Counting the days to college

With mixed emotions, a father suggests one last game of catch as his son heads to college.

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"Patrick is really getting on my nerves," I said to my wife, Christine. "I am counting the days until he leaves for college."

"Don't say that," she replied, playfully slapping my shoulder. "You are going to miss him more than you think."

"I'm not sure about that."

Our son was in the backyard throwing a lacrosse ball against the side of the garage. As I watched him through the kitchen window, I lamented how quickly he had grown up. I recalled teaching him how to play baseball in the same yard more than 10 years ago. In my mind, it was barely 10 days ago. Turning abruptly from the window, I headed for the stairs.

"Where are you going?" Christine asked.

"Upstairs to get my glove."

Patrick and I had spent almost every spring, summer, and fall evening during his childhood playing catch in the backyard. Those were rare, precious moments when I knew how good my life was while I was in the moment. Our bond strengthened with each throw, each pop of the glove, and with each laugh we shared.

"Hey Pat, do you want to have a catch?" I said as I walked outside with our gloves.

"Are you serious?" he asked. "I was just about to go inside and take a shower. I've got plans tonight."

"Come on, Pat, just 15 minutes for old time's sake."

"Fine," he said as he grudgingly grabbed his glove.

I smiled as the first throw carried me back in time to when I was a young father.

"What are you so happy about?" Patrick called out.

"I don't really know, Pat," I said while tossing the ball back to him. "We haven't done this in a long time."

I never told him how much I missed it. As he grew older, the evenings spent playing catch in the backyard until it got too dark to see became less frequent, eventually stopping altogether in favor of other boyhood interests.

"Yeah, I guess so," he replied.

"We can stop any time you want," I said, not wanting to push my luck.

"Nah, I'm good. Let's keep throwing for a while."

Patrick's hurried demeanor slowly transformed. A smile enveloped his face that he couldn't suppress, although he tried. By the time the sun began to set, he was just a kid again – not a young man about to leave home.

"Are you two ever coming inside for dinner?" Christine called out from the kitchen window.

"In a minute, Mom," Pat shouted back as he had so many nights before.

"We better head in soon, Pat, before your mom gets mad at me."

I caught a glimpse of Christine in the window. Her demeanor was anything but angry. She was enjoying the flashback almost as much as I was.

"Just a couple more, Dad."

"OK, but slow it down a bit. I'm having trouble seeing the ball."

When we were done, I walked over to Patrick and put my arm around his shoulders as we walked to the house.

"Thanks, Dad."

"Any time, Pat," I replied. "Any time."

"Finally," Christine said. "Patrick, go wash up for dinner."

"Feel better?" she asked after Patrick left the room.

"Yeah, much better," I said. "Now I am counting the days until he comes home."

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