“If I had to pick just one value that my father instilled in me, above all else, it would be the winning spirit that this country was built upon and continues to make it the greatest nation in the whole world, to this very day.
In a variation on the great philosopher, Yoda’s idea of ‘do or do not, there is no try’, my father believes that life is about winning. You win or you lose. There is no tie.
On a different note, one of my most vivid childhood memories is of my dog, Kaya.
Kaya was a samoyed, which is, for those who are unfamiliar, a big fluffy, white dog; akin to a husky. Samoyeds are sled dogs. Shepherding kinds of dogs. They’re not bred to fight. Consequently, Kaya was not much of a fighter.
One night, he was tied up outside and a strange dog wandered into the yard and he got in a fight with Kaya and my poor sled dog was mauled pretty badly. He didn’t die or anything, but from that point on, he was terrified of sleeping outside at night.
My warmest memories are mostly a series of moments involving my dog and my other great boyhood love: baseball.
My father followed my baseball career with great interest. He would help me prepare for big games, spending hours outside with me, throwing the ball, hitting pop ups, giving me tips on my stance.
In addition to this, he gave me a different kind of motivation.
In the bottom of the final inning, I went to bat. We were behind by 3 runs and there were two batters on base. I hit a home run to tie the game. I was so excited.
That is, until I got home and my father informed me that my punishment for losing (there was no tie, remember) was that Kaya had to sleep outside that night.
No matter how much I pleaded and cried my 9 year old boy tears, he was unmoved. He made it clear that Kaya’s fate rested squarely in my hands, not his. Any discomfort he would suffer that night was a direct result of my own failure and had nothing to do with him.
Moreover, since Kaya had shown himself to be so cowardly in his dust-up with the other dog, he thought it odd that anybody would feel sympathy towards a loser like that.
The worst part was, Kaya slept directly outside my bedroom window, so I had to listen to him whimpering and whining, scratching at the house in an attempt to get in. Basically, terrified out of his mind.
Now, if you think my alcoholic mother would have– Hey, stop it, let go of me!”
My father had had enough and stormed up to the dais to physically remove me from where I had been speaking at the banquet held in honor of his retirement from the Ritz Cracker factory that he had worked at for over 45 years.
Security broke up our little scuffle as I shouted out all sorts of damaging but untrue child molestation accusations.
The car ride home was not a pleasant one. My father just ignored my complaints while my mom just sobbed there, right next to him.
Was I proud of myself for ruining my father’s big day? Not really. But I had warned them that this was what would happen if they kept forcing me to sit in the back seat. I’m a 33 year old man, not a little kid.
It’s not fair. My mom is like 5’7″! I’m 6’5″! I need the extra legroom!