Will you come to one of my games? I have no dad anymore but I read your stories because you are like him is what my mom and I say. You like baseball and I just started to learn it. I should be playing center filled if you come to it next summer when we are playing. I am a redhead like you are. Thank you.
Nebraska is a long way from me. Seven states away, actually. That’s practically another world. If I drove the whole way, it would probably take me—factoring in the slow speed I travel; the number of pit stops I take due to my teacup-sized bladder; and all the roadside cafes I will have to visit to meet my daily quota of bacon—ten years to reach Nebraska.
So to answer your question: Yes. I will try to come.
Firstly, because I believe in baseball. Also, because I am flattered that you read my writing. You could read anything you want, but you choose to read my few hundred words. Which raises the question: Are you nuts?
But then, maybe it has something to do with the color of our hair. We redheads are a dying breed you know.
Experts claim that long ago, during caveman times, redheads ruled the earth. In those days, the mythical ginger was often an important leader of a powerful tribe. Sometimes we were even worshiped.
Historians also tell us that redheads were mankind’s first poets, philosophers, and discovered many important medical breakthroughs such as tinctures, compounds, tonics, and out-of-pocket copay deductibles.
But somewhere along the way, the number of redheads decreased. We dwindled to two percent of the world’s population—which is a true statistic.
It was hard growing up as a two-percenter. In my childhood, people didn’t see us as tribal leaders, and they certainly didn’t worship us. They sort of saw us as weirdos.
It’s hard feeling like you don’t fit in. Which is how I felt after my father died. I was a baseball player like you, as I’m sure you already know from reading. I was not a good athlete, but I had fun.
Still, if I’m being honest, my favorite part about baseball was the camping trips. We would hike, build campfires, and sing songs like “John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt” at the tops of our lungs to attract hungry bears.
Though I was never worried about bears because, statistically speaking, bears only eat people with dark hair, so I was good.
The other team-dads contributed their talents, too. Some would cook supper over the campfire—beans and hotdogs. Others would use nylon parachute cord to hoist our food bag four feet off the ground to keep it safe from very short bears. Also, to serve as a warning to bigger bears that they had better stay away if they knew what was good for them because we were armed with nylon parachute cord.
At some point we would all huddle around the fire and my father would tell stories. That was his role. He told stories. I don’t know how someone inherits this skill, but some people are put on this planet to tell stories.
This job might seem sort of unimportant in the larger scheme of things. Especially if you are at a family dinner, sitting beside your brother-in-law, who is a medical malpractice attorney with two summer homes in Costa Rica. But stories are important. They can keep us going when life sucks.
When my father died, there were no more stories, and no more howling laughter.
I’ll never forget the first team camping trip after my father’s funeral. There was an empty seat at the campfire where my father used to sit. It was horrible.
All the boys were quiet. They were probably all thinking the same thing. Where are the stories? Who’s going to tell the one about the ghost on the mountain? Who’s going to make us laugh?
Someone had to step in and save the day because Mister Harold was just sitting there, cooking pork and beans.
So I took a deep breath and I told one. It was a story my father always told. It was a funny one. One I won’t repeat here because it has some parts I don’t think your mother would appreciate. Mothers don’t always approve of things boys say around campfires.
When I told the story, I discovered something. I knew the whole thing. Start to finish. Even my father’s inserted jokes. The boys all laughed at the punchlines. It was only courtesy laughter, but it felt good to know that people cared enough to try.
Which is sort of why I’m telling you this. You don’t have a father right now. And even though you didn’t say it in your message, I suspect you sometimes feel the way I did. You might wonder where you fit in.
Well, wonder no more. I will tell you. You were put here to play, laugh, run hard, stare at the moon, stay up too late, kiss loved ones, hit baseballs, and tell stories. Your stories. Stories about life. Maybe not now. But the time will come. And you will remember this letter I have written.
If I can get up to Nebraska next summer, I would be thrilled to watch you play “center filled” and cheer for you. I can’t make any guarantees you understand. But I promise I will try.
Because we redheads have to stick together.