With thanks to my Dad on his birthday

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Family has been one of the constant themes on this blog, since I started writing it more than five years ago. I’ve put over 1,500 entries into this space since then, but I didn’t get through the first ten posts before I mentioned my dad for the first time. Since I’ve always been one who prefers writing over speaking, this is the best medium for wishing my dad well on his 70th birthday. I hope he still has many more birthdays ahead of him, too.

Parenting is great for many reasons, but perhaps the best one is that it wakes you up to how just difficult it is to raise a family. My own daughters don’t understand that yet, and I’ve told myself that one day, if they’re lucky, they will. But it will probably take arriving at the gates of parenthood to drill that point home. That’s certainly how it worked for me.

My dad gave me his name, and for many years I hated being a Junior. But now I’m OK with it, and I like his (and my) distinctive middle name. The world has thousands and thousands of Robert Harrises, but at least we have an interesting way to stand out in that crowd.

I’ve also written about being left-handed on many occasions, and I get that from my dad. It makes me different from most people, since we lefties are never in the majority anywhere (except for the cast members of Seinfeld, where Julia-Louis Dreyfus is the only righty in the bunch). I also enjoy counting Jimi Hendrix, LeRoy Neiman, Barack Obama, and David Bowie–among many others–in my lefty tribe.

But the thing I’ll always be most grateful for is that my dad taught me to learn how to love baseball. I had no idea about what baseball was as a kid in the 1970s, but that summer my dad took me to St. Louis to see a doubleheader against the Mets in the first Busch Stadium.

I’ve written about this before, how being a part of the baseball experience shaped me like nothing had before, and not too much has since. The best way to get into a sport is to go and see a game for yourself, and that’s probably always been the case. I’ve been to hundreds of ballgames since then, but that first game still remains a treasured memory. At one point in the game, Ted Simmons doubled off the outfield wall, and everybody came to their feet and cheered. All subsequent baseball memories have built upon that moment for me. I don’t know if I’ve ever thanked my dad for taking me along that day, but I need to do that here.

The Dad memories don’t stop there, either. I remember playing Pong with my dad in either a department store or a grocery store, back in the 1970s. The sensation of being able to move a controller and have it move something on a TV screen was pretty revolutionary to the young kid I was at the time. Today’s kids won’t ever know what that feels like, but I remember it because I was playing a game with my dad.

My dad also took me to see Star Wars back in 1977, around the time that I turned nine years old. Before that, the only times I had been to a movie theater were old Disney movies with my mom. Those were fun, but Star Wars was different. Seeing R2D2 on screen again in The Phantom Menace a year ago reminded me of how excited I was to see him for the first time. And without my dad, that moment wouldn’t have happened.

So as my dad celebrates a big round number for his birthday this weekend, I’m happy that he’s made it this far in his life’s journey, and that I was along for a good chunk of the ride.

The travelling lefties

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A number of years ago, when I was travelling by airplane more often than I am now, a bag like the one pictured above just wasn’t seen in airports. The four-wheeled travel bag seems to be a newer thing, and you can call me a curmudgeon but I don’t like them.

Last night, I decided to do a bit of informal research on the matter while I was at O’Hare airport in Chicago. I sat on a seat in the middle of a random concourse and started counting bags. I decided that the next hundred bags to pass by, in either direction, would tell me what the breakdown of two-wheeled bags–which I’m more familiar with– and four-wheeled bags is. And what I found was encouraging: 87 out of the 100 bags I counted were of the two-wheeled variety.

So it’s still a two-wheeled world out there, but the other variety has carved out a niche for itself in the past few years. Think of these bags as the left-handers in the right-handed world of traveling; they are a small but noticeable minority. The difference is that nobody chooses to be left handed, while the four-wheeled travelers make a decision to be as they are. I like that analogy, somehow. So vive la difference, right?

Coming at life from the left

Yes, I have already written something about Dave Roberts and The Steal here. There’s not much I can say about him here, except to point out that he played for four teams other than the Red Sox, but I imagine that nobody knows this. And even though he’s the Red Sox’ 2004 hero, you’ll likely never find a Red Sox baseball card for him, either. Funny how that works out sometime.

The purpose of this post is to point out something that I’ve always been able to spot. Being a left -hander is strange, because you’re forever seeking out others who are like you. At least, that’s how it is for me. And it’s only when I see someone wielding a pen–as Dave Roberts is here–that I can tell what someone’s dominant hand usage is.

Being left-handed forever sets me apart from the majority of the people in the world. Right-handedness is the rule, and left-handedness is the unusual exception. If you took 20 people and put them all in a room, three leftys is about the most you could expect to find.

Sometimes I think about fellow left-handers like Benjamin Franklin, or Jimi Hendrix, or even Babe Ruth. Our current president is another example. We all have to find our way in a world that’s made for right-handers at every step. If you don’t believe me, try this: take a pencil or pen with text on it, and put it in your left hand. Can’t read the writing on it, can you? That’s just one example, but there are others (pencil sharpeners, fold-out desks, the computer mouse I’m using at the moment).

There’s lots of  horror stories about people who were born left-handed and were forced to change to being right-handed. The King’s Speech was about the issue, in the most indirect manner possible. Since Prince George was forced to become right-handed, the stuttering ensued as a result. Fortunately, this never happened to me. My left-handedness has guided me throughout my life, even if that does predispose me to all sorts of health issues. I never asked to be born left-handed; Nobody ever does. But you have to play the hand you’re dealt in life (no pun intended?), and it’s something I wouldn’t trade if I could.