On the last day of the third grade, my teacher, Sister Joan Bernadette, thought so much of me that she gave me a huge stack of baseball cards.
She had confiscated them from one of my classmates during the
I really wasn’t well behaved so much as terrified to step out of line.
And I didn’t even like baseball cards, but I enjoyed getting free stuff and I was pleased that my gutlessness had paid off in some small way.
I raced home to show the bounty to my father and somewhere in the conversation I let it slip that the cards had originally belonged to a classmate named Sal who just happened to live down the block from us.
“They’re Sal’s cards?” he asked. “Well, then you have to give them back.”
I was floored. What was my father talking about? Give them back? Oh, hell no. These were my cards now. A nun, one of God’s emissaries on earth, had given me this prize, which was the next best thing to having the clouds open up and getting the cards handed to me straight from the Big Guy Himself.
I wasn’t about to give them up.
But my father insisted and so, on that beautiful June day, we walked down Senator Street to Sal’s house and rang the doorbell.
I vaguely remember holding out the stack of cards and offering them to Sal, a feat of acting that should have gotten me a special Academy Award.
But Sal wouldn’t take the cards; he said they were mine to keep. And I felt good walking back to our house, knowing the baseball cards were now officially mine.
I was grateful to Sal for his noble gesture, but on this Father’s Day, as I look back on that incident, I’m even more grateful to my dad for showing me the importance of doing the right thing.
It's All in the Cards
That probably sounds a bit trite, especially is this vile era, where all manner of scheming scum are elevated to heroic status. However, I’m glad my father showed me the importance of caring about others and earning rewards honestly.
Recalling the good times I had with my dad is no easy task. We butted heads a lot and toward the end of his life we have some very rough exchanges indeed.
My selective memory is ruthlessly efficient in conjuring up the misery, but those same churning brain cells suddenly go on the fritz when I try to recall the golden moments like that day in the third grade. I’m beginning to think that this says a lot more about me than it does about my dad.
Once when I was a just little kid my father returned to the house to get something he had forgotten. On his way back to his car, he stopped to lean down and give me a kiss.
“You see?” he said. “I had to come back because I forgot to kiss you.”
Now my dad was an Irishman and a salesman, so he could toss the malarkey around in his sleep. But that little fib made me like I was the most important person in the world.
And there was the time when I was sitting on my father’s lap as he called his customers on the phone. While he was on hold, he gently rocked me back and forth and sang this old song “Who's your little who-zis?”
“Who’s your little who-zis?” he sang. “Who’s your turtle dove?”
“Me!” I interjected.
And that’s how we did the whole song. For every question, the answer was always “me!”
Those old baseball cards are long gone now and I supposed that if I had held on to them they would be worth a fortune today.
But their value pales when compared with that priceless lesson my father taught me on that beautiful day in June.
Happy Father’s Day.