Somewhere beyond the sky, in a place where games are played on the fields of dreams and wins and losses don't matter, there is a viewing room for dads. Perhaps it is a room with plush easy chairs and a home theater style television. Maybe it is a bright, clear window from a favorite fishing hole or a stadium seat in the arena, the ballpark or on the 50-yard line.
Dads may pass away, but they really never go away. Logic will tell us that death ends a life, but the mind gives us memories and the heart, in the space where it becomes the soul, lives on. It is up to the living to celebrate life and that is why we have days like Father's Day.
"If I had one message to tell people on Father's Day, it would be to call your father and tell him that you love him," UT head coach Mack Brown says. "It's been almost five years since I lost my dad and granddad. I think about them every day and believe they are watching me."
This has been a year of profound loss in America. The events of September 11 brought reality crashing through to the peace we had known as a nation for more than 150 years. War is cruel and death is painful. Part of all of us died that day, but there is power in what has survived.
Grown men aren't as ashamed to cry or hug one another. Crying is a necessary release of emotion and hugging is a mutual gift to the hugger and the huggee. It is hard to tell which is which and it doesn't really matter.
What I know about dads is this. They may have made mistakes along the way when it came to raising kids, but I am convinced they are the best dads they know how to be and all of us are a product of that. If you think you had a bad father, think again. Fathers are way different from moms. Dads are guys who sometimes don't know how to say "I love you." Dads have a tough time saying "I'm sorry" and too often feel they have to be perfect and have all the answers. Love them anyway because in their own, maybe imperfect way, they love you.
Years ago, after my uncle died at the young age of 47 of a massive heart attack, I was driving a relative back to the airport in Abilene after the funeral. She was in her 60s, and her mom and dad had died some years before.
"There is never a day goes by that I don't have something that I wish I could ask my dad about," she said. "He's been gone a long time, but I always knew he would have the answer."
Perhaps, the answers are still right where they left them.
Several weeks ago, I received a phone message at the office from a man I didn't know. He said he wanted to talk to me about my dad, who died in 1971. I couldn't imagine what he wanted, but I answered his call with an email. My dad had been a rural mail carrier in Winters, Texas, and for 30 years from the late 1930s through 1967, he traveled the highways and the dirt roads around the little town serving the folks in the farm land.
"After all these years, I thought it would be appropriate to thank you for the services of your dad," the e-mail said. "I was a little boy in Wingate with a daddy over seas and we would walk to the mailbox hoping for a letter. Then, later, after he came home, my uncle went through the outskirts of the Battle of the Bulge and saw pretty raw action. My grandparents were there and your dad would drive that extra two miles up to the house to give my grandmother one of those precious letters. The family often talked about your dad's extensions. People remember these kindnesses."
All my life, I have believed that life was about how you treat people. Now, the memory of a little boy from 60 years ago helps me understand why. Go the extra mile.
Brown's memory of his granddad is that of the winningest high school coach in middle Tennessee history — not because of the victories, but because of the lives he touched. He remembers his dad, not for the fortune he might of made in the sporting goods business but for the number of high school coaches he gave equipment to when they couldn't afford it. It wasn't about the money. It was about the people.
Everything Brown has done as the Longhorns coach has been about building a "family." That is the message of this Father's Day. It is a message for all of those who have lost dads and for those who still have a chance to solidify, or heal a bond, with a father who is still here.
The timing for Texas athletics is ironic, for during this Father's Day weekend and the days to follow, the College World Series is being played in Omaha, Neb., and Alan Bomer will be pitching for the Longhorns. A year and a half ago — the fall of hiss sophomore year at Iowa State — his dad died of a massive heart attack while watching Alan practice with the Cyclones on an autumn day in Ames, Iowa. Alan is a quiet, respectful young man who keeps that private part of his life in a very special place. However, he did say something to a reporter who asked him about what he thought his dad would think about his pitching for Texas in the College World Series.
"I think he would be very proud," Bomer said.
Somewhere beyond the sky, in a place where games are played on fields of dreams and wins and losses don't matter, there is a viewing room for dads. There, and in the heart, is where love and pride live.
It's a place where Alan's dad is surely swelling with pride. Mack's grandad and dad I can imagine couldn't be prouder as they watch their son and grandson build one of the nation's premier football teams. I'm sure my dad is still serving people with a smile and his message of caring and loving people is one I try to pursue in my everyday life.
That is what this day is all about.
Happy Father's Day.