Our daughters’ days of braces and chain-link softball dugouts are long gone. But, to a dad, a good game of catch is a timeless pleasure. (Chris Erskine / Los Angeles Times)
I had children for the same reasons most guys do, so I’d have someone to play catch with for the rest of my life.
The other day, I asked our youngest daughter, Rapunzel, if she wanted to play a little catch. She’s 26 now, so she just assumed I was joking.
Come to think of it, I am always joking.
But I wasn’t kidding when I asked her to play a little catch in the park. I coached her a long time, from age 4 to age 14, taught her the finer points of softball and soccer.
To my knowledge, I only brought her to tears once, when from the sidelines of a soccer field, I screamed, “Hey, No. 5, don’t be a statue. Move a little!” She still hasn’t gotten over that major embarrassment.
Maybe that’s why she blew off my request to play a little catch the other day, the only reason I became a father. I really miss playing catch with her: “Elbow up, kid. Step into your throws. Finish.”
Yet, not all my kids want to play catch anymore. Life moves on.
When I last saw Rapunzel, she was heading off to have kimchi quesadillas with her friend Taylor, two L.A. girls chasing trendy morsels, when what they should be chasing is ground balls in the long spring grass.
Honestly, I like kimchi and I like quesadillas, but I’d never dream of blending the two. They seem an odd combo. Like Posh and I, for example.
As I feared, my wife didn’t laugh at my R-rated pickle joke, which I told her during six long hours of baseball last weekend. No kidding, we were in the stands for six hours, for the little guy’s double-header. Between the third and fourth innings of the second game, I’m pretty sure time actually stopped.
The young pitcher took the sign from the catcher, stared down the batter, then just froze. From kids to parents, even the ump and coaches, everybody began to wonder, in a simultaneous thought bubble: “What in God’s name are we doing playing baseball for six straight hours?”
After a pause of maybe seven seconds, the game proceeded. And by 10 p.m., the little guy and I were dragging a damp tarp across the pitcher’s mound and calling it a night.
Point is, even a guy who jokes about everything is stressed to fill six hours in the stands.
It might be the oldest joke in the world, and some women don’t like it. (Email me, and I’ll share). Allegedly, Adam told it to Eve, and she didn’t even giggle. When Genghis Khan told it to Mrs. Khan, she merely rolled her eyes. And Genghis could be a very funny guy.
I mean, our daughter Rapunzel was there in the stands with us, and she laughed. But she’s always been an easy giggle.
“Daaaaaaad,” she said while combing her hair with her hands. “That’s such a dad joke.”
Let me just say that the entire dad brand is very hot these days. Dad jokes. Dad dance moves. Even Daditude, a certain way of approaching the world.
Before exercising the other day, Rapunzel complained that she was getting a “dad bod,” which from the sneery tone, was not something she really desired.
“So what’s wrong with a dad bod?” I asked.
According to Rapunzel, “a dad bod” is sort of amorphous, often thick in the middle in the manner of livestock, listless and a little pasty.
I always admired those things about myself. But I have simpler standards — for bods, for butts, for food, for humor.
For example, I still think it’s funny that, when I kill a poisonous spider in the house, I wait a beat or two, then while folding the tissue, scream as if the spider came back to life and bit me.
Trust me, I have been doing that particular shtick for 150 years, and it still slays. (For bonus laughs, pretend the spider just bit you, then get woozy and drop to your knees.)
I will try to do that old joke Sunday too, because anticipation is part of humor, as is repetition and surprise.
Character and warmth factor in there too, which is why on one day a year, we celebrate dads, whose bods are thick, and jokes a little dated. Our sense of style can maybe be musty too, as are all our wants and needs.
And sometimes all we really want for Father’s Day is to play a little catch in the park, or maybe wet a fishing line with you, or go for a modest hike.
We’re simple creatures, dads are. All we really want is you.
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