Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: EMBARRASS(ED) (11/03/16)
TITLE: That's My Dad
By Francy Judge
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When I was little, I thought it was great that Dad was home all the time. His sister, Aunt Carol, came over every day while Mom worked. The three of us played a lot of Uno. Aunt Carol drove me to little league T-ball since Dad’s leg was fake and he couldn’t drive. He used a walker, but his body would shake. Mom was a nurse and sometimes went to work at eleven at night. I loved when she did and was around during the day to do the things my dad couldn’t do. Mom played soccer with me on our lawn while Dad would cheer, “Go Evan! Score!” He cheered even louder from the bleachers at my games. I didn’t mind with other parents cheering too.
This year I noticed the stares. My dad wasn’t like other dads. He acted more like a kid and laughed too loud. Last spring, he showed up late to my baseball game and had to walk across the field to get to where the other parents sat on lawn chairs. The game had to wait for him to lift his walker and carefully plop it down over the uneven grass clumps. Time slowed down with each step—didn’t seem he’d ever get to the other side. I dug my foot in the dirt as if I needed the time to get the mound ready. I tossed the ball in my glove and smelled the leather. The other team squirmed in the dugout and tossed hats around. The sun bore down on my neck, burning already burnt skin. I prayed Dad wouldn’t realize it was me pitching… or waiting to pitch.
As he reached first base, Dad yelled, “Evan, don’t let them hit you!”
Chuckles carried like a ball hit past the outfield. Even a flock of seagulls joined the laughter. After the scene, I couldn’t throw a strike the whole inning, and Coach waved me over.
“You’re off today, so Matt is gonna pitch now. Rest up and you’ll pitch the next game on Friday.”
Justin patted my back. “You pitched real fast.”
“Thanks. Just having a bad day, and…” I forgot what I was saying when Dad approached the coach. I knew what he was going to say, and everyone could hear him since he came close to screaming.
“My son is the best pitcher you got! He shouldn’t come out after one slow inning.”
I lowered my hat over my eyes. Thank God my coach was cool and said, “He is, and I want to save his arm for the big game against Merrick on Friday.”
“That’s good.” Dad’s head bounced up and down—too many times.
I wasn’t sure I wanted to play baseball anymore.
In sixth grade, teachers held a career day. I gave the invitation to Mom, so she could tell stories from working as an ER nurse like when a man got a fishing hook stuck in his nose.
When Career Day arrived, the sixth grade classes filled the front rows of the auditorium. Some parents’ jobs sounded boring—an accountant, and a CEO—compared to Mom’s job.
Mrs. Reilly leaned over the microphone. “Next we have Evan Martin’s Dad.”
Justin whispered, “I thought your mom was speaking.”
“Me too.” I wanted to run.
Dad began: “I don’t work now, but I did have a great career. I was a Marine who fought for our country in the war with Iraq. Being a Marine taught me honor. On my last mission, I was called to search for terrorist leaders, hiding in a village. Snipers shot at us with machine guns. Innocent people ran from the streets and were shot in the crossfire. A young girl sat, crying and lost, so I charged out of hiding, scooped her up and handed her to a lady…but just as I let go, a bullet hit my back, another grazed my head. It’s a miracle I’m alive today, but I would do it all again. That’s what a Marine does. As Dad finished, everyone stood and clapped, including me.
At age twelve, I didn’t love my dad the same…I loved him even more.
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