So Father’s Day is almost over, and I wanted to take a minute to write about Stanley Pearlmanâ€”my dad and closest friend.
Having been around the ol’ block a few times, I’ve seen my fair share of fathers. Many are good, many are OK, some are terrible. My least-favorite dads tend to be “sports dads”â€”those living vicariously through their kids, screaming from the stands at every baseball game; secretly (or not-so secretly) hoping for that athletic scholarship; forgetting that, come day’s end, it’s just a game. I’m particularly sensitive about this, because, when I was a kid, my older brother David played one year of youth soccer for a miserable SOB who placed winning first, second, eighth, 100th on the priority scale. Dave was not a good athlete, and he was always used for the absolute minimum amount of timeâ€”pure humiliation.
My dad, however, was anything but a sports parent. Though he and/or my mom came to nearly every sporting event of my youth, neither cared one iota whether I went 0-for-4 or 4-for-4. Sports was a way for me to make friends; to burn energy; to wear a uniform and pretend I was Ken Griffey, Sr. That was it.
Though Dad worked hardâ€”first as a CPA, then as a head hunterâ€”he always made 100-percent certain to be home for family dinners every night. There was no reading at the table, and certainly no TV. We discussed our days; went over the highs and lows. In no particular order, my dad taught me how to: ride a bike; drive a car; grasp mathematics; understand politics; run long distances; embrace mid-afternoon naps. As long as I can remember, he and I have been giving one another spur-of-the-moment back scratchesâ€”to hell with how that might look to others. My dad took me on all of my college visits, even one to SUNY Albany when icy snow was coating the ground. When I was hired by Sports Illustrated, my dad flew down to Tennessee to drive back with me to New York. I rented a U-Haul van, and I attached my Geo Metro convertible to the back. As we slid all over the icy December highways, my dad never complained. Not once.
My dad was the best man at my wedding, and he gave one of the greatest toasts I’ve ever heard. I’ve never told him this, but my favorite part was a two-second span where he took the time to praise my brother. That’s typical Stanâ€”never favored one son over the other; never left either of us out.
My dad neverâ€”neverâ€”talks shit about people. It’s my favorite quality of his, and one I strive to emulate (and, sadly, fail). I recall a time when one of his businesses wasn’t doing well, and there was a rumor that an employee was being openly critical. My mom was visibly upset, but Dad would have none of it. “We don’t know for a fact that she’s said anything,” he said. “So I’m going to choose to believe she hasn’t.” My dad sees everyone as “fun” or “interesting” or “unique.” He’s one of the most class- and color-blind people I’ve ever met.
I remember when my grandpa died about 10 years ago, and in the eulogy my dad recalled how Grandpa was always available to pick him up from the airport or bus station or … wherever. My dad is the exact same way.
Five or six years ago my dad was diagnosed with a brain tumor. We all were terrified that he would either die or be left partially paralyzed or brain damaged. He had his operation, and when it was completed the doctor told us he could make no guarantees. I will never, ever, ever, ever forget walking into the recovery area, just hoping Dad could move and think. When he opened his eyes, he looked at me, smiled and said to the nurse, “This is my son. He just wrote a book about the Mets.”
It is the happiest single moment of my life.