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NICHOLAS MERCER: Memories, inspirations on Father’s Day

Father’s Day is this Sunday.
Father’s Day is this Sunday. - 123RF Stock Photo

The crack of a baseball striking the leather glove interrupts the calm of a dying summer afternoon.

Not a solitary moment, the sounds continue as a father and child flick the ball back and forth.

Silhouetted against an orange sun, the older figure takes the time to offer subtle instructions after each toss.

Step when you throw, don’t snatch at the ball with your glove and follow through are the ideas being exchanged.

The son is just starting and he needs the guidance after all.

It could be a scene from any backyard in any town in the world. Just a kid out for a catch with his dad or grandfather.

There are no prerequisites, no specific moment in time that it’s tied to. It's just something that happens every day when the weather co-operates.

With Father’s Day on Sunday, it is the perfect time to reflect on the memories we hold dear when thinking about fathers and grandfathers.

Scenes like the one above are commonplace on days like Sunday.

***

Musician Mark Bragg can still remember the melody his father, Don, would sing to him before going to bed as a child.

He remembers lying there as Don voiced the words to "Sleepy Joe," a tune by '60s British pop group Herman’s Hermits.

Don still sings that song. This time, he’s learning how to play the music to it.

Mark’s memory flashes to another time.

He and Don are on a hike somewhere on the east coast when a young Mark, maybe five or six at the time, spies a bird’s nest on the trail. He takes hold of one of the eggs in the nest and inadvertently breaks it.

Now, Don could have scolded Mark after what had happened, but he chose to ease his child’s nerves.

He told his son the mama bird would lay another egg when it returned to the nest later that day.

“Parents can tell you things like that,” said Mark.

***

Multi-sport athlete Darren Colbourne remembers the trek to a pond near Pinchgut Lake more like a journey than a walk through the woods.

His father, Don, was at the front of the pack using a map and compass to guide Darren, his brother Larry and a family friend to one of the relatively untouched fishing holes.

It was several miles from where the party left their vehicles. They moved through the thick brush with their fishing gear in tow and — of course — the supplies needed for a boil-up pond-side.

When the group came to a brook on their excursion, the depth of the water made it impossible for the younger members of the group to pass.

That’s just one of the things that stands out out to Darren when he reflects on the relationship he has with his father.

The other is time — the amount of time Don had, and still has, to spend with his children.

Whether it was in the backyard for a catch, bringing Darren to the rink or just coaching, the time was there.

“I felt like I had a head start because of the time he gave me,” said Darren.

***

When Corner Brook MHA Gerry Byrne thinks of Father’s Day his memory moves to a moment 22 years ago, on Father’s Day in 1996.

It is a date that is especially poignant for the longtime politician.

It is the day when his father, Gerald Byrne, was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer.

That day came a couple of months after Gerry had won his first federal election, something that was cherished by both father and son.

The day was meant to be a joyous one and serve as a cherished moment between the pair.

Just a few weeks later, on July 27, Gerald died.

Every Father’s Day, Gerry remembers the man Gerald was, while using his memory both as inspiration and a reminder to pour all of his energies into being the best father he can be for his son, Gerry.

“While my father is not with me, he is very much there in spirit,” said Byrne.

***

Whether it is watching professional wrestling with my father and grandfather as a child or going out for a catch in the backyard, there is plenty to reflect on.

Some of my most cherished memories with both involve a baseball and a glove.

I wasn’t five years old when I first threw the ball around with my grandfather. We’re in the kitchen of his Bay Roberts home and he is standing by the doorway. I am 10-15 feet from him, with my back to the sink and the window facing the graveyard next door.

I can still see him smiling as he half threw the rubber ball to me with a slight arc.

In Harbour Grace years later, the ball is still arcing. This time I’m a little older and my dad is the one throwing fly balls in the yard of the United Church manse.

There are times he might’ve preferred throwing a football around, but he did this as many times as I asked him in the summer months of the early '90s.

It was just one of the things he sacrificed for his oldest son and I’m not sure there are enough words to repay him.

Happy Father’s Day.

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