Former Minnesota Twins baseball star and Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew recalled a fond memory of his father from his childhood. The future slugger was playing in the yard with his brother and dad, when his mother cautioned them: “You’re tearing up the grass.” To which his dad replied, “We’re not raising grass. We’re raising boys!”
When I read that, it reminded me so much of my own father. Growing up, he prided himself on what he called his homestead: our small, Cape Cod-styled house with lots of trees, a garden, a big backyard and lots of grass to mow. Dad loved keeping the yard looking great, and it was a great source of pride for him.
During the summer, all the neighborhood kids would come to our house to play baseball in our back yard. We created a makeshift ball field where first base was a small maple tree, second base was a large lilac bush, third base was the landing pit of our swing set slide and home plate was—well, it was something that we knew dad wasn’t crazy about.
You see, we created this huge dirt circle, just like you see at any baseball field, as our home plate, except not quite as nice. In a field of thick green grass which dominated our backyard, our home plate stuck out like a sore thumb. It really was visually unappealing. But dad knew, like Harmon Killebrew’s dad knew, that he wasn’t raising grass. He was raising kids.
We enjoyed countless hours of fun on our backyard baseball field for years and years. Dad participated often as the designated pitcher, tossing us easy pitches to hit. I treasure the memories that were created there.
When dad died suddenly at the young age of 57, we gathered at the “homestead” to discuss funeral arrangements and sort out all the things that needed attention. Later on, I went out to the old backyard ball field and noticed that home plate had mostly—but not completely—filled in with grass. I had to think that dad kept a small patch of dirt there as a reminder of all the great memories he enjoyed there, too.