Henry Louis Gates, Jr. admired his father as a young boy, however he wished he could spend more time with him. “Daddy worked all the time, every day but Sunday” 78. This was similar to my father’s working habits. He would work all day from early in the morning until late at night. When he came home, he would put on the TV, eat dinner, watch the Laker game, and go to bed. So, during the week the only time I had with him was while he was watching his Laker game. In Gates’ home it was the same way, “Evenings, we watched television together, all of us, after I’d done my homeworkâ€¦”78. My time with my dad and the Laker game meant more to him than I realized at the time.Order now
However, I was “Daddy’s little girl,” and I wanted to spend as much time with him as I could, even if it didn’t mean anything to him. I also cherished the time I spent with him on Sunday mornings. He would sit on the couch and read the newspaper, and even though I couldn’t read the paper well, I remember sitting there next to him mimicking his every move. He would sit with his right ankle resting on his left knee, and I did the same. He held the paper fully open with both hands, and I did the same. Although, it was awkward because the paper was just about as big as me. I remember him smiling down at me as I sat next to him, and asking me about the articles I was pretending to read. I would always say, “Daddy, hold on I’m not done reading it yet.” He would smile, and pick up where he left off in his article.
Gates also treasured his time with his dad. “I used to get up early to have breakfast with Daddy, eating from his plateâ€¦My food didn’t taste as good as his. Still doesn’t. I used to drink coffee, too, in order to be like daddy” 79. Gates mimicked his father, just as I mimicked mine. He wanted a close relationship with his dad, just as I did, but Gates had a problem which I did not have to deal with.
He had to compete with his brother for his father’s attention, and his brother always seemed to win the battle. “…sports created a bond between Rocky and my father that excluded me…” 80. Rocky, was more athletically inclined than his brother Gates, and that’s what made him “Daddy’s boy.”
They were baseball fanatics. They knew who had done what and when, how much everyone had hit, in what inning, who had scored the most runs in 1922, who the most rbi’s. They could sit in front of a TV for hours at a time, watching inning after tedious inning of baseball, baseball, baseball 79. My father shared that same sports fanaticism with Gates’ father. However, my father’s sports realm revolved around basketball – particularly the Los Angeles Lakers. To me, my dad was like a basketball scholar.
I wanted to impress my dad just as much as Gates wanted to impress his. So, I would sit in front of the TV trying to absorb every bit of information that I could about basketball. I knew my dad wanted to be close to me too, but it would have been so much easier for him if I was a boy. Luckily, I didn’t have an older brother to compete with for my dad’s attention, but it was still hard. Finally, around the age of eight I decided I would join a basketball team.
I brought up this idea to my dad, and he was thrilled. So, we went down to our local youth center to sign up. In fact, my dad was so excited that he signed up to be my coach.
Unfortunately for me, I was the only girl in the league. I was scared and intimidated by the boys, but I had to do it because I didn’t want to let my dad down. So, I would stand under the basket with my arms up and my eyes closed every time a boy came running at me with basketball in-hand trying to make a shot. I could only hope that I would block it, so my dad could be proud.
Gates had similar motives for joining the baseball team. “I despised sportsâ€¦yet I felt I had no choice but to try out for the Little League” 81. He only wanted to please his father, and improve the relationship they had together. Similarly to me, Gates was also scared:
It’s hard to catch a baseball with your eyes closed. Each time a ball came over the plate, I thanked the Good Lord that the batter hadn’t confused my nappy head with the baseball that had popped its way into my mit. My one time at bat was an experience in blindness; miraculously, I wasn’t hit in the head 81 However, just like me, he did it so he wouldn’t let his dad down.
Gates and I shared something else: the lack of athletic ability. Although I wasn’t overweight or flat-footed like Gates, I had no real talent when it came to sports. I couldn’t make a basket, I couldn’t run fast, and I couldn’t block shots. Of course like Gates, much of the reason could be due to the fact that my eyes were always closed.
Luckily for Gates, his dad realized his disinterest in sports after the first game.
I was exhausted, so we walked easy. He was biding his time, taking smaller steps than usual so that I could keep up. “You know that you don’t have to play baseball, don’t you, boy?” All of a sudden I knew how Moses had felt on Mount Sinai. His voice was a bolt out of the blue. Oh I want to play, I responded in a squeaky voice. “But you know that you don’t have to play…” 82After that walk with his father, Gates gladly returned his Little League uniform and never played “hardball” again. That day was a milestone in Gates’ relationship with his father. From that day forward, things changed. “That day he knew me, and he seemed to care” 82.
Although I never experienced that kind of realization with my father, sports did create a bond between us that will never be broken. I don’t think my dad ever realized that I never enjoyed playing sports. He would be heartbroken if he figured that out. However, even though I didn’t enjoy sports, I did enjoy the time I spent with my father.