No matter how many times the ball sailed over my father's head and into the street, he never showed a hint of exasperation, or made our daily game of catch a chore.
It’s funny how that memory above all others burns brightest in my overstocked trove of treasured memories with my father.
We lived on a quiet street in Grand Rapids with a slight elevation in the front yard: perfect for masquerading as a “pitcher’s mound.”
I was an awkward lefty, struggling to become a pitcher for my Little League team.
Dad’s credo was, you want it, you must work hard for it.
The problem is he had to work harder than his pupil, chasing down the endless number of wild pitches that bounced down the street.
Now that is a father’s love.
My father is everything I am not.
He is a naturally gifted athlete who excelled in all sports.
When he picked up tennis at the age of 40, he nearly upset the USTA district champion in his age bracket.
He is still a beautiful ball-striker on the golf course.
In High School, he held the basketball scoring record when he graduated.
He had a major-league quality arm at shortstop in high school, and in the service.
Like many of his generation, he’s also a certifiable hero.
When serving with the 3rd Marine Division during World War II, his unit was pinned down by a Japanese machine gun nest in the battle for Guam.
The weighty Browning Automatic Rifle he carried for his platoon was jammed and they were taking heavy fire. He used that powerful throwing arm to deliver several hand grenades into the enemy nest, knocking out the machine gun, and saving several members of his unit.
A grateful nation awarded him the Silver Star.
In civilian life he spent more then 60 years looking for oil and gas in Michigan.
Every prospect was faced with unbridled optimism.
Every dry hole was recognized as a valuable lesson.
If he got discouraged, he never shared it with my mother or I.
He had success, but still sought the blockbuster oil well which had eluded him.
At 70 years of age, he retired.
He’s always loved the land, and found a parcel that desperately needed improvement.
My father oversaw the restoration of a polluted inland lake, and worked personally pulling stumps and debris out of the trout stream feeding the lake. He ruined two knees in the process.
The land is now known as the George and Barbara Gordon Biological Station, a real-world laboratory for budding scientists from Hillsdale College.
Then he un-retired.
At the age of 87, he still gets high on the pursuit of petroleum.
This month he’s putting together another prospect for development.
He and my mother are both news nerds who get revved up about every issue.
I didn’t get the major league talent, the athletic gifts, the enviable golf handicap, and I never even came close to besting him in any sport until, time and mileage evened the playing field.
What I did get was a gift I cherish to this day.
In spite of my shortcomings, he believed I could become a pitcher.
He always saw potential, not risk of failure.
And when my love for news and writing led me to make a Hail Mary pass at a career in broadcast journalism, his belief was greater than my own.
My father and I have played on several Fields of Dreams, and I’ve cherished every one.
He’s still my best pal and if I’m half the Dad he’s been, my kids will be okay too.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a ball to fetch.