It’s 5:30 am. I’m wide awake. It’s Fathers’ Day, my favorite day of the year. I want to crack open a bottle of champagne and light up a cigar. I feel like Red Auerbach celebrating another championship.

I glance over at my wife — curled up, oblivious. I smile. Marrying above one’s station has its bennies. Evil thoughts creep into my mind. I immediately banish them — after about 20 minutes.

One of our cats is waiting for the sun in our west window. Our golden lab is snoring loudly down stairs.

I am grinning like the cheshire cat. Why sleep when I can replay tapes in my mind?

I agree with that country-western song: I like the view “from the back porch looking in.”

The flashbacks are random—but they begin in that hospital room on New York’s Upper East Side on a cold December day 34 years ago (can’t believe today she’s a mom). It was the 4th quarter of the Dallas/Giants game. Do I go into the delivery room or wait to see who wins?

Nothing would be on my time ever again.

Like all first-time fathers, I take my daughter everywhere with me — Christmas shopping, to the office, down to TJ Tucker’s to watch the playoffs with the boys.

At five months, I meet my wife in Central Park for my first ever picnic with my own kid. Life will never get any better.

My son comes along a couple of years later. Almost lose him. Don’t care to remember the intensity of those prayers. Not sure I kept all those promises.

Child number three, of course, flies out like a kid going down a water slide. I catch her, cut the cord, wrap her up—all without gloves or gown—we are pros by now. (Really can’t believe she’s mom!) The other two can’t get enough of her.

Fast forward to number one coming home from college for Easter, and number three jumping in her bed, sleeping with her sister every night. Two teenage girls—best friends.

Bad parents that we were, often we would listen outside my son and youngest daughter’s door as he administered her nightly quiz: “Name each of the 26 NFL teams, their quarterback, and their numbers.” Then she would quiz him on the World Series winners.

Flashback to the eldest tossing off her catcher’s mask, hair akimbo, firing the ball down to second. The shortstop makes the tag. They are 11 years old. The place is up for grabs.

Seeing them each, one by one, go through that ritual of popping the clutch in the jeep at age 12, but sitting tall as they finally drive through the fields—confident, adult, strutting their stuff—driving a car, “all by self.”

Watching the kick of that shotgun stun them so. Then the irrepressible smile as that first clay pigeon is shredded.

“You’re looking slim, Dad”—our youngest’s words before asking for a favor I don’t want to grant. Number three teaching number one how to schmooze dumb dad.

The eldest in mortarboard at Cal. A woman. So worldly and tall.

Our son, running out of the tunnel at Notre Dame. Warming up with the team. Passing the ball like he belongs—though a “Rudy,” he knows he will never play.

Watching all three get that Cal Diploma–such pride.

The youngest, again, telling us the proper punishment to mete out to her older sister. And she’s right.

Our son and his “Pop Up”: a device which “popped” a ball up in the air so he could swing a bat at it. He plays entire Giants games by himself—naming each batter, the runners on base, and the outs. “I’ll be right in. It’s the bottom of the 8th”. The tree is a triple, the chimney a double, over the fence speaks for itself. The defense? Oski, our golden retriever—run ragged by the nine-inning games.

I remember Fathers’ Days past. Finding funny cards for my own father. Buying crummy presents. His favorite present is the year (in 1969) I shave off my beard for Father’s Day.

The phone used to ring around 7pm out in Conn Valley, back in the day. It’s my father’s father (My grandfather, Papa Warren) calling from D.C. to wish a happy Father’s Day to his kid, my dad. Then he thanks me for the card I sent, and we talk about the hapless Washington Senators, Giants, and how next fall will surely mean roses for the Bears.

I slip back to the most poignant moment of our lives. All three kids going in to say goodbye to their grandfather, my dad. He’s dying. He’s been in a coma for five days. Is this a good idea? We’re not sure, but do it. As we sing “Hail to California”, a tear rolls down his comatose cheek. How does he know? What do the kids think?

The sun comes through the window. Alas, now there’s not a kid in the house to share my day with me. Adulthood is stealing my children from me. But no one can touch the memories. I slowly savor them, one by one—and will all day long. There have been many better dads, but no better kids. Fathers’ Day. It’s better than Christmas.

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