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You Were There When I Won
by Henry Howard

Sons and daughters win letters and trophies,

Tokens of triumph on the gridiron or the baseball field.

Mothers and fathers go to games,

Hearts bursting with pride,

And put gleaming silver cups on living room mantles,

Tributes to children for living parental dreams

Long suppressed or denied.

You never got to see me in games,

Never heard the roar of crowds

Cheering my 36 points,

Never got to try on a varsity sweater

With a red emblazoned "F" for the name of my school.

I got "F's" for "failure" in basketball,

And "A's" for English

In a school that didn't honor smarts,

Only scores.

Content with bumper stickers that read,

"My kid is an honor roll student,"

You listened to fathers boast about their jocks

And bragged, in turn, to any who would listen

About my latest "A" in writing.

The years passed,

And successes gradually came,

Made all the sweeter

Because we shared them all.

Then came one victory

Too long deferred,

My own athletic moment in the sun,

All the brighter because you were there standing tall,

At my side when I won.

History cannot count the fathers

Who taught their sons to fish,

Passing on the ancient wisdom

In boats adrift on sun-kissed lakes or the roiling sea.

It became our special game,

And you coached me well,

Until the bait of competition beckoned

And it was time to tread untested waters.

You guided me through marlin fights

I was sure I could not win,

Until, in a moment of proof I could not believe,

The judges called me to the winner's circle.

A silver trophy can fade with time,

And letters on a jersey lose their threads.

But the threads between a father and son

Wove ever tighter that night

Because you were with me, Dad,

You were there when I won.



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