Amazon Exclusive: Essay by Jim Abbott
He wouldn't say it exactly, because precision with words wasn't his specialty, but my father was the first to ask me, "So, what are you going to do about it?"
The question itself --framed as a challenge--came years later from a sports psychologist, long after I'd become an adult and as I was nearing fatherhood. My father had warmed me to the answer.
I was born when my dad was 18, barely out of adolescence himself, not yet married to my mother, and coping with his own response to a savagely simple call to obligation. I was born without a right hand, which, in 1967, qualified me as "crippled," predecessor to "handicapped," then "disabled," then "challenged."
So, what was he going to do about it? What were we going to do about it?
Well, we fished. We rode a bike. We flew a kite. And, eventually, we played ball. In Flint, Michigan, that's what boys did, what fathers and sons did. They played ball.
When I went out into the world and felt like I'd been spit out the other side, my father would turn me around, open the front door and send me back out.
He'd lost his own father at a young age, and his childhood with him. He replaced both with a desire to see more, and experience more. When everyone went right, Dad, often enough, went left. It wasn't willfulness, but instinct. He raised me in the same manner, from a soul that told him I'd need to fall down in order to stand. If he caught me today, I'd need someone to catch me and help me up tomorrow, and that wouldn't work at all.
He let me fail, with the faith it would teach me to succeed. I learned that it was as hard on him as it was on me, but not until my own children had fallen and risen themselves. Now one of my daughters will come to me, her eyes moist and swollen, and I'll think of my dad and what he said. In a quiet moment, I'll look at my little girl and I'll ask her:
"Well, honey, what are we going to do about it?"