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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,
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.