My dad would have been 97 today.
On warm summer evenings, Dad would get a folding chair and sit between the house and the willow tree, where it was always shady. But after few minutes, he’d go in the basement to get a ball, a bat and a couple baseball gloves, and then yell upstairs for Ed, Jim and me to come out.
It wasn’t often that the three of us immediately answered the call. But one of us would, and Dad tossed him a glove and they commenced playing pepper. Dad hit a groundball across the driveway, which the son fielded and threw back and Dad stuck the bat out and hit the ball back. This continued without stop until the guy with the glove let one through his legs or the guy with the bat failed to make contact.
In time, the other two brothers came out, sometimes together, sometimes not. We wandered in and out of the game, playing for a while then going off somewhere and perhaps rejoining the game later, or perhaps not. Sometimes, kids in the neighborhood joined in and, like us, played for a while and then went and did something else. Six or seven kids might participate during an evening, but there were seldom more than two or three at a time. When the driveway got crowded, Dad would send a few kids into the neighbor’s yard and hit pop flies to them.
By the time the sun got low, Dad was the only one left outside. And as the air cooled and the shadows faded, Dad, in a pair of erstwhile dress slacks, a T-shirt and a decaying black cap with the orange Bessemer logo above the visor, stood at the basement door. He had outlasted the younger generation, and he had outlasted the sun, and now, with a glove in one hand and a bat in the other, he was reluctant to call it a day.