Adjusting my collar it hit me: the tie—I’d worn it last week. Still, it was a different place, different people. The cravat, I figured, selected from my limited Great Neck collection, could stay.

When was it our roles reversed? Didn’t HE used to wear MY ties?

“Bruce, would you make Michael’s tie?” she would urge.

We’d stand facing the mirror… father behind son… tying and retying. Too high, too law—and finally, (per his mother), “too sloppy.” Each week we tried. Stubbornly. Success though, came only from doing it ‘round my neck then transferring it over. The wife knew she’d married a nebbish. Should I remind her I was also the product of a broken home and that with Dad gone we had clip-ons, etc. It wasn’t going to play well. “You’re a father now—act like one!” (I could hear it soar from her mouth).

When did our roles reverse?

My boy was 9 when Woody died. There was a memorial in Columbus, (so of course we went). School? Work? They’d wait—we had priorities. Sitting in the closed end of what was not yet “The Shoe, ” I pointed to mid-field, citing Archie, Rex, Bo, Earle….sentimental father to wide-eyed son.
It was the last time I remember knowing more about sports than Michael.

By high school the worm had turned. The Tribe’s opener was at the old stadium. Michael and friends would be there—parents and batteries not included. (To a point).

It was an afternoon contest. Could I, my kid wondered, pick them up after the game. (Of course I would).

A plan was set. Eighth inning or so I’d head downtown; we’d meet up on Lakeside just west of 9th. Not a problem.

Ah …but the best laid plans….

As advertised, I did my part. Second-last frame—in my car. Top of the ninth—sitting, double-parked—waiting in place for the final out.

And waiting.

And listening to the radio….when the one thing we never counted on happened: the game went extra innings. Eight extra, to be exact.
Poached like a schmuck, held hostage by the crack of a bat, I kept leering through the growing crowd of people trickling out. Everybody, it seemed, had at some point had enough and was heading home. Everyone, of course, except Michael’s boys of summer. No different than I had been, they stayed to the bitter end.

We drove uptown—exuberant boys, exhausted father (just happy to be needed). I wonder if I realized that my chauffeuring days were numbered.

Once a tour guide, now a driver—soon I would be an add-on:

It was November, 2002 and the phone rang.
“Dad,” said an excited Michael, “Block and I are flying in for Michigan. You can stay with us if you want.” Years had passed, but my answer was a constant: Of course I would.

We stayed downtown-Brian, Michael and his old man. In the morning we hit campus: Brian, Michael and the old man. Pomp and circumstance on High Street; everyone looked so young. (Stacy was somewhere—couldn’t find her). Tried to tell them of my first game —with Hal and Dad. The Dispatch ran a special Stadium edition back then, I said to absolutely no one listening.

This was their world I’d entered. The torch had indeed passed to a new generation.

Michael pointed to the ESPN booth, Kirk Herbstreit, and some others. He said to stand there for a while, that they’d be back.

“Don’t wander off,” he cautioned. “Don’t get lost.”

I stood there, dutifully, awaiting his return. I stood there in a sea of scarlet and gray—watching time, sensing change, but more than anything else, feeling comfort.

Roles change, I surmised, but people don’t. There we were again, at Ohio Stadium: sentimental father and wide-eyed son.

The child is father to the man.

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