Tahlequah Daily Press

June 16, 2012

My dad just keeps getting smarter

Staff Writer

— No person on earth has been right as many different times as he has. It’s annoying.

What’s even more annoying is the fact that I swear he used to always be wrong. Somehow, the older I get, the smarter he gets, and he’s cooking with gas.

I’m not exactly sure when it happened. I just know that the quality of his advice has improved steadily over the years. Even his dumb ideas from a few years back have become good ideas retrospectively. It’s uncanny.

Of course, I’m speaking of dear ‘ole dad.

When I was 11 years old, my parents bought me my first expensive baseball glove — a 12.5-inch Rawlings Trap-Eze, Ken Griffey Jr. Edition. It was incredible.

It also weighed approximately 43 pounds.

Previous to this acquisition, I always elected to wear my dad’s old mitt — a tired, weathered hunk of leather that was much lighter than my own — when I pitched. I didn’t have a great reason for it. I just felt more balanced and more secure that way.

But from the moment that I pulled the wrapping paper away from that superlative Greek statue of a glove, insignificant details like balance and security went out the window.

“Don’t wear it in a game until it’s broken in,” dad said. “You need to get comfortable with it.”

Did I listen? Of course not.

Two weeks later, my team was leading by one run heading into the final inning. I slipped on the Trap-Eze — which boasted the flexibility of a flower pot at the time — and took the mound.

To this day, I’m really not sure if the weight of the glove was truly an issue, or if I just didn’t have it on that particular day. Whatever the case, a few moments later I was bouncing a pitch off of the dirt and past the catcher, racing a base runner to home plate, and watching helplessly as my teammates return fire skipped off of my shiny new mitt. The run scored, we lost, and it was all the fault of that stupid glove. I expressed my disdain — and deflected the blame — with a Rob Gronkowski-sized spike of said piece of equipment.

Suffice it to say that my father was slightly less than thrilled with my behavior. But, rather than simply chastising my actions and doling out static punishment, he used the moment to teach a lesson.

Prior preparation prevents poor performance

Years later, when I turned 16, my dad conducted a thorough, exhausting search for the perfect first vehicle.

I wanted something cool. He wanted something reliable. I wanted something fast. He wanted something safe.

What I got was an ‘89 Jeep Comanche.

I didn’t like the pinstripe along the side of it. He removed it. I thought it sat too low to the ground. He installed a lift kit. I thought the tires were too small. He bought brand new wheels and tires for it.

Finally, I copped out by claiming to be overwhelmed by the vehicle’s manual transmission, and he relented and bought me something else.

Nearly a decade later, he still owns the Comanche, and I would love to have it.

Only now, in a poetically just twist of irony, he won’t even sell it to me.

Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth

By February of my senior year of high school, it was evident that I would have the opportunity to play football in college. I visited several smaller schools and junior colleges, but when the University of Oklahoma called, I was sold.

“If you’re going to do this, you need to get your diet right,” dad told me. “You need to put in the work, so that when you get there in July, you don’t look like a walk-on.”

Anything worth doing is worth doing right

I was feeling pretty good about myself at this point, though. OU wouldn’t be talking to me if I didn’t belong, right? Right. I scoffed at the notion of changing my diet, only choking down a protein drink when forced.

That’ll put some hair on your chest

I mostly ignored the weight room, too. Instead opting to sleep in, lie by the pool, and hang out with my friends.

When I got to Norman, I was floored. I was good enough on raw ability to keep from getting cut, but that was about it. I was outclassed and unprepared and, if injected with truth serum (and reminded of my name) I’m sure that coach Brent Venables would tell you that I was the least talented linebacker on the team. Within a year, I was temporarily out of football.

You reap what you sew

Fortunately, as time passes, I seem to be committing fewer of these egregious errors in judgment, which is nice. I must begrudgingly admit, however, that the credit for my improved decision-making is not something that I necessarily deserve (though, if voluntarily lauded for it, I’d be obligated to exercise my Fifth Amendment, because it’s better to let people think you’re a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.)

No, the truth is, as I grow in age and maturity, I use these nuggets that my dad has instilled in me — dadisms, if you will — as navigational beacons. I only wish that it hadn’t taken him so long to get smart. Who knows where I might be?

Of course, if your aunt had… well, you get the idea.

Happy Fathers Day to every dad that has worked, without reward, to shape the minds and morals of their sons and daughters — especially my dad, Steve Paxton.

I love you, dad.