How daughters fulfill a father's every day

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This Father's Day message goes out to all fathers of girls.

We are lucky men. We should know that, even if we don't quite understand females, even after years of close and intense study.

Don't get me wrong. My daughters, 13 and 15, still seem to like me. Really, I swear. Their eye rolls may be running neck and neck with goodnight kisses, but I believe they know I love them like I love my next breath.

That last phrase is not my own. It's what the mom said in a "Family Ties'' episode in the '80s. I liked it immediately, but never really understood it until I became a father.

I'd seen fatherhood as my vocation even before it began, but as a young man there were boys in my mental picture. Them, I understood. In my mind's eye, I was forever playing catch with my son, or watching a ballgame with the lad at my side, neither one of us believing the umpire's call.

I know plenty of fathers do just that with their girls these days, but my girls aren't into sports. Until competitive vintage-store shopping is counted, they probably never will be, but I'm at peace with that. We still love enough of the same stuff: "The Simpsons'' and "Community," old Warner Brothers cartoons, the Marx Brothers, diners and my old rock LP collection, which was rescued from its long limbo in our attic once my girls discovered the joys of retro record players.

Knowing I love baseball, though, they lately have been making an effort to connect in that way, too.

That should be easy now. The Pirates are good again. That hasn't been true for their entire childhoods, apart from a couple of partial-season flashes that passed like dream sequences in old sitcoms. And with PNC Park just down the hill from our house -- either a 10-minute walk or a half-hour drive away -- getting there is easy, too.

Being teenage sisters, the girls prefer to go with me one at a time, which is cool with me. When they were little, I took them together to a few games and found they were like too many Pirates pitchers of the recent past. They could give you a couple of good innings but then you had to get them out of there.

If I take them separately, I can't be outvoted on sticking around to the end. So, three Fridays ago, I took my younger daughter to see the Pirates take on their divisional rivals, the Cincinnati Reds.

The Pirates lost 6-0, getting exactly one hit. Before the final out, even the Parrot had a bored look, and we fled.

This past Thursday night, it was my older daughter's turn. This time was different. This time, the Pirates lost to the San Francisco Giants 10-0.

We saw only one of the Pirates' three hits because we left shortly after the Pirates brought in relief pitcher Mike "White Flag'' Zagurski. He's built a bit like Santa Claus and can be even more generous, handing the Giants six hits and five runs in just one inning.

It was all OK, though. Before we left, I got to explain the sacrifice bunt and the double play, and we both got to pick a favorite running dumpling before the Great Pittsburgh Pierogi Race N'At. (Neither of our entries won. Curses be upon you, Sauerkraut Saul.) And the cotton candy guy, whom my daughter had been watching longingly almost the entire game, finally got around to us just before we left the park. I then was reminded that my daughters' Australian cousins call this stuff "Fairy Floss,'' which would be a tough ballpark sell, no? ("Hey, fairy floss, hey flossssss!")

We walked home. Before she headed upstairs, my girl gave me a hug, a kiss, and all the words I needed:

"I had fun, Dad. Thanks."

"I did, too," I told her, and absolutely did.

The girls have promised me breakfast in bed this morning. This will be the first pot of coffee they've ever made, but I have no doubt it will be sweet. With any luck, Netflix will spit out a Marx Brothers movie to top off our morning, and those will be the only boys I need.


Brian O'Neill: or 412-263-1947.


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