By now I hope you have solved the dilemma: What to get dad for Father's Day?
Maybe a sporty shirt. Perhaps a Civil War book. Golf balls usually work.
As the years add up, it gets harder. By a certain point, he's got a drawer full of shirts, a bucket of Titleists in the basement and he knows everything there is to know about Pickett's Charge.
I know. I've been there.
And then it gets really hard when he grows too creaky to play golf and his vision fades to where he can't read without a magnifying glass and has no relish to tackle a book.
I know. I've been there, too.
For the first time in my life this year I didn't have to fret over a Father's Day gift for the father who already has everything he wants or needs.
It's been almost three months since his funeral.
But this is no sob story. Far from it. My dad would have been the first to tell you he had a great run for 83 years.
Another thing, this isn't a story with a zinger. There is no unusual hook.
My dad never built a basketball court in the barn (although he knew how).
He didn't immigrate from the old country and work three jobs to pay my Little League dues so I could earn a college scholarship. (I couldn't hit a curveball, anyway.)
Since he never played in the NFL, it goes without saying he never used to sneak me in the locker room after games.
Chances are your dad didn't do any of those things either. Most dads are every-day guys. They don't have heroic stories, per se.
And yet they are no less our heroes.
The words you are reading appear on a sports page. As such, I feel obligated to frame my hero worship in something of a sporting light.
My dad somehow produced World Series tickets. There I am at old Crosley Field in Cincinnati, ogling Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra and the rest of the New York Yankees.
Do you believe in miracles? I sure did.
My dad somehow got his hands on Final Four tickets. There I am in Freedom Hall, watching Cincinnati upset Ohio State and Jerry Lucas. Another miracle, it seemed at the time.
Perhaps Kentucky football tickets rated short of the miraculous, but watching Tennessee, LSU or Ole Miss on a Saturday afternoon certainly felt larger than life.
All that said, though, our fathers' most important gifts to us likely did not involve a ball or bat.
I am forever appreciative for those Saturday mornings when my dad drove around town collecting our fifth-grade basketball team for games at the Y.
But I'm just as appreciative for hauling the gang for an afternoon at the swimming pool when he came home for lunch. That's where the girls were.
I was thankful he was in the gym to celebrate when I hit a game-winning basket for the Franklin County Flyers.
I was more thankful he didn't fly off the handle after I forgot to set the gear and the Oldsmobile rolled down the driveway into the neighbors' swing set.
It was helpful he showed me how to hold a golf club.
It was more helpful he showed me how to hold a job.
I'm glad he showed me how to treat a baseball glove.
That glove has been stored in the closet for years now, however. I'm more glad he showed me how to treat other people.
If your dad is still around today, give him a hug and a big smile along with those golf balls.
If he's not, reflect on the ways he helped make you who you are.
Mike Strange may be reached at email@example.com or 865-342-6276.