by Scott Kindberg
Father's Day 2006
Behind the chair and just to the left of the living room couch at my parents’ house sits a small bookcase. The hardcover titles that fill it include a shrine to the New York Yankees.
“More Tales From the Yankee Dugout.’’
“Emperors and Idiots.’’
“Game Of My Life.’’
I pull each of the books off the shelf, examine the jacket cover and then begin to flip through the pages. As I do, I’m overwhelmed by memories. For these books don’t just chronicle the people in pinstripes, but they also serve as a bonding agent between a father and a son.
I pull one last book off the shelf -- “Where Have All Our Yankees Gone?” by Brian Jensen -- open it and my eyes well with tears as I read the following handwritten inscription.
"Happy Father’s Day to a Hall-of-Fame Dad. As you read this, may it rekindle many memories of our time together rooting for our beloved Yankees.
"And, more importantly, will it remind you of what’s really important -- being the best role model and father a son could ever have.
Thank you for all you’ve done for me and our family!"
I gave that book to my father -- as I did most of the other Yankees books in his collection -- on Father’s Day 2004. Little did I know then how comforting those words would be two years later.
Because for the first time in my life, I won’t be giving my Dad a book, a card, a handshake or a hug. I won’t be attending church with him, watching him sing in the choir or joining him for brunch afterward.
No, my Dad isn’t here to celebrate his special day with all of us because his heart -- bigger than even the greatest of Yankees -- finally stopped beating four months ago, only hours after having a wonderful evening with my Mom on her birthday.
It will be very strange not to have Dad with us today. We'll miss the corny jokes, we'll miss singing "Happy Father's Day'' to him and we'll miss seeing him reclining in his favorite leather chair while tuned to the YES Network as the Yankees take on the Washington Nationals.
But while the pain of his passing is still far too fresh, I've come to learn that such feelings are far better than having no feelings at all.
You see, a day didn't go by that my brother Gary, my sister Lisa and I didn't tell our Dad how we felt about him. We loved him and, fortunately, he knew that.
And, as we've learned since he passed away in the early-morning hours of Feb. 9, he was loved by countless others who called him friend.
So, today -- Father's Day 2006 -- we are going to celebrate Gunnard "Kinky" Kindberg's life, just as we hope everyone will celebrate their Dad's life.
But let me offer some advice: If you live close enough to do so, have your father over for dinner or, better yet, take him out for his favorite meal. If you live far away, give him a call or send him a card or an e-mail. Let him know how important and loved he is. And, if there's an estrangement, don't let pride get in the way. Make an effort to repair that bridge.
Because tomorrow is not guaranteed.
In his eulogy to our Dad, my brother quoted George Younce, a bass with the Christian musical group, "The Cathedrals,'' who once said, "My bags are packed and I'm ready to go.''
I'm happy to report, my Dad's bags were figuratively packed and he was ready, too. For those of us left behind, we would -- selfishly, of course -- have preferred if he had delayed the trip a decade or two.
Two weeks from tomorrow, the Yankees open a four-game series in Cleveland. I have two tickets for July 3. The seats are in Section 131, Row B, seats 1 and 2. In other words, they are in the second row just beyond the Yankees dugout in shallow right at Jacobs Field. Since 2002, the tickets have been my Christmas gift to my Dad. We were planning to attend a game this year, too, and spend a night at the Hyatt Arcade downtown, a neat gift courtesy of my Mom.
But while my Dad won't be there physically this time -- my wife Vicki is accompanying me -- I know he'll be there in spirit, rooting for his boys with the interlocking NY on their caps. And when the Yankees are retired in the top of the seventh inning, Vicki and I will stand with all the other fans in attendance and sing "Take Me Out To The Ballgame,'' a baseball classic composed by Jack Norworth in 1908.
The song has special meaning to me because it was one that my Dad belted out at every game he ever attended, including, I understand, the ones from the 1940s. That's when he was a teenage vendor at Municipal Stadium -- now Diethrick Park -- for the Jamestown Falcons, and that's where his love for the national pastime really took root.
That's why "Take Me Out To The Ballgame'' was included as part of the organ prelude -- played by my cousin, Cindy Lind-Hanson -- at my Dad's funeral.
Yes, baseball and funerals do go together.
The Yankees books have been moved from my folks' house on Hallock Street to my house on Hotchkiss Street. Among the dozen books is one entitled "Me and My Dad,'' a baseball memoir by former Yankees right-fielder Paul O'Neill about his relationship with his late father, Chick.
As I flipped through the pages, I found my way to the end where O'Neill has included an epilogue called "Dad's Legacy.''
"The older I get -- and, I hope, wiser -- I realize that the journey he took me on wasn't really about baseball. It had more to do with his unique way of looking at life, with a ball game or two thrown in for good measure."
Then he closed it with the following:
"As a moral to this baseball memoir, a story that will continue in my new adventures to come, it can be said once more that, though my father is not around anymore, I'm still his kid, and I know he's still watching over me.''
I couldn't have said it better, Paul.