Jun 19, 2022





                I never played sports for my father.  Sure, I signed up for little league baseball and received my team shirt and hat, but I never attended practice and at the only game I play in, with my father watching, I dropped a fly ball that cost us the game. 

            In the play “I Never Sang for My Father,” by Robert Anderson, the main character Gene (the son) and his father, Tom, are looking at old pictures and reminiscing. In the scene, the father’s love for his son is clear, when Tom asks about a tune that Gene used to sing for him as a boy. Gene confesses that he never sang the tune for his father, meaning he only sang it for his mother, but Tom recalls otherwise. In the argument that follows, Gene reveals that he plans to move to California rather than stay in New York and care for Tom.  Gene never sees his father again, and he never sings for his father.

            My father encouraged and sometimes pushed me into sports. My older brother was a natural athlete. He excelled at hockey, played on the high school baseball and basketball teams, and even today his golf score is in the eighties. For birthdays and Christmas, my father gave me sports equipment and what I called “family gifts.” 

            I twisted my ankle on the ice skates, never hit the hoop with the basketball, and I only played football because my dad took me to the signup and attended all the practices and games. I never learned the football plays, and as a tackle, it didn’t matter. The snorkel and swim mask, snow skis, and a backpack were gifts I used. The rubber raft, rowboat, the table hockey game, and pool table were fun, even if family gifts.

            In junior high, I placed third in an eighth-grade short story contest. My dad helped edit my grammar and typed the story.  I have no idea what the story was about, and I don’t have a copy. I remember my teacher, Mr. Amberg, asked me about the last line in the story; something about sparrows on a telephone wire. I didn’t know why I had written the line or what it meant.  It is possible my dad not only edited the story but served as a ghostwriter. 

            In college my “A” in literature kept me reading. The prospect of a “D” in creative writing suggested a writing career might be out. Therefore, I focused on books, alcohol, sports cars, rock’n’roll, and girls. Oh, and the Science of Behavior.  My older brother’s career in advertising made sense to dad. My choice of Psychology and Philosophy, not so much.

            I know my dad was proud of my Ph.D. and my university teaching, but he never lost hope I would be a writer.  In 1977, dad asked me to write a book review of a new science fiction novel. He was the feature editor at the Detroit News, and I was an avid Sci-Fi reader. I enjoyed writing the review and I could tell it pleased my dad. Subsequently, he had me review the second book in a three-part autobiography by B. F. Skinner.

            In retirement, dad planned to write historical fiction about the French Voyagers. He had done all the research and he had purchased a Royal typewriter. The problem was he just couldn’t seem to get started. He had a pecked out a first chapter on the Royal, but that was all he could manage. After years of feature writing, he had writer’s block. I remember telling him how using a computer had freed me to write and I mentioned I would like to write a novel someday.

            Dad said, “I hope you do it while I still have connections in the publishing game.”

            My dad never wrote his novel, and he didn’t live to see me become president of the California Writers Club, publish two business books, ten novels, a dozen short stories and poems, and have two 10-minute plays produced. I never played sports for my father, but I have written books in his honor and one day I will write his story of the Voyagers. I just wish I had his first chapter to help me get started.   

No comments:

Post a Comment