It could have ended horribly, but I am pleased to say that there are happy endings out there. I mean, the marriage had a bad ending - divorce. After fifteen years and two children, my parents decided to call it quits. I was seven years old, and all I knew was that my mom, my sister, and I were moving ten minutes away and my dad was staying at home. My older sister basically disowned my dad, blaming the end of the marriage on him. I never really wanted to look into things and still don't; I've never been sure why.
For a while, everything was weird. My situation at home with my mom and sister was uncomfortable. They were always putting my dad down and I always had to stick up for him. It would get me really upset, but I never told them because I didn't want them to get angry with me. I saw my dad only by the rules - on Saturdays it was just me and my dad, which I wasn't used to, since our activities had always included my sister. I felt uncomfortable with him and sometimes faked being sick to get out of seeing him. When we did spend time together, we always had to go somewhere, and it always involved buying me a gift. We never really talked with each other. Sometimes during the week I would talk to him a lot, and other times I didn't. Saturday always remained "Dad Day" in my eyes.
Things continued like that for about five years, until I entered junior high. During seventh grade, on a whim, I decided to join the junior high basketball team. This may not seem like a big thing, but to my dad it was. He had played basketball all of his life - junior high, high school, college, and even coached. So, needless to say, he was really excited. We had never had anything this big in common before. So that's when one Saturday we decided to do something different.
Dad took me to see a Boston College women's basketball exhibition game. I was happy because for once the attention wasn't focused on me. We hadn't been in our seats two minutes when the five-foot-ten-inch blond player with the fiery blue eyes caught my attention. I was amazed at how she could make the ball do practically anything she wanted. Her name was Sarah Behn. My dad had seen her play in high school when she broke the state scoring record. He had wanted to see her play, so that's why he had chosen a B.C. game. Not being sure if I would enjoy it, he said we could leave whenever I wanted. But I didn't want to leave. I quickly got caught up in the game. Glancing at my dad, I could tell he felt the same way.
We both fell in love with the team after that game, so we kept returning, not only game after game, but season after season. We didn't see each other just on Saturdays now, but whenever we felt like it. We became friends with the players and their parents. They became my role models and my dad became my role model. It was cool to see my dad interact and see the players and their parents turn to him for advice. The players looked up to him and slowly, so did I.
I realize that my dad and I don't have your average textbook definition of a father-daughter relationship, but I don't know of anyone who is closer to her father than I am. During the hours spent talking in the car following the team on road trips, we learned a lot from each other. And those road trips turned into road trips to visit colleges, and road trips simply to spend time together. We began to know each other and, more importantly, appreciate each other.
After junior high, I tried out a few times for varsity basketball, but never made the team. Instead, I played intramural, which my dad coached. It didn't matter to my dad that I wasn't as good as the players we watched. We had both learned a lot more from those basketball games than just the way the game was played. No one ever would have thought that watching a group of young women throw a basketball around a half empty gym could change two people's lives, but for my dad and me, it made all the difference in the world. -
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.