John Grindrod: Memories of a Father’s Patience
Despite the death of my father over 40 years ago, I often think of him, which is not unusual, I realize. And, when I think of Dad, I often think about what he tried to teach me in my early years.
My dad created his own template for what he thought I should know would help years later. He thought it was important that I knew his New England clam chowder recipe that he brought to the Midwest from his hometown of Lynn, Massachusetts, and he also thought it was important when I was young enough that I knew how to tie a good double Windsor knot, something I did almost every day before heading to 32 years of classrooms to teach.
He also thought it was important that I learn some things about the art of referring people. With papa, who could take it as well as serve it, he firmly believed in the lightness of life.
As for the sport, we watched a lot of games together from the early 1960s when he wasn’t trying to keep that lost creek at Lost Creek Country Club. We had our Cleveland Browns and the awesome Jimmy Brown and our Fighting Irish in the fall. And, of course, like many who made Ohio their home, we loved our Buckeye basketball with Jerry Lucas and John Havlicek leading the way and Gary Gearhart of Lima providing invaluable input.
And then there was that Saturday night when he felt I was old enough to dip my toes in the betting water to feel either the thrill of a win or the agony of a loss. Now besides a friendly bet on the Lost Creek Golf Course with buddies like Bob Krause and Smokey Miller, understand that my dad wasn’t much of a gamer.
However, there was a time when some bets and some stings mixed together, one night in March 1963, and it remains one of the most vivid memories of his childhood under his roof in 1525 Latham.
It was the March Madness at a time when the term hadn’t even achieved proper name status, and it was also the heyday of University of Cincinnati basketball. While dad and I were both Buckeye fans, my dad and I were surely in favor of the Ohio squad to defeat Chicago’s Loyola and win the school’s third straight NCAA Championship. In the previous two years in an all-Ohio Championship game, Cincinnati broke our Buckeye hearts.
So daddy and I settled into our usual viewing positions, he, in what was always called “daddy’s chair”, leaned toward the television in what was indeed rightly called the living room as I lay on the carpet with a pillow sofa tucked under my head and a sleeve full of Zesta salts handy. See the scene as an early sign of my near salt addiction and the precursor to my current blood pressure issues.
Cincinnati took a huge lead, and five minutes into the second half that lead had grown to fifteen points, so after I finished another saltine, I proclaimed to daddy that there was no no way Loyola could win.
That’s when daddy tilted his head and said, “No way, eh?” He went on to say that he would bet two of his dollars against my dollar (which for this eleven-year-old was about 20% of my net worth), and that he would take Loyola. I gladly accepted what I thought was a sure thing. Of course, with every bucket of Loyola and every free kick that reduced the lead for the rest of the game, dad was pointing and, of course, after a buzzer batsman at the end of the settlement the tied and in overtime a bounced and handed shot won the game for Loyola, I was so angry my dad laughed and walked over to the bed thinking I could pay him off in the morning.
In a fit of poor sport rage, I walked into my room, found two dollars in change, walked out into the hallway and shouted: “Here is your money” and threw the change in. the hallway to the door. The change hitting that wooden door sounded like pistol shots in the silence of the twenty-third hour of that day. Within seconds, I regretted my recklessness and prepared myself the best I could for an angry, bulging-eyed father to fly out of this room.
Now I’m not sure what happened behind that closed door I guess my mom grabbed his arm as he started to swing out of bed and some soothing cuddles just to let the drama in. night rest with the rest of us and then discuss the matter in the morning. But, in the end, the door never opened as I crept down the hall to pick up the coins and whisper, “I’m sorry, dad,” a down payment for the Sunday morning apology that I knew was going to be. I would do.
While my father was a passionate man with an angry temper, he was the one he had on that cold March night, calling on the same patience that I tried to remember years later as I raised my own children.
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News, a freelance writer and editor, and the author of two books. Contact him at [email protected]