It’s strange sometimes, the things you remember. I know that in my fifty plus years on the planet there have been any number of life-changing events that I’ve completely forgotten about, and still others that are murky at best. At the same time, there are also random snippets of innocuous day to day and seemingly unexceptional moments that remain vividly etched in my memory forever, moments that I can recall with perfect clarity whenever I want.
It was a Saturday in August of 1968. I was nine years old. The television in the living room was on, channel four, the major league baseball “Game of the Week” on NBC, with Joe Garagiola and Tony Kubek doing play by play. The Detroit Tigers were playing the Baltimore Orioles. I was watching. I remember Don Wert, third baseman for the Tigers, hitting a home run.
My dad was home, wearing a plain white t-shirt, cleaning the garage. I don’t know where everybody else was. I just remember being by myself in the living room and every now and then going out to the garage and “helping” my dad. I remember he was in an especially good mood, and I remember at one point he had the garden hose out and was rinsing down the garage floor. I’d come out, hang around with him for a while, and then I’d go back in and watch the game for a while. And I remember being keenly aware of how happy I was, I didn’t understand why, but I felt completely free and good and happy, with baseball on television and my dad in the garage.
That’s about it – I wish I could tell you that something exciting happened. I wish I could even tell you who won the baseball game.
But there is one thing I can add – it remains what it’s always been, one of my favorite memories of all. I’ve often wondered why, with no definitive explanation, but I think it has to do with the vividness the memory presents itself to me. I see my dad how he looked back then, with what hair he had on his head still dark, his face unwrinkled. I see that the television was our old black and white console in the living room. I see the grey cement floor of the clean and empty garage, I see the dust rise from my dad’s sweeping with the big push broom, then later the water spraying out of the hose. I see my dad smiling that contented home on a Saturday afternoon smile. And I remember feeling free, free to watch baseball or hang out with my dad, two of my favorite things to do.
That’s all it is – just an ordinary moment in an ordinary day in an ordinary life. And I think that’s why I love the memory so much. What makes it feel so extraordinary is that my dad was with me, home from work on a Saturday afternoon. I had no concept then that our Saturday afternoons together were finite. I had no concept of aging and death and time and space. I was nine years old, and all I understood was baseball and my dad, and on that Saturday afternoon in August of 1968, they were everything.