Man, this does take me back. Way back. Memories of happiness admixed with sadness and success tainted with failure, but failure that lingers to this day.
I too had an absent father when it came to athletics. He simply was not around long enough for much of that even if he did have an interest in sports. Although I do recall one brief episode at another place a few years later of my dad tenderly lobbing baseballs to me for practice at batting. But just once. It was a blowout practice session. Frankly I sucked. Never did hit the ball even once. Coordination simply was not there and his "keep your eye on the ball" instruction did not make sense and repeating it did not help. It just did not compute. So unsatisfying for both of us.
Whatever I managed was learned through the patience of my older brother, Barry, whose patience was limited. The throwing lessen was not with a baseball, rather, with rocks thrown off the edge of a cliff.
At Benton AFB, beyond the firing range, beyond the blueberry bushes and apple orchard, surround by woods on three sides and near to the lake. Dad was there the whole time at Benton but he was working all day and not at the rock throwing scene.
Barry would take off in the morning and not come back home until dinner. Eventually we were provided watches to coordinate. Watches! I was inclined to hang around, running in and out of the house. I'm convinced Mum told Barry to bear with me due to her own impatience with my tendency for clinging. I sensed a bit of resentment from both. I could be a pain in the butt. At that age the gap of one and a half years does make a difference when it comes to keeping up and athletics.
On one of our daily hikes around the environs of Benton Barry stopped to throw rocks off a cliff so I joined naturally copying. I did everything he did. I threw rocks like he threw rocks for what developed into a rock throwing contest for distance. After a few throws Barry quipped flatly looking straight at me,
"You throw like a girl."
I was crushed. Destroyed. I couldn't believe what I heard. My world inverted.
"I do not!"
"You do too."
Now this was a maddening assessment that haunts me to this day. It does. I am still self-conscious of that harshest of criticisms and it lingers every time I pick up something to throw a nagging voice whispers, make sure you don't throw like a girl.
"How should I throw then?"
Barry showed me what I was doing, exaggerating my motions to make the demonstration clear, and how I should be throwing off the side.
"I do not!"
Then I copied his masculine ways. It was an inferior technique for me for throwing and my rocks did not go as far. But that would be the way I must throw or else I will look like a girl.
Bastard. But I must at least thank Barry for having patience with such a spaz for a younger brother. That must have been intolerable at times. Even if his motivation was averting me embarrassing him in front of others.
This is truly embarrassing. On a national scale. Now I see what he means.
Thank you, Barry, my forbearing brother. I am certain this is how I looked to you. Decades later I related this incident that left such scar to Barry who didn't remember and he cracked up laughing.