Here’s a little piece of American history for everyone. This Sunday, Oct. 28, marks the 126th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty’s dedication.
To be perfectly honest, I won’t be thinking much about Lady Liberty on Sunday, but I will be thinking about my dad, Jim Dickson, who celebrates his 80th birthday that day.
I get a little emotional when I think about Dad. His health is declining and I’m not sure how many more birthdays he’ll have with us. Dad was my first coach and, along with my mom, has been my biggest fan and supporter.
It seems like only yesterday that Dad was sitting in Jack Foster Stadium watching my Gulf Breeze team pick up our sixth win of the 1974 season to become the first winning football team in the school’s then five-year history.
Way back then, even when I wasn’t on the team, my parents made the trips from Gulf Breeze to Niceville, Baker, Crestview, DeFuniak Springs, Jay and whatever other little Northwest Florida community that had the bright lights of football Fridays in the fall when the Dolphins played.
The relationship Dad and I share is not much different from millions of other father-son relationships from the 1960s and 1970s. Just as dads in Crestview, Baker and Laurel Hill coached their sons’ youth league baseball, basketball or football teams, Dad coached me in the finer points of the games we both loved.
Dad wasn’t just my coach. He was the coach of hundreds of boys through the years. Occasionally, I’ll still have an old friend mention the time they played for my dad.
As is often the case with 50-something men, most don’t remember specific strategies or fundamentals he coached, but rather we recall that he cared and he gave of himself as he invested in their life.
Dad taught me many of life’s lessons on a baseball diamond or old asphalt basketball court. He was a stickler for fundamentals like catching a baseball with two hands and the old two-hand set shot in basketball.
He didn’t go much for showboating. And he believed you didn’t need talent to hustle. Dad could tell how hard someone hustled by the grass stains on their baseball uniform or the floor burns they got while going for a loose basketball.
Sundays in the fall were my favorite day when, after church, we would watch the New Orleans Saints play football. Being good Baptists, we usually left for evening services before the second game was over, but that was OK, too.
We watched college football together, too, but back in the day before cable TV, our team, the Tennessee Volunteers, was on just a couple of times a year so we had to make the most of those moments.
The lessons Dad taught me about sports were important, but they pale in comparison to the lessons he taught me about faith and life. Dad knew it was more important for me to be a good Christian and a good man than to be a good athlete. As he turns 80, he is still leading the way in those all-important areas of life.
The passing of years is part of life — and all of us must eventually say our earthly good-byes to those we love.
A selfish part of me would love to turn back the clock to when I was in my late teens and Dad was in his mid-40s so we could enjoy those special moments that only fathers and sons share. Deep down, though, I know that is foolish thinking, as the richness of the passing years have brought a depth to our relationship neither of us could understand in 1976 or 1977.
Yes, my dad will be 80 on Sunday and I wish I could be with him and my mom in DeLand to help celebrate his big day.
Nevertheless, every day in our relationship, we celebrate that special bond that will forever unite us.
Randy Dickson is the Crestview News Bulletin’s sports editor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, tweet him @BigRandle, or call 682-6524.