He worked a lot when we were young. Most of my memories are of him coming home late and jumping into an outdoor project — the patio needed swept, the flowers needed watered, the snow needed shoveled or the car needed washed. By the time he was heating up his fresh-cooked meal my mom made, it was often my bedtime or later.
It’s funny how becoming a parent myself opened my eyes. Like rereading my favorite book and seeing an important part I missed, I can revisit my childhood memories and now see that he worked like crazy to support his family and make sure us girls were in the best schools.
When I would come home with five As and one B, he would ask me why I got a B. One B. As a kid I thought he was picking on me, but now I realize that he just wanted to challenge me. I even recall a night when he watched me do the dishes and inspected each and every one of them. He has always told me that there was no point in doing something if you aren’t going to do it right.
What I thought then was criticism — never doing enough — was just this man believing in me and pushing me to be my best. He accepted only the best, and lived it as well. The reason he worked so many hours was because he gave it his all, 110 percent at every job he has had. And, although in maybe a tough love sort of way, he instilled that in me.
One day, we found our relatable love — basketball. When I picked up a ball and fell in love, that is when I truly started bonding with my dad.
You see, he coached my sisters — and maybe that is why I picked the ball up in the first place, to gain his attention. But once I did, I quickly learned the joy in it. I found myself on the sidelines at their practices doing the drills. They were young and working on left hands, and this righty became a master at it.
Many nights, his after-work projects were put on hold as he would hang a spotlight from the garage and rebound for me so I could get some extra shots in. And when I tore my ACL in eighth grade and missed the whole season, he asked me if I wanted to play varsity as a freshman (of course I did). So, he made time all summer to get me in the gym and turn this point guard into a post, which was the needed position on the varsity team.
He spent Friday nights driving my friends and I up to Toledo to play in a league of girls three to four years older than us. We got our butts beat every game, but we got better. He pushed me to do better, challenged me to give more.
It was ours, basketball. Our common thread. The one thing that tied in his hard work and drive to exceed, and my willingness to learn and be the best that I could be.
And when I messed up royally in high school, he didn’t yell at me. In fact, as it impacted my basketball season, he actually didn’t say a word for days about it. And then, I had a handwritten note, a disappointed letter. He had sat and thought about it for three days and then poured his heart into it. And he doesn’t do that much, if at all. I learned more from that note than any punishment could have taught me. Because of it, I strived to be better.
He followed me through college on scholarship, fulfilling both of our dreams. After that, and until I had my second baby and it just became too much, I got to spend six amazing years coaching our alma mater together. The man who taught me the game of basketball also showed me how to coach. He led the first few years and then stepped back to the assistant and handed me the reigns. Oh, he was still there to bounce ideas off of and help the girls get better, but he trusted in me — believed in me — and knew I could do it.
And as I became a parent and finally understood the childhood nudges to be better, we grew from basketball-loving dad and daughter to friends. Showing love isn’t always cuddles and hugs and bending over backward to make someone happy. Sometimes it is pushing, believing, challenging and encouraging one to be better. And my dad’s nontraditional love shaped me into the driven woman I am today.
Thank you, Pops. I love you, too. Happy Father’s Day.
Sarah (Pitson) Shrader was born and raised in Lima. She is a Lima Central Catholic and Tiffin University graduate. Sarah is a full-time working mama who enjoys writing about her somewhat crazy, always adventurous life as a mother. She lives in Bath Township with her husband, Paul, and their daughters, her writing inspirations, Maylie and Reagan.