Twenty years ago my father Gary died. Sad to admit, but I don’t think of him as much as I once did. I suppose that’s the brain’s way of coping with the pain of the void caused by his early death.
I haven’t bowled in a few years, and when we moved across the big ocean I thought it might be time to get rid of the bowling ball I inherited from him with his name imprinted. But I didn’t. I put it in storage instead.
It wasn’t easy to transport it on the 7,002 mile commute from Minnesota to Saudi this August, but against my better judgment I packed it. The Gary ball made its debut tonight in a bowling league with 21 of my ISG colleagues.
I have so many memories going with my father to his bowling league night at the six-lane New London Bowl in my hometown during my childhood. I’d go every Monday, bring my homework along to the smoke-filled building, set up shop on the rail, eat chicken strips and watch him bowl. He’d give me a weekly allowance to go play the Pole Position arcade game, but mostly I was there to watch my dad be a man.
It was leaving the bowling alley one night he saw a magnet earring in my ear, slapped my ear and told me he didn’t ever want to see me wearing an earring. I never got my ear pierced. (I have no problem with men piercing BTW). But there were a lot more positive memories, too, and I learned a lot about positive social interaction by watching my father bowl. It’s a social game, after all.
I apologize for this bit of schmaltz, but when my father lay on his death bed, just hours before he passed, I said the cheesiest thing. I said “All I want to do is continue your legacy, dad.” I didn’t think he could hear me, and I wasn’t aware he could still speak, but suddenly he turned to me and said “No, Riley. Just be your own person.”
I think often I have failed at that, and I certainly haven’t lived his legacy, but I do hope to do my part to help people be social. It’s something I enjoy. Bringing people together. That’s why I brought the Gary ball out of retirement tonight, in a bowling league, in Saudi Effing Arabia, and bowled with some of the best friends a person could ask for, including my wife, Amanda Lester (although she is on an opposing team so she’ll need to be prepared to lose).
Gary ball. Dad. Let’s do this.