This Father’s Day, reliving memories of playing ball with dad

After 68 years, my dad and I still play together in all of the same games, but now only in my memory. I still cry remembering what it was like to be his son and to lose him before our games were over.

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Cleveland Indians player Erik Gonzalez wore a Father’s Day message during a game against the Minnesota Twins on June 18, 2017 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Cleveland Indians player Erik Gonzalez wore a Father’s Day message during a game against the Minnesota Twins on June 18, 2017 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

My mind is still filled with so many fond memories of a sweet, quiet, playful, strong and loving father.

Often, after returning home after a long day at work, my dad and I would play ball along the side of our house. We would throw the ball back and forth, back and forth. The only thing that would change was the ball we played with. It changed with the seasons, from baseball to softball to football.

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It was always just us playing together like two kids having fun. Maybe my dad liked to play with me to relive his own youth when he played minor league baseball in cities like Peoria and Rockford. In those days, he would cut out the center of his glove to be more sure of his catches. I asked him if it hurt when he caught the ball. He never said, “Yes.”

Once, when my dad and I visited the Museum of Science and Industry, a bus full of young Black kids arrived. Soon, some older white kids started throwing rocks and yelling racist obscenities. Without hesitation, my dad took on the dozen or so white punks, chasing them all out of the parking lot.

I never saw my dad angry, but these kids sure did. I’ve always wondered if the actions of my dad that day were an inspiration for me going to Selma in 1965. Then, as if nothing happened, we entered the museum and headed right for the incredible train layout.

I remember just the two of us traveling to the Boundary Waters of Minnesota and Canada. Each morning we would canoe and portage to find the right spot to catch our breakfast. One day my dad said, instead of portaging, let’s tie a rope to the canoe and guide it through the rapids.

Great idea, I thought, until we saw our canoe break free of the rope and glide out into open water, about 300 yards from a waterfall. We looked at each other, laughed, and I quickly dove into the cold Canadian waters to rescue our canoe.

I will never forget seeing my dad in the stands, watching me play college football on a cold, rainy night in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. After a long drive from Chicago, he was huddled there by himself, silently cheering me on. I felt so bad seeing him sitting there in the rain, in his black leather jacket and wet fedora, but I loved him being there and knew there was no other place in the world he would rather be.

After 68 years, my dad and I still play together in all of the same games, but now only in my memory. I still cry remembering what it was like to be his son and to lose him before our games were over.

Bernard Kleina, Wheaton

My dad, still just a little bit rascally

The night my father died in a skilled-care nursing facility in Indiana, I misjudged the situation. I thought I could go home, get a few hours of sleep and then come back to take up the vigil again. And so, I was not there when my dear dad took his last breath.

However, I was there at change of shift when a nurse walked into the room, walked up to my dad’s bed, kissed him on the cheek and said, “See you tomorrow, Mr. Melia.” A few minutes later, a nurse aide did the same thing. And still another kissed my dad on the cheek and wished him a restful night. His face lit up with the biggest smile I had seen in quite a while.

This was many years ago, and still I remember very clearly the sweet final gestures of these dedicated women and the big grin on my father’s poor, emaciated face. Perhaps he was thinking, “I still got it.”

Lest we think that a gentle word or a kind act is fleeting and forgettable, this is not necessarily true. I did not know the names of these kind caretakers, but they will always be a part of the last memory I have of my father, smiling, content and still just a bit rascally.

Kathleen Melia, Niles

Mistrust of police is no surprise

We taxpayers get to pay wrongly convicted Arthur Brown $7.25 million for having spent nearly 30 years behind bars because crooked Chicago cops manipulated a false confession from him. Brown missed much in those 30 years for which money cannot compensate him.

The detectives who were responsible are now dead, so we can only ask the Chicago Police Department whether this helps explain what they often claim is lackluster public support. Chicagoans remember not just this frame-up. but many others.

While most cops are honest and deserve public support, these recurring wrongs must be weighed in the balance of justice. Year after year, exonerations help explain the emotional gulf between the police and the minority communities they serve.

The cops accuse Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx of being too slow and lenient in prosecuting cases. Judging from the array of exoneration payouts, her circumspection seems reasonable.

Adding to her caution is the attendant pattern: Nearly all such exonerees have been and continue to be Black, defying the law of averages.

How many more innocent Black men are in prison due to cop dishonesty? These nagging questions shall always feed public mistrust.

Ted Z. Manuel, Hyde Park

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