It was a simple thing, but he was always quick to invite me: "Wanna come along?"
Dad's an avid sportsman. His hobbies and skills nurtured me, too. When I was in elementary school, he let me accompany him to his Friday night bowling league. While the pins clanged, and the other bowlers sat behind the scorekeeper awaiting their turn, one of the memorable gal bowlers on the team sat beside me and taught me how to knit in between frames. With her patience, and Dad's invitation to come along, I completed a pair of navy blue mittens by the end of the season.
Dad invited me along to watch my older brother play basketball on Saturday mornings. Over squeaking sneakers, he explained the rules and finer points of pivoting. Eventually I was playing a decent guard on the girls seventh- and eighth-grade basketball team, though I was lousy at scoring.
I developed patience sitting at a summer baseball game with him while he explained "who's on first" in the old War Memorial Stadium. I liked just going along and sitting with Dad.
I wasn't really a thrill-seeker, but those winter toboggan rides at Chestnut Ridge were just fine with me as long as I was sitting safely behind Dad. I could bury my face into his back and hang on for dear life.
And although I was never one to choose the rattling wooden Cyclone at Crystal Beach, Dad actually got me to try it once with his simple encouragement -- and invitation to come along. No put-downs or insults, just an offer to ride with me if I wanted to see what it was like, and feel the scream on the way down.
Dad invited me to climb the roof of our small porch so I could assist him with the paint job above it. And when it was time to learn to drive the family car, he willingly invited me into the driver's seat. I can still hear his voice when I go around those entrance ramps of the Thruway: "Accelerate as you go into the curve."
Then I was off to junior college, where one of my physical education courses was golf, which had become Dad's very favorite sport. I never got to go along with him, though, due to leagues, teams, late evenings and of course I was older, and didn't ride along as often.
After graduation, when he knew I had been to a driving range, we talked about going out on a course together, but we never got around to it. Before you know it, I was raising children, and then he had retirement leagues. I'd never be able to play at his level, with all his experience.
Dad turns 85 this month, and he has been weakened by a recent cancer diagnosis. The last time he golfed was more than a year ago, when he and Mom went to Florida. He had a hard time keeping up with the guys.
Out of the blue last week, while on the phone with Mom, I got an invitation again -- one I just couldn't pass up. "Ask if she wants to come along to go golfing." You betcha!
Once again, my instructor and encourager was inviting me along. I was riding alongside him in a golf cart; we finally got out on a course together. After 40 years, the college tuition he paid was worth it for both of us when we completed eight of the nine holes on the neighborhood course. He beat me easily, but I was along with him. Thanks Dad.