My father was watching the Charlotte Hornets beat the Cleveland Cavaliers at his home in Cleveland on Dec. 9 when he died of a heart attack 20 years ago.
The Cavaliers were his hometown team, but he followed the Hornets because I was the sports editor in Charlotte and he kept up with things in my life because he cared. Also, my mother later explained, he tried to read about all that my sisters and I were involved with so he would have things to talk about with us as we moved off into our own lives.
Almost a year after his death, I wrote a piece about what his baseball glove meant to me. The day it ran in The Charlotte Observer, I came into work to a full mailbox of messages. Several callers said that they read the story and called home. Others pledged to dig out their baseball glove and play catch with their dad at the next opportunity.
Now, I am almost as old as my father was when he died. I think about him often, especially when I hear his voice in my words or see his values in my actions. Over time, I have more realistically accepted all that he was and understood his imperfections, and that has made me love him even more.
I spoke at his funeral, and remember looking over the audience and thinking about the impact he had on so many. Some of it I already knew. I also learned more in the days after he died, as others told me what Fred Schwab meant to them.
That’s comforting now as I still see, two decades later, the impact he has on his family, his friends, and on me.
I still have his baseball glove and take it to elementary schools to use as a prop when I talk about writing.
The topic: Write about something you have that is special to you, even though it might not appear to be special to anyone else. Make the reader understand why you care.
I hold up the old glove, and ask them to tell me what they see. It’s old, hard, the strings are gone and the leather is cracked, they say.
Then I ask them to close their eyes, and I tell them the story of my dad’s glove. I read parts of the column I wrote in the fall of 1994.
When I finish reading to the class and they open their eyes, I ask: Why is this old, broken glove special to me?
It’s your dad’s glove, they say. It helps you remember him.
It’s been 20 years since he died. Next fall, the Hornets return. My children, babies then, are grown now. Even so, I still coach youth sports like my father once did, only soccer instead of baseball.
Time passes, and we all decide each day what we want to hold onto.
Once, a small child from a fourth grade class I was speaking to raised his hand after I told my story and had asked them why my dad’s glove was special to me.
He said something I had yet to figure out:
Because when you put it on, it’s almost like you can feel his hand again.
Now, I keep my father’s glove on a bookshelf in our small library. Sometimes, late at night, I put it on still.
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