I think about you sometimes. Especially during summer, when families get together for picnics and fireworks. When fathers wear T-shirts that read: “World’s Greatest Dad.”
I like those.
You’re the son I never had. You never existed, but I still think about you.
Mostly, I wonder what color your hair would have been. I have a feeling it would’ve been red—like your old man’s.
My daddy had red hair, too. And even though he died long ago, sharing his hair color makes me feel less alone.
I would’ve taught you baseball. Chances are, you would’ve been awful at it—just like me.
But I love the game. And I love what goes with it. The hot dogs, the twenty-five-dollar beers, screaming in the stands. Fathers and sons.
I’ve gone to many games alone. I would’ve made sure you didn’t.
I would’ve told you stories. That way, you could’ve had a million to tell your own redhead one day. I think all World’s Greatest Daddies need stories. Good ones. Tales that make their sons proud.
The few I have of my own father are precious.
Anyway, I’m not a teacher, but I would’ve taught you. Things like: how to play “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” on a guitar, how to eat ice cream sandwiches, how to gig frogs, and how to speak slow when delivering a punchline.
I would’ve shown you how to bait a hook, clean a bream, and use words like, “I love you,” too much.
You would’ve learned to open doors for girls, and how to apologize to a woman with heart.
I would’ve learned from you. You would’ve discovered that I made a lot of mistakes.
But I would’ve told you that this world is not all Memorial-Day sunshine and flowers—even though I wish it were. That the problem is that people are selfish. Every last person. Even your old man.
But, there is also something in the air that cancels out selfishness. And it watches over you, whether you choose to believe it or not. Your old daddy has seen it. He’s touched it.
I once sat inside a wrecked Ford, on the side of a Georgiana highway, and I felt it. It’s more than a heartwarm feeling, it’s a friend.
It helps you do hard things, like being strong for someone who isn’t. Like burying a good dog.
It’s the same force of nature that gave me red hair. And it does this so people like us can look in mirrors and see our entire ancestry on our heads.
Seeing such things makes a body grateful. Because your own reflection—your nose, mouth, and ears—doesn’t only belong to you. It belongs to the people who came before you. Folks who were kind enough to pass their faces down to you.
Ordinary underdogs, who once went through the same hell of living you’re going through.
Seeing all that in a foggy bathroom mirror makes you feel less afraid. It makes you remember the most important thing any person could ever know on planet earth.
That you are not alone.
And neither am I.