The RIBBE Father’s Day Gifts – A Musician, An Artist, An Athlete

I hope everyone in the Rhode Island Baseball community had a wonderful Father’s Day. Father’s Day for me involves my three sons – Spencer, Griffin, and Harrison. Each son has a special gift to give the world, my world, their friends, their families. This year, I asked them to join me in a special project for Father’s Day. Show me your gift, teach me a lesson, let me into your world. In year’s past, I have received baseball cards, game tickets, a grill, a drill, pool stuff, and Father’s Day cards with sincere and sarcastic messages. Those gifts were very much appreciated. But this year, I asked for time. Individual, one on one time with each son, to learn about their craft, their passion, their special gift. And we put that project into action yesterday.

My youngest son Harrison is about 6 feet tall, plus. He is growing into his body athletically and he works really hard on being an all around athlete. A few years back, due to an accelerated growth spurt, Harry had trouble running, throwing a baseball, shooting a basketball, catching a football. His pediatrician called it a muscle mapping issue. He just grew so fast that his muscles and brain were not speaking clearly. Fast forward to today, Harrison has worked extremely hard at running in the yard, shooting baskets in the driveway for hours, pitching and catching with me, hitting at Wickford Middle School, and getting his body into really good shape. He still has some work to do, but he is on his way to having a nice athletic career in the years to come.

For Father’s Day, I chose to play Harrison in H-O-R-S-E because I have been witnessing his shooting getting better and better. He played on the Wickford Middle School Basketball team in a support role and that experience was really awesome for him. Although baseball is his first love, his passion for basketball is growing daily. And I love that he is cross training his body with a different sport than baseball. That will only help him as he gets older.

My go-to shot has always been “The Larry Bird Shot.” From behind the basket, I shoot the ball over the backboard and into the basket. I have taken down many a foe with this shot over the years. Sadly, Harrison also knows the art of the Larry Bird shot. And many other long range shots. In a close contest, Harrison beat me HORSE to HORS on Father’s Day. I certainly don’t mind losing to him, he shot the ball very well and he deserved the win. We chatted about the upcoming summer, the NBA draft, high school (he’s going to be a freshman this year), and of course baseball. Great job Harry. I’ll get my revenge some day.

My middle son, Griffin, is an exceptional artist. He draws super heroes from comic book movies with a quiet confidence that befits a super star actor, athlete, or neurosurgeon. Honestly, I don’t know where he gets his artistic ability and frankly, I don’t really care. His ability to draw, accent, shade, create these images on paper is just breathtaking at times. He draws for hours at my house and then proudly comes downstairs and shows me. “Dad, check it out.” Check it out? Every picture he draws and illustrates is the most incredible piece of art I have ever seen.

For Father’s Day, I wanted to sit next to Griffin as he created something from scratch. Again, it is hard to imagine how this child can do this. I came up with a rough sketch of an idea for our Father’s Day project. Spiderman flying high across Narragansett Bay with the Newport Pell Bridge in the background. Check out my concept sketch and how Griffin then interpreted it.

Free hand, no web, no strings attached, no template, no picture in front of him. Free hand, my son sketches out Spiderman flying over Narragansett Bay with the Newport Pell Bridge in the background. I sat there next to him, I watched him, think, create, envision, draw. And that was only the beginning. As I sat down next to him and began to color in the sketch, Griffin had already mapped out the shading, the color scheme, the blues, the reds, the oranges, the browns, the sunlight. Where was the sun going to hit the bridge, Spidey’s suit, the water ripples, the web. He had foreshadowed everything and then instructed me to carry out his plan. Brilliant as the brightest star in the sky, my son taught me to draw Spiderman.

My oldest son, Spencer is a musician. Let me clarify that for you. He doesn’t just play drums, piano, bass, guitar, and harmonica. He doesn’t just look up song chords on YouTube or in some chord book or some chord website. Spencer has the ability to feel what the musician is telling the listener through the notes he/she is playing. He understands octaves and what key they are playing in and why they chose that octave and that key. He knows how to fill and hammer and embellish and tempo up and tempo down a song to make it sound perfect. His knowledge of music theory is exceptional. He is a musician – he is one with the music like the force is one with nature. As a musician, he is a force to be reckoned with.

For Father’s Day, I asked Spencer to teach me a song on the guitar. One of Spencer’s favorite bands has always been The Foo Fighters. I took him to see them years ago at Fenway Park. Dave Grohl is indeed his idol, his musical hero and has been for his years. There was no more fitting song I wanted to learn than “My Hero” from the Foo Fighters. It is a catchy tune that I felt was in my range as an average guitar player. Spencer has played it for me several times – on acoustic guitar, electric guitar with this looper pedal (which records a rhythm track and lets you play over it, like two people are in the room), and on the drums. Again, this kid can do anything musically.

“E major, Dad” were Spencer’s first instructions. Easy enough, E is one of the chords I know how to play. Spencer played along with me and showed me the strumming pattern, an important tempo skill for guitar. “Now, C sharp minor.” Ok, now we are getting serious. C sharp minor is a bit trickier and Spencer helped me get comfortable with this. We played this back and forth for a bit – E major, C sharp minor. “You can also play it like this,” and Spencer would show me another variation of the same chords on a different part of the neck of the guitar. He showed me the transition notes between the opening measures and the chorus. A mix of notes and chords to make the song “My Hero.” And with such poise and ease, Spencer taught me and instructed me and helped me play this song. And then, I let him play it through in perfect tempo and I just sat there in awe of my musician son.

Every son of mine has a special place in my heart. They work hard at their loves of life and their incredible gifts. A musician who can play 5 instruments with proficiency does not happen without hours and hours of practice, failing to hit a note, missing a beat, recovering, and then nailing a piece with perfection. An artist who spends countless hours simply shading the rays of sunlight to hit the costume of a super hero, planning out where the reds and oranges will land on the page hours before the ink hits the paper. An athlete who fights through growing pains, can’t shoot from the foul line, works tirelessly on hand position and leg drive, and can now shoot from anywhere on the court, and has built up his leg strength to be able to grab the rim at age 14. Their failures made them stronger. Their gifts to this world are just so breathtaking and impressive. I cherish every moment I have with them. My musician, my artist, my athlete, I love you so dearly and look forward to more of these special projects in the days, weeks, and years to come.

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