I've Copied my Dad to Become a Good Father

While digging through some bins of the sort of personal items that we can’t bring ourselves to throw away, yet look at every half decade or so, I came across a scorecard from a 1990 Cubs game. It’s cardboard, with two pictures of Mark Grace, and a Jays potato chip ad on the front. On the inside is the space to keep score, along with rosters for both teams.

It’s minimalist compared to the glossy, colorful, photo-packed publications available at games today. And if I remember correctly, it cost a buck. Maybe fifty cents. I can still see and hear the old guy who used to stand inside the right field gate and shout, “Pencils! Scorecards! Yearbooks!”

I often kept score at games, but not on that day. At least, not on that scorecard. It’s possible we got another scorecard on which to keep score, but I had something more important in mind that day. Autographs.

After the game, my dad promised that we could wait by the players' parking lot and try to get some autographs. So we waited for the crowd to file out, and made our way to the triangle along the third base side of Wrigley, where Gallagher Way is today. We stood along the fence, and after a while, some players started coming out.

Doug Dascenzo signed before getting into a minivan with his wife. Dwight Smith signed and then got into his Mercedes. He had wipers on his headlights, which I thought was the coolest thing ever. Mark Grace signed, and I noticed right away that his autograph looked like “Mr Jose.”

I stood mesmerized as I watched player after player come out, get into their cars and drive away.

All of that came back to me in an instant as I saw the scorecard in that plastic bin.

I was that twelve-year-old kid again, the memories as vivid as if they’d happened yesterday, rather than 30 years ago.

I have a good memory. Dates, places, events. I can usually keep them straight. Inevitably, after I recall something like the events surrounding that scorecard, I think of how it came to be. And I can't count how many good memories from the first half of my life thus far came to be thanks to my parents.

I’ve written about how I hit the mother jackpot before. But I somehow ended up with a fantastic father, as well.

Now that I’m a father, I’ve done pretty well by just emulating him. He has shaped and influenced my life in ways large and small, and I’m a good father to my kids, in part, because he’s been such a good father to me.

I’ve got countless memories like that Cubs scorecard because he gave me his time and attention, two things for which there are no substitute.

The big memories (Cubs games, Cubs conventions, vacations) are overshadowed only by the day-to-day commitment to being a good father, and a good person, which manifests in a million different ways.

He showed me the importance of hard work. He showed me the innate morality in treating everyone equally. In supporting your loved ones, no matter what.

Besides showing me how to be a good dad, he shaped me in smaller ways. I have the same interest in history and trivia. Looking at road maps with him during my childhood is part of the reason I've been interested in them throughout my life. And, of course, there’s baseball, and the Chicago Cubs.

But his greatest gift to me has been the memories he helped me create. Not only do I get to enjoy and relive moments again, but I can recall how I felt, and then figure out how to create that same feeling in my own children.

Whether it’s going outside to play catch after getting home from work. Or standing in line for five hours so my son can play a new video game for five minutes. Or not missing games, concerts, and recitals.

Parenting can be difficult. But having a rock-solid template to follow makes it much easier.

I’m forever thankful to have such a terrific father.

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