Saturday, June 20, 2015

Skipping Father's Day

There was a good reason I was rolling around on the ground in a suit and tie, in so much pain on that Father’s Day afternoon 10 years ago.

We had come from church and were waiting for my wife’s parents to join us for brunch. Both my kids are impatient, so we went looking for something to kill time. There is a big lake at the country club where were meeting, with lots of rocks on the shoreline.

I figured it would be a good time to teach the boys how to skip stones on the water.

My father taught me how to do it down at the creek behind his parents’ house in Lincoln County. It was most likely the same place his father taught him. Both my dad and grandfather could get 30 or 40 skips every time they tried, which is not exactly easy on a meandering stream with only a few wide pools suitable for skipping.

They both taught me over the years how to find a perfect rock. It should be round. It should be flat. It should fit comfortably in the crook of your index finger. When we were kids, out in the country where there was little to do, my friends and I could spend hours skipping rocks on the creek before we started throwing them at each other.

Now that the boys were getting older, I couldn’t wait to teach them this important life skill that had been passed down for generations.

My oldest son was maybe three years old at the time and the youngest was one. The oldest has never liked sports, but I believed teaching him to throw was a paternal obligation. If nothing else, I figured, it might give him something to do on camping trips.

So there we were, standing on the shore of the lake, a father teaching his sons something on a perfect June afternoon. Such a wonderfully simple time in our lives. This, I imagined, was exactly how Andy taught Opie. You could practically hear someone whistling in the background.

“Daddy, can I try?” the oldest asked.

I found the perfect rock. It was a little heavy for his tiny hand, but he was eager to learn.  I showed him a side-arm throwing motion, kind of like Al Hrabosky going for a save. I gave him all the verbal instructions he needed to skip the rock at least three or four times.  Stepping behind him, I waited to enjoy the beauty of my teaching skills, the perfection of the moment, the wonder of God’s gift of allowing a father to impart wisdom to his son.

My son, the non-athlete, had pretty good form. He wedged the rock in his forefinger just right. He swung his arm on a good flat plane, putting a good spin on the rock that should have landed perfectly flat on the lake surface. He held on to the rock a bit too long. He didn’t let go until his hand came around his body. Even though I was standing behind him, there was no safe harbor.

Little bugger hit me right in the nads.

At that exact moment, my in-laws drove up to see my wife and sons standing over my body, writhing with Old Testament pain. It looked like they were boot-kicking me into submission.

“What now?” they wondered.

It’s a question we get a lot at our house.