The Day of the Dad’s is upon us, Father’s Day 2023 and today is a tribute to them. Today is a day not to celebrate the strength of their holding on, but the immense power in their ability to let go. Today is for the Dads, the Papas, the Daddy-Os, the Padres, the Dados, the Fathers, those that were, those that are, and those that will maybe one day be. This is for the step-dad’s too, cause dammit I can speak from experience, it’s the hardest job I’ve ever had to do, so for all you ‘bonus’ dads out there, this one is as much for you as it is for those of the biological persuasion. Happy Father’s Day everyone, and to my own Daddy O, I wish you the happiest of them all, for your strength in holding on, yes, but more, for your strength in letting some things go.
It’s easy to hold on tight to something, it happens naturally when we love. We reach out, we fall, we cling like glue to the objects of that affection. Just as intensely, we hold on to the wishes, the dreams, the aspirations we carry for those we love, and whether we realize it or not we hold on to the ideas we came into that love already believing, the futures we couldn’t help but imagine. For my Dad, it was baseball, from the start of all things, baseball.
For those who do not know, my Dad, Glenn “Goose” Gregson, has been in baseball quite literally all of his life. He played as a child, a standout athlete in the small town of Hamlet, North Carolina. From there, he played in college, and then was drafted and played professionally. With a promising career ahead of him, a freak accident in which he shattered his pitching elbow, very quickly changed the trajectory of the rest of his life. A student of the game, his coaches and managers quickly saw someone that had a knack not only for playing the sport, but for teaching it, and so his coaching career began. This is the only way I have ever known my father, not as Glenn, but as Goose, the magnanimous pitching coach that took our little family all over the country, and the world, because of his career. From the Cubs to the Phillies to the White Sox to the Dodgers to the Red Sox, he brought his expertise to young men around just about every league you could imagine, and whilst doing so, he brought it to me.
I say, without ego or any bravado of any kind, that because of this, when it came to baseball, I was blessed with an unfair advantage and a preternatural talent. I suppose having major league caliber instruction on pitching, fielding, and hitting, from the moment you could walk (see the photo above for proof on just how long I’ve been around the sport) gives you a little bit of a leg-up on the competition. I played, a long time I played, until a crossroads of sorts was reached, and I had to decide if I wanted to really play or hang up the cleats, and take another path. Clearly, as a man completely outstanding in his field (pun intended), my Dad had his opinion on what I should do, and the direction I should take. He believed it with his whole heart and soul, that a talent like that (who knows how much talent I truly had, but I’ll take his word for it), with that many years of instruction under my belt, should not go to waste, that talent was a gift and not following through on it was a travesty of epic proportions.
Clearly, as you’re sitting where you are now reading these words that I’ve written, brought here most likely by the poetry you found me through, you know which path I chose.
I remember the day I told him I was done with baseball, I remember the day I was terrified to breach the subject, to drop the bombshell that after all those years learning how to play, and play damn well, I was no longer going to be choosing that life, that dream he probably had from the moment he saw me kicking and screaming the day I was born. I remember that fear, and I also remember how quickly I learned that fear to be completely unfounded. My Dad, professional baseball player all his life, simply asked if I was sure, asked if I thought I’d have any regrets, and when hearing me say no, he trusted me enough to simply let it go. He let it go.
Strength comes in a thousand different incarnations, wears a thousand more faces, and I think our society is really good at putting some on a pedestal, whilst trying to convince everyone else that others aren’t virtues at all, but sins disguised. Perhaps it is a generational thing, passed down for years and years, but I think his generation and those before it held even firmer beliefs on what strength looked like, what courage should actually mean. Strength meant, to his father, and his father’s father before him, holding on, choosing the ‘manly’ path, following in the footsteps they’d so painstakingly carved out. It meant honoring those that came before you through your successes in those fields, it meant holding on as tight as you could to what you believed, what you loved, and refusing to be flexible on those hard-won stances. For my Dad, strength certainly meant that in a lot of ways, and still probably does, but it also meant something more, it also meant not only understanding, but truly celebrating and honoring the differences in the souls of those they raised.
For my Dad, strength meant letting go of the idea that his son had to chase the same passions, use the same talents, live the same life, that he did. It meant trusting me, when I told him I loved poetry, that writing felt like a balm to the burns in me, when I told him that not only was baseball not my path, but I truly didn’t find joy in playing or participating in really any organized sport, though I had always been athletic, though I loved ‘playing’ them on my own. He didn’t know it at the time, but as I look back years after receiving the Autism diagnosis I never received in my school days, it makes sense that organized sports with coaches and rules and times I had to be in specific places, didn’t really line up with who I was, but he must have felt it and he must have known. Somehow, he must have known.
Now, all these years removed from high school and its ebbs and flows, I can honestly say he’s one of the single proudest people of the path my life, my career, did end up taking. He is one of my biggest and loudest cheerleaders, in a field that couldn’t be further divorced from the life he knew, and still knows, as he still goes to Spring Training every February, at 73 years old. Over 67 years playing baseball (he started as a boy) and he trusted me to never play again. This, to me, is strength, is power worth celebrating.
I wrote once (and in a funny story for another day, ended up reading and ‘performing’ it for a Nordstroms national ad) a poem about father’s day, and I will include it below. In it, I spoke about precisely this, about him allowing me to make my own footsteps, and to this day it’s the best gift he’s ever given. So, all I wish to say to wrap this up on this Father’s Day is that I believe strength can look like a lot of different things, and it can wear a lot of different masks, and while they all deserve to be celebrated, for the Dad’s, perhaps the ability to let go, to stay flexible, and to support with all your heart anyway, just might be the most deserving of all.
Thank you, Daddy O, for trusting me, for supporting me, and for the strength in your grace to let go. I Love you old man.
To all the other fathers, those that were, are, or will be, maybe let Goose do one extra bit of coaching for you, and take a page from his playbook. Trust me, trust him, it’s worth it.
There is love in trust
not to follow where they’ve gone,
but forge a new path.