Sunday, June 17, 2012
A Man Amongst Men
35 years ago, Alan Wynard Veale stood before the world and claimed me to be his son. He has never wavered from this claim since he made that decision three and a half decades ago. His unconditional love and teachings have given me the stability that so many adults are missing in our current society- a sense of belonging. Many do not know that he is not my biological father. In fact, many have told me that I favor him and I proudly accepted knowing that this is biologically impossible. But as I have grown older, I have learned that love triumphs all- even biological make up. I remember smiling ear to ear when a stranger said my stepson and I “looked so much alike.” I recall the look Manuel gave me knowing what I knew at least twenty years before- biologically that was impossible.
Today, I often get wonderful compliments of how well I teach and coach kids. Gracefully I accept knowing that I have had the unfair advantage of seeing the perfect example of how a real man should treat kids. I have never received formal training of how to interact with kids (I have a business degree). But I am often reminded of the man who taught me a large percentage of all that I know when I utter the word “buddy” or when I speak in his dialect (something only one of his sons or one his many former players would recognize). My father has coached hundreds of kids on the Southside of Odessa, TX. Unlike many current recreational coaches, he coached even when he did not have a son on the team. I specifically recall the summer when he told me, then 18, that we were going to the Boys Club to recruit more black kids to play baseball. Not playing baseball is a foreign concept to my father and I. Baseball is definitely our pastime.
Nothing brought me more joy as a boy than staying up to the early morning hours watching TV and talking sports with my dad. He told me unbelievable stories of his upbringing and how his grandfather weaved baseball into our blood. And how he and his three brothers all played on the same little league team. And how Willie “the Say Hey Kid” Mayes was his favorite player. And how he amazingly received a shot to play professional baseball from behind prison walls. This was a feat that not only required superhero-like athletic ability, but politician intellect to maneuver the prison system and media to meet his needs while incarcerated in a federal prison as a very young man. There is eyewitness testimony that my dad crushed 400 ft dingers while locked away in La Tuna and Lewisburg Correctional Institutions. When most give up and lose hope, my father was still trying to live out his dream. His confidence, courage, perseverance, and intellect are characteristics that I have tried to incorporate into my personality.
This post would be canting if I failed to mention one of my father’s most notable characteristics. He has a giving spirit like no other. This makes him a marvelous grandfather and my mother’s worst nightmare when my siblings and I were growing up. As my sister always says, “When Dad has $20, we all have $20.” This spirit also allowed him to play with us like he was our peer at times. I remember one time he took my sister and I to Water Wonderland (a water park in Odessa) early one morning just after the park opened. It was cold as most desert mornings are and it seemed as though we were the parks only visitors. I remember being scared to slide down the park’s main attraction. My father rolled up his jeans and slid down the monsterous slide with me. Another time, we were locked out of the house on a scorching spring afternoon. We were attempting to break-in through a small bathroom window on the back porch near our kiddy pool. After several failed attempts, my dad grabbed me and forced me into the pool much to my delight. Most would have found the water unfavorable considering it had been sitting for at least a couple of days and had countless dead insects floating in it. My sister rushed to my rescue with the water hose only to receive the same verdict that I received. My dad laughed like a child that day as we attempted to seek revenge. That is most definitely a top ten event in my life (the lives of ghetto children- lol).
On this day, I want to honor the man that saved me from a life of uncertainty. Without his love and guidance, statically I would have been a lost cause. Without his passion for sports, I and the thousands of kids that we have coached would have been without the influence of a positive male role model. Without his quiet readings, I would never have respected the bookworms of the world and would have probably not chosen teaching as my profession. Without his giving spirit, my entire family (cousins included) would have gone without Christmas and birthday gifts on many occasions. Without his addiction to horse racing tracks and gambling, I would have never noticed the beauty of a Thoroughbred horse or been willing to take risks. Great risks equals great rewards and you have to play to win are my lessons learned. Without his willingness to protect our family at all cost, my family would have constantly felt unsafe in the lifestyles we were engrossed in. I still feel safe in his presence today. Without his fight, I would not know how to stand in the face of adversity.
When one man failed as a father, God deemed a sonless man worthy of being my daddy. Alan Wynard Veale is a man amongst men. I am honored to call him my father and will proudly carry the Veale name to my death.
Happy Father’s Day Dad!