Monday, July 13, 2009

Doesn't Get Much Better

In the past week I have had some great one-on-one time with my two older offspring.

Younger Son, at 16, is fairly easy for me to still make a captive audience since I still retain some supposed authority in his life. The focused times with Older Son and Daughter, however, at 23 and 20, respectively, come a little less frequent now that they are “adults.”

As I have previously written, I work in Memphis part of each week. Last Wednesday Daughter came over to go see the musical “Wicked” with me (she gave me the tickets for Father’s Day) which is in the middle of a run at the Orpheum, a beautiful old theater in the downtown area. I have a tiny little apartment nearby but, given its size and the fact that I only have one bed, I got a hotel room for us.

We went to a great “edgy” restaurant and sat at the sushi bar. This is something my boys would never do and it’s a little outside my comfort zone as well, but it’s right up Daughter’s alley and it is so cool to let her gently prod me into doing things that otherwise would not be on my agenda. She introduced me to sushi a couple of years ago and now I’m a big fan.

I told her to order for us and we had a great meal mixed with great conversation and laughter. She still thinks she knows what’s best for most of our family members (especially her brothers) and takes opportunities such as this to convey those thoughts to me.

She had the waitress take a picture of us. I might add that Daughter documents every event with photos. She literally wears out cameras. We make good-natured fun of her for this at times but, in reality, we are glad she is thoughtful enough to take pictures that she ends up sharing with all of us. I used to be pretty good about it myself but now I just depend on her.

After dinner it was on to the play and Daughter continued to snap photos as we walked up on the Orpheum. We saw “Wicked” in New York City last summer and she loved it. She has the soundtrack and knows just about every song by heart.

The second time around definitely did not disappoint. I wrote in a post last year about reading the book, which is dark and weird. The play, however, is really fun and I think I liked it even better this time.

More laughter and picture taking followed. We got someone to take one of the two of us alongside the “Wicked” marquee outside the theater, then she took several more of other downtown sites as we walked back to the car. We made a late-night stop at Sonic, one of our favorite haunts (we love the ice!), and made it back to the hotel about 11:30. Of course she had to catch up on her texting while I went to bed.

I left her sleeping the next morning as I went on to work.

It could not have been a better “date” for this aging dad and as I write this I am smiling as I think back on this special time. Odds are I will give this precious child away to some unworthy male in the years to come (if I am forced to) and times such as this will be less frequent. I’ll take them while I still can.


Saturday morning Older Son and I boarded a plane for a short flight to Tampa to catch a couple of baseball games. Upon landing, we rented a car and made our way over to St. Petersburg where we had an early lunch at a seafood restaurant that had been recommended to us, then spent the afternoon at St. Pete Beach. I had found a pretty reasonably priced beachside hotel which I thought would be enjoyable for us since we would have the better part of a day there.

Under a cabana that shielded me from the sun, but from where I could see and hear the waves, I finished one book and started another, putting it down when Older Son was in the mood for conversation. Like his sister, he has many opinions on matters that come up within our family and is happy to share with me the wisdom he has acquired in his 23 years of life. It was a restful and peaceful afternoon.

Late in the afternoon we made the short drive to Tropicana Field for the first of two games we would attend between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Oakland Athletics. Older Son is on a quest to visit every Major League ballpark, a journey he began when he was eight years old. This was his 18th team and his 21st field (the teams keep building new stadiums so there is some duplication). I have made most of them with him, but not all.

We both liked Tropicana Field, a very attractive domed stadium that is quite comfortable. There is a tank full of stingrays in the outfield, some of which you can even touch, in keeping with the ocean theme and the mascot name. Baseball purists largely eschew the inside ballparks but, for being in the heart of Florida in the summer with its sweltering heat and humidity, you can’t beat sitting inside in the air conditioning.

Even though we had been able to easily get great seats in advance for much less than face value, there were large and enthusiastic crowds at both games we attended. It appears that Central Floridians (or do you call yourselves South Floridians, Quid?) are finally catching on to baseball after some years of dismal attendance figures in the Tampa Bay area. Of course winning the American League pennant last year probably helped.

We saw good games on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon, even though the A’s, one of baseball’s worst teams this season and who are sitting comfortably in the AL West cellar, kicked it in during the seventh inning of each game and took it to the home team. So we saw two home losses.

