January 15th would have been my Daddy’s 84th birthday. (Yes, I am a grown woman who still refers to her father as “Daddy” and am proud of it. If you had met him, you would understand it. Just take my word for it.) He died in the spring of 2010. His absence in my life has left a hole that time will make easier to step around. The hole is still there, I know how to avoid it on most days and when I do step in it, it is not the fresh shock of pain that it was two years ago.
Daddy was a huge sports fan. He’d played football in college in Arkansas. He was able to go to college because of a football scholarship. He taught high school and coached sports for decades. He had coached football, basketball, and track. He had even coached a football team to a state championship in Texas in the 1950s. Long after he had moved from the sidelines to the guidance counselor’s office, he remained an avid sports fan.
I remember going to all kinds of games with him over the years — Arkansas Razorbacks football, Dallas Cowboys, all kinds of basketball games. I still wish I could pick up the phone and call him to talk about the Razorbacks giving especially harsh trouncing to an SEC rival in a basketball game or bemoan a particularly bad call by a referee in an NFL game. Even though I have never been athletically inclined or talented, I do love a good basketball or football game. Those who know me well realize that being in the same room with me during an Arkansas game during the NCAA tournament in March is a risk to your eardrums. I tend to try to give coaching advice through the television, and I do so loudly with an extreme level of enthusiasm.
When I was a toddler, I would sit on my Dad’s lap when he sat in his recliner. I loved to sit there when Daddy would watch TV and nod off to “rest his eyes.” I remember I loved leaning my head back on his shoulder and listening to his rumbling snore. We would watch games on Saturdays and Sundays. He would bounce me on his knee and say, “How did you like that play, my little sports fan?” Exasperated, I would exclaim back with my pronounced childhood lisp, “I’m not a ports pan!! I’m Mary!”
Silly me. I did not know at that young age that I was Daddy’s little sports fan. I still am.