My mom laughed. “He means ‘naches,’ ” she said. Naches, my mom explained, is a Yiddish word meaning pride, especially with regard to the achievements of one’s children.
The eight-and-a-half pound newborn who made my dad so proud is now a 6-year-old baseball fan. Specifically, she is a Red Sox fan. So is her little sister. Two time zones away, in Pawtucket, R.I., my dad delights in my kids’ loyalty to his New England team. It is a love I neither share nor fully comprehend.
I have always known my father loved me. We just didn’t connect over a lot, including the teams that mattered so much to him. He took me to a Patriots game when I was in middle school. I remember the gray cloud cover, the biting cold, and the pleasure I took in a hot dog and a fresh, warm pretzel. I spent most of the game staring at the scoreboard and wondering when it would end. I was never invited again. It stung when I found out that when my dad had an extra ticket, he invited the friend of a friend or someone with whom he did business.
“Why are you inviting people you barely know when you could have invited ME?” I’d whine.
“You don’t want to go,” he’d say.
It was true. It wasn’t that I wanted to watch football; I wanted my dad to want to sit with me at the stadium.
About six months before I moved to Colorado, my dad took me to a Red Sox game. As an adult, I understood there were nuances of the game that were beyond my grasp. I wasn’t into the game, but I was determined to have a good time. Wearing the pink Red Sox T-shirt my dad bought me, I sang along to “Sweet Caroline” with gusto. I stood and threw my hands skyward like my life depended on it when the wave passed through my section. I still remember the salty richness of the Cuban sandwich I ate that night.
I was training for an Ironman triathlon at the time. I was less concerned with baseball and more worried about how I’d get to bed at a reasonable hour so I could wake up to fit in a 10-mile run before work the next morning. Though my dad couldn’t understand my drive to swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles and run 26.2 miles, he supported me nonetheless. He threatened to enjoy a cigar or two on the sidelines, but he was there, cheering for me the entire day.
I’ve lived in Colorado for 11 years. When I was single, my dad would ask how my car was running. Now, when he calls, he asks how all three of his babies — including this 40-year-old — are doing and requests I give his love to my husband, too.
He also asks me, jokingly, if I caught the Red Sox (or the Pats, the Bruins, or the Celtics, depending on the season), even though he knows the answer. I like to think this is his way of saying he loves me, even if he doesn’t understand me. On a typical Sunday, while he enjoys his game, I’m out enjoying a different kind of game: hiking, running or biking.
For years, my dad insisted on booking a hotel room when he and my mom visited. I understood; my husband and I have neither ESPN nor a TV. Things changed once our kids were old enough to climb onto their Papa’s lap for a story, request that he play “Twinkle Twinkle” on his harmonica and sneak into his bed for morning snuggles. From then on, my parents have stayed in our guest room when they visit.
Recently Charlotte was at school, leaving me home with my younger child, Lucy, for the day. Lucy asked me if the Red Sox won. I flipped to the sports page for the second time in my life. (The first was in a misguided attempt to impress a date.)
“They lost by a lot,” I told her.
“I’m so stressed out about the Red Sox!” she exclaimed.
I hadn’t seen her this upset since the time I forbid her from wearing her plastic Elsa dress-up high heels to preschool.
When Charlotte got home from school she was tired, hungry and furious to discover the sports page was a soaking wet mess. Per her request, I’d shown her how to check the score. When the Red Sox won, I’d let her borrow my phone so she could share the good news with Papa. On this particular day, I’d let Lucy use the sports page as a barrier between the table and her watercolors.
“You ruined the sports section! How am I going to see how the Red Sox did?” she bellowed. Her cheeks were flushed, her brown eyes narrowed.
Lucy replied, “It doesn’t matter. They lost.”
Charlotte’s anger melted into a puddle of despair. I didn’t know how to console her.
“Do you want to call Papa?” I asked her, handing her my phone.
The next day I received this email from my dad: Tell the girls the Red Sox won the Pennant & are going into the playoffs with the best record in baseball. Go Red Sox. I now proclaim, in the hallowed name of Samuel Theodore (Ted) Williams, Charlotte & Lucy full-fledged members of “Red Sox Nation.“
I took an extra moment to absorb the words before interrupting the girls’ princess game to read them the message. My dad was 2,000 miles away but I could feel his love and affection like he was right next to me.
This morning I received a text from my dad, asking me to tell the girls the Red Sox won the World Series, and to “kiss 'em for me.” Despite the fact that my phone was on silent in the pre-dawn darkness the girls came rushing into the bathroom within seconds.
“Papa says the Red Sox won the World Series,” I told them.
“Yaaaay!” they cheered, jumping up and down.
I doubt I will ever experience that kind of excitement over the Red Sox, or any team. I may never totally understand the passion my kids have for New England sports. But the fact that my kids share that passion with my dad? That gives me great naches.
Pam Moore is a freelance writer, group fitness instructor and mom based in Boulder, Colo. Find her on Twitter @PamMooreWriter.