Gary Brown: Hey, parents are people, too
From the moment in my early childhood when my father threw a horseshoe -- true to its mark -- I knew he’d had a life before us.
I can’t recall if it was a “ringer” or if it merely came close to the stake in a horseshoe pit set up in a park where we were attending a family reunion. I just remember that I was young enough not to have considered that my father had done anything other than go off to work and come home so he could tell us to get out from in front of the TV.
Then the horseshoe dropped into the pit with such accuracy, time after time.
Obviously, he’d done this before. Somewhere along the line, he had been something other than a parent.
This observation came years before the day it dawned on me that my parents had given birth to me and my brothers and a sister, and, well, according to what it said in the Dear Abby sex book my mother gave me ... oh, no, that could be a mental image that was going to be difficult to carry with me through the years.
Fortunately, a horseshoes memory is less disconcerting.
I don’t know why it was a surprise at first -- so much so that I remember it vividly -- to realize that my father once was a kid himself. He had grown up on a farm, with a handful of his own siblings. They didn’t just go to school and work in the fields. They had played games, too.
And they didn’t just pitch horseshoes, I would learn.
During an early game of croquet, after my father bumped my ball to a blocked-out part of the lawn behind the septic tank post or sent it beyond a swing set, it dawned on me that this was not a man who was learning the game from us. And the idea of love among family members somehow was being toughened by competitive spirit.
Later, when I played catch with the old man, he threw like a young boy. The sting in my hand told me that he had thrown to someone before me. Family members? Neighbors from across a farm field that was being used as a baseball diamond? And he threw it with as much accuracy as he did the horseshoes. This is not something that he would have learned from a year or two of tossing the ball back and forth with my older brother.
A man remembers those moments from his childhood -- the moments of realization. There are moments during card games when he realizes his father knows the rules. There are times when he realizes that his father knows how to ride a bicycle -- fix it, too -- and knows when to rub wax on the runners of a sled.
It seems so simple to understand now. But, in the self-centered world in which most children dwell, it takes a moment such as a horseshoe match to make it to dawn on you.
Parents apparently are people, too. They had lives, ones that went beyond telling you not to slam the door behind you when you run out to play.
It’s likely you had a life. Draw upon it to teach your children. Use it to get close to them.
But, warn your kids before you play croquet with them. And, stick to the stork story as long as possible.
Reach Canton Repository Living Section Editor Gary Brown at (330) 580-8303 or