I don’t want to leave the impression that my father was this terrible guy. On the contrary, he has inadvertently taught me so much about being a man, a husband and a father. Some of those lessons came by way of learning what not to do, but my father knew his faults. I wholeheartedly believe that he did the very best that he could, given his illness and circumstance. It wasn’t his fault that he had bipolar disorder to manage. No, my father wasn’t a bad guy at all. The irony of our relationship is that I have plenty of wonderful memories to compete and diminish all of the negative.
For example, my father helped expose me to the game of basketball. There were two basketball goals on Central Avenue to play at. Early in my childhood, my father would oftentimes join the kids in a few pick-up games. He wasn’t very good, but that never mattered to me. I just enjoyed shooting hoops with my pops. It was father and son time. He had an awkward two-handed shot, which wasn’t too shabby. It was just as accurate as any of us kids at the time. Of course, he was also pretty short, which kept it much more fair for us kids. He was much stronger than all of us though, so he did stand out.
One of the most amazing memories of my father came from the day we decided to refinance our house and add a garage to our backyard. When I learned that adding the garage entailed the addition of a newly paved driveway, my immediate thought was that we could finally put up our own basketball goal in our backyard. I was so very thrilled. Being able to play basketball any time that I wanted was this unimaginable gift. Even at an early age, I felt this creative connection and release from playing. I kept thinking about how amazing it would be to have my own court to play on.
I’m pretty sure that part of the plan for getting a garage has an equal amount to do with getting a basketball court as it did adding a garage to the property to house our car. As soon as I put 2 and 2 together, I asked if we could put up a basketball goal on the garage. My father answered yes, like he was hoping to have surprise me but couldn’t stand to let me wait. He was excited to do it, almost like it brought him so much joy to provide something so awesome for his son. When we went to price the goal, things took a turn towards disappointment. Basketball goals (particularly backboards) were much more expensive than I think he anticipated. We couldn’t afford everything. Rather than disappoint me, my father assured me that we would get the metal rim and a net, and he would build me a custom made backboard to fix the rim on. I honestly didn’t care. I just wanted a rim to throw a basketball into.
So we went and bought some plywood. My father sketched out a backboard design, which was…well, it wasn’t exactly what you would expect a backboard to be shaped as. It was a little shorter in height, but it didn’t matter to me. We fixed it flat onto the wooden garage at about the 7 foot height, and I went to town. Oh my…the sheer joy. I must have stayed out there for hours. I could care less what else was going on. I just wanted to do some trick shots, dribble around the nicely-paved concrete and create my own NBA moments. Eventually, everyone in the neighborhood started coming over, and 720 Central Ave. become one of the hottest spots on the block!