“This is what husbands gear up for.”
Those are the words I said to my wife after she relayed the news of her Dad’s sudden passing over the weekend. I don’t say those words glibly as I fully believe that I have one important task in the days and weeks to come:
To let her know that it is going to be ok.
And that’s why I want to share this little story about how no matter how old you are or think you are some things never change…
Flashback to about 6 or 7 years ago. My wife, Courtney, loves softball (I do as well) and had been recruited by one of our friends to play on their coed team. And it just so happened that Court’s Dad was in town staying with us for a couple of nights. So we all piled into the car and off we went to the softball fields.
Courtney went out onto the field to assume her normal position (catcher), and her Dad and I journeyed over to the bleachers to find a seat.
Well, I went to find a seat. He already had his seat. You see, a few years prior he had gotten hurt in an auto accident and so used a wheelchair and walker to move around the house. But when it was time to venture into the bigger world his weapon of choice was a scooter.
So there we were the two of us, me on the edge of the bleachers and him right beside me getting ready to watch Courtney hopefully kick some ass on the ball field and have a nice summer night in Georgia.
The game got started, but after a few moments, the pitcher got a weird look on his face. Like maybe he’d seen something that was distracting him. I craned my neck looking behind me, trying to follow his eye-line to see if I could figure out whatever it was. I didn’t see anything and he must have been able to block it as he went back to pitching.
Another minute or so passed, and suddenly the 2nd base umpire threw his hands up (signaling time-out) and pointed towards the fence and the bleachers where we were sitting.
“What in the world is going on?” I kept looking around to try and figure out what was distracting (annoying?) them. The home plate ump took a few steps towards him and conferred for the briefest of meetings. He then walked over to the fence, just opposite where Court’s Dad and I were sitting.
“Sir, could you please turn off your hazard and front lights? It is distracting for the players on the field.”
Everything moved in slow motion. I rotated in my spot and looked down at my Father-in-law and saw that, yes, his lights were on. How did I miss that? As he turned knobs and flicked levers to try and get everything powered down I started to look around…
And saw that everyone was staring at us.
And in that instant, I was 15 years old again. It’s that age-old feeling that every single person who has been in a public place with their parents where they secretly (or not so secretly in some cases) prayed that none of their friends saw them “hanging out with their parent”. It is a silly feeling to be sure; though being silly doesn’t lessen its effect. But I was sure, certain even, that with my own high school years long behind me, this feeling could be placed in the deep recesses of my mind never to be heard from again.
And suddenly it was back with a vengeance.
I believe it may be a moral imperative of parents to do this to their kids from time to time to teach them lessons about life. I like the thought that somewhere in their primal brains that a parent has that natural ability to take their own awkward moments and include their children in them.
With this one, I’m not sure if my Father-in-law felt any of the embarrassment. I actually hope he didn’t. He just went about fixing the problem and let the game continue onward.
Lucky for me, the difference between me at 15 and me at 32 was that the 32-year old’s embarrassment lasted all of 10 seconds while the 15-year-old might have needed counseling (ok, maybe not that). Now it has become one of those funny stories Courtney and I joke about.
And maybe, just maybe, it brought a smile to her face during a tough time.
John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.
He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!
And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!
He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.