Some of my favorite moments with my dad are mixed in with silence. In the house I grew up in, a beautiful, aging, brick home in Cleveland Heights, our TV room sat off to the side, a white square encased by huge windows all around, an entertainment sidecar to the rest of the home. I loved that room. When you opened a window on either side and flicked on the overhead fan, this breeze wafted in, running over your arms and legs and lulling you into a state of sedation. When I think of that house, I always think of that room.
I spent a lot of time in there with my dad watching Cleveland sports, not always talking but communicating nonetheless. Sports have bonded us from the moment I was born, and I have more memories with him in that TV room than I can count. We watched LeBron James drop 25 straight points against the Detroit Pistons in 2007 there, with my Dad attempting, and failing, to keep my brother and I from destroying our vocal chords and waking up our mom. We watched the Browns lose a game to the Detroit Lions after the refs called pass interference on a Hail Mary pass on the last play of the game, a loss so outrageous that I had to storm out and shoot hoops in backyard to combat my rage. We watched Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, chuckling at Roger Federer's otherworldly backhand and dreaming of attending either tournament in person. We viewed countless, random weeknight Indians games. I'd even sit through episodes of "The Big Break" on the Golf Channel, a favorite of my dad's, just to be in that room with him, even though golf was like Nyquil for me.
I was always happy in there, and it took until I moved out and spent nights doing the same on my own to realize how much of those times together rubbed off on me. I find myself folding laundry in front of the game on the screen ahead of me, just like my dad does. I'll read the physical copy of the Plain Dealer's sports page with the Indians game on in the background, just like he does. I see more and more of my dad in myself every day. He's there with me, even if I'm not in his physical presence.
A few years ago, my dad gifted me 11 letters that he wrote to me, one just before I was born and ten others through my earliest years, ending in 1997. They are the best thing I have in my possession, and one sentiment in his second letter sticks out. He said he was afraid that if I didn't come to embrace sports like he did, he wouldn't know how to connect with me. There's a nervousness in that line, written in 1989 when I was yet to turn 1, a nervousness that I understand. If I'm fortunate enough to have a son and he rejects Cleveland sports as a religion as I've taken it to be, I'd be devastated. He never had to worry though, not really. He'd tell me stories of taking the elevator down from his office in the Terminal Tower and running into Juan Gonzalez or seeing Craig Sager and I'd lap them up. They became legend to me. All he had to do was put sports in front of me, and I'd grab on.
I've imagined a Cleveland championship over and over again in my head, sometimes in the middle of the day, when I have to shake myself back to reality because I can feel the tears welling up. I'm in a bar somewhere downtown, suffocated by people packed in around me like a middle seat on an airplane, but I don't care. When the horn sounds and the bar is encased in bedlam, I turn and hug one person: my dad. I don't let go for a very long time, and that's where the vision ends.
Life is different now. I don't live in that house anymore, haven't lounged in that TV room for a long time. My parents aren't together anymore either, part of the reason that house is now under new ownership. I drive by it every now and then, when I'm back in The Heights, and sometimes when I pass it it doesn't feel like I ever lived there at all. Maybe that's how it should be. My parents first told us of their impending split in that TV room, sending an emotional crack through a place that acted as my stronghold and safe haven, so perhaps it could never be the same anyway. Life chugs forward, startling changes be damned, and hanging on to what was can bury you as the past drags you violently along.
I don't get to have those moments with my dad, both of us in harmony watching Cleveland sports, as often as I used to, but that's ok. On Sunday night, we'll be downtown together, watching the Cavs attempt to make NBA history by climbing out of the death knell that is a 3-1 series deficit to win the NBA Championship, and I think they're really gonna do it. The past is meant to stay in the rear view, and what better time to erase 52 years without a championship in Cleveland than by beating a historically good Golden State Warriors team on their home floor on Father's Day.
I'll turn to hug my dad, and in a bar full of screaming Clevelanders, there we will be, back in our personal sidecar, a game on the screen and a beautiful silence between us.