pay professional coaches to tutor their children.

But Daddy Ball is the best ball. Long may dads keep coaching. Trust me, those were our glory years, and they made us all sing inside.

Fathers are funny people. I don’t mean ha-ha funny, though there is that. They are funny in that they are goofy yet stoic, stubborn yet forgiving, and they consider ketchup to be an actual vegetable.

From the trophy case, fond memories of Daddy Ball.
(Chris Erskine / Los Angeles Times )

See, dads are the ultimate plodders. They show up early, they mark off a soccer field or set up scout camp. They’re not worried that, by the end of the day, they smell like wild boars.

In an increasingly neurotic world, thank God for dads. A little worry never hurt anybody – it shows you’re paying attention. But dads don’t fret so much. They just get at it. Give us something to hit, drive, grill, grind, paint, hammer or fix, then leave us alone.

Fathers have always been America’s first-responders. As a dad, my defined duties are pretty much to kill spiders and to fix the toilet when it won’t stop running or flush.

“Dad! There’s goo-water all over the bathroom floor! Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad!”

I’ll confess, it makes for a pretty full life, killing spiders and fixing toilets. For one thing, we live in what I suspect is a full-on spider habitat, a backyard where black widows come to blow off a little steam after they murder their husbands.

The backyard is full of trees and death, and every once in a while, some poor spider – probably a father – follows the breakfast smells and sneaks into our house for a little taste of bacon.

“Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad!” they howl like Pavarotti.

If the spider isn’t too lethal looking, I’ll even carry it back outside to the trees of death.

Big confession: I really like being a dad. It’s probably the best thing that’s ever happened to me, and every once in a while they even let me write about it.

You know, I’ll be one hug short this Father’s Day and if you think I’m going to get all weepy on you, you are so wrong.

Because, more than anything, our late son made me laugh – not just at the ridiculousness of modern pitching changes or how computer printers never work, but at me, and him, and the whole lot of what we all go through on a day-to-day basis – appreciated sometimes, other times not.

He was like a very funny Plato, my older son. He was witty, and far wiser than his 32 years.

And when there were suspicious thumps in the middle of night, he was always right next to me with his old baseball bat, the one I’d taught him to swing.

What was that? Is there a possum in the gutter again? Or a bobcat on the roof? Maybe it’s a burglar?

“I mean, what would they steal?” he’d joke.

At times like that, I miss having him by my side. Hell, I always miss having him by my side.

Instead, I inherited my son’s Siberian husky, the wolf pup who chases bees and butterflies, and a bushy-tailed reminder of my son’s eager and everlasting spirit.

Sure could swing a bat, that kid.

Happy Father’s Day.

Erskine’s new book, “Daditude,” a collection of his favorite columns, is available online and in bookstores.

Twitter: @erskinetimes