My wife thought that maybe the best thing to do was to make a fire, wrap up in some blankets and sit out the rain with a good book. So tempting, such a good idea but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.
We’d spent the morning watching the kids squeeze in their soccer games before the heavy rain began. Both of them played their hearts out and I couldn’t help but feel warm and fuzzy watching them will their little bodies up and down the field.
There was a moment when I was watching Drew that almost moved me to tears. He collected the ball on the sideline, seamlessly kicked it in to overdrive and started angling in on the goal. His bid failed but there was something so effortless about the way he moved with the ball, so entirely pure it connected with my soul.
In fifteen years of knowing my father, I saw him run one time. A massive heart attack at 43 had pretty much relegated him to “spectator” status when it came to sports. But one night in the backyard of our Belgian home, he joined me and my sister in taking advantage of a particularly long day. The sun was still out at 9pm and we were throwing the ball around, nothing serious, just running, catching and throwing.
In his v-neck white t-shirt, slacks from a mothballed suit and a pair of Adidas Gazelles, Dad got out there and started hurling the pigskin around. A couple of times, in an effort to chase down an errant pass, he picked up enough speed to qualify as a run. He was laughing, smiling quite a bit and even took a stab at a left footed punt.
I remember being concerned to see him exert himself like this. It was so far out of the realm I was used to seeing him in, my Dad was pretty serious, total adult, playfulness just wasn’t something I associated with him. But there it was in the warm, soft light of early summer dusk, my Dad was playing, just like a kid. And though part of me worried about this jarring contrast from what I knew my father to be, I enjoyed the moment more than all but a few others I had with him.
Once I read somewhere that Pablo Picasso said he’d spent his whole life trying to hang on to his childhood; that his grasp on youth was the essential element of his unparalleled creativity. I’m not really sure why I’ve hung on to my youth. There was a time it almost left me, back when I was twenty-five pounds heavier than I am now. My clothes didn’t fit, I didn’t like the way I looked and I didn’t like playing much either. The only thing I really did was work.
I’m glad I’ve moved away from that.
What I saw in my son on the field, in my Dad in the backyard and in myself when I went out into the rain on my bike yesterday was a desire to play. To move around, use muscle, sweat a little and get tired. It’s a powerful thing. Something I always need to be reminded of.