The highlight of the trip was that, after fifteen years of going to MLB games with no true game souveniers, Older Son caught not one, but TWO foul balls, one at each game! I use the term “caught” loosely in that he got Saturday night’s “on the bounce,” although it was a true catch which he attributed largely to skills he developed as an infielder. Ahem. (When we were back in our hotel room later, he was lying on his back in bed throwing the ball up in the air. He denies having slept with it).

Sunday afternoon’s trophy was just a result of right living, I guess. This one popped into the stands, bounced a couple of times amid the scramble that inevitably takes place when a ball soars into the seats, then landed beneath his seat where he was able to bend over and retrieve it. I think he thought, maybe for a split second, of giving that one away to a little boy sitting nearby but shared with me later that “nobody will believe I got two balls if I don’t come home with them!”

We were back home in time for dinner with the family Sunday night, another MLB ballpark under our belts and memories of another great time.


Not much to say here in summary; I think these little experiences speak for themselves. And I am thankful.

"No One Mourns the Wicked..."

Eating Sushi with Maggie

Tropicana Field
and Daniel with one of his two "trophies"


Pam said...

Love the post, love the photos!! What special times with the older kids!!!

Love that you shared it, complete with photos!!

Andrew said...

Looks like life is good!

Bob Barbanes: said...

Now see, *this* is why I read blogs. Bob, I love your posts. They are always so full of happiness and optimism and joy-of-life (don't the French have a phrase for that?). When I read your posts I am always left smiling, feeling better about the world. You have beautiful children, especially that daughter! And it's nice to put a clearer face to the name for you, too.

You have wonderful family, wonderful life, wonderful blog. I thank you for sharing all of it with us.

Debby said...

What a nice little post! a real pick me up! Kids...the gift that keeps on giving. Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy!

Kelly said...

What a delightful post! You look great, Bob, and I always enjoy seeing pictures of your kids.

Redlefty said...

Awesome! I've been to at least 50 MLB games and have sat all over the place, and still haven't come close to getting a foul ball.

I'm glad you cherished those trips appropriately!

Maggie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Maggie said...

I guess I'll rave with everyone else about this post. Daniel kind of stole my thunder and I didn't get an entire blog dedicated to me...but I guess I can share. haha kidding! :)

I guess you can just pretend to let everyone know that YOU were the one that figured out how to post pictures and captions on here...impressive Dad!

Had a wonderful time in Memphis with you, although ending up at the mall wasn't too great..thanks to the handy GPS. "Please turn right...please keep going..." I guess I learned one thing...Always listen to your FATHER and not the little computer in your car.

So proud of the big guy too. You forgot to tell everyone that at the nice family dinner we had Sunday night, we had 2 guests at the table...the 2 foul balls.

Love you so much! Glad you can now share PICS! You're so tech savvy!

your favorite "offspring" (since that's your new name for us..)


quid said...

Loved the pics, loved the post!!!

I saw the road company of Wicked and was entranced. I would love to see it on Broadway. I think the Maguire books are all kind of wierd, so I was glad the play was written in a more straightforward way!

Bob, I was at the Saturday night Oakland game! I don't remember anyone catching a ball, so I can't place where you might have been sitting in my mind. I was on the 3rd baseline with friends. The Trop is kind of worn and funky, but if the games were not inside, you really couldn't sit through a lot of them (Bucs preseason and September games are sweatfests!) It was my first game this season.
Although I didn't see you, I do feel the kinship of being in the same place at the same time.

Catching two balls is astounding!

I hope the seafood place you were recommended to was either the Salt Rock Grille or the Conch Republic. If not, you'll have to let me know when you are here again and we'll compare those to where you ate.


Bob said...


UNBLIEVABLE! Can't believe you were there. I really did think of you while I was briefly in the area. We were also on the 3rd base line -- I probably saw you! Next time we'll definitely have to hook up and I will have to try those restaurants! Neither of these was the one we went to and I don't remember the name but it was good. I crave fresh seafood so whenever I get near it I am in heaven.

I really did like Tropicana Field and the fan base there seems very genuine now. Go Rays!

quid said...


I took a good look at the picture of your boy, and I can't say I saw him. We probably passed each other on the way to our seats. Small world. Let me know next time.... of course, you have all those other baseball parks to visit first!