A few weeks ago, I was biking when I passed by a field where a lot of old guys* were playing soccer. I stopped my bike and asked a teenage girl who was watching the game what was going on.

“They just play here,” she said. I told her my husband loves soccer, because he grew up in Argentina and he’s always talking about wanting to play, etc. It was all true: he loves soccer.

“If he wants to play,” she said, “he just needs to show up around this time on a Sunday morning. Bring $5.”

I rode off. A little later I took four little girls to a toy store (because I am INSANE). Rio spent her carefully saved allowance money on a little wooden plaque for her dad, for a Father’s Day Gift. It’s shaped like a princess crown, and she decorated it with pink glitter and plastic gems and little pink sparkly stickers that spell “Dada”. She insisted he put it on his desk at work.

Me, I kept my pennies and practiced the gift of silence. When I got home, I didn’t tell Martin about the pick-up game at the park. On Father’s Day, I told him I wanted to go for a ride with the kids, maybe take a picnic to this park. I secretly packed a tote bag with a water bottle, his soccer shoes, and a crisp $5 bill. We went to the park. As we approached he broke into a grin and said, “Hey, is that a pick-up soccer game?”

I handed him the tote bag. “Happy Father’s Day.”

He smiled. He might have thanked me, but he was moving pretty fast toward the field. It was raining, and the game was underway, and he didn’t care. He put his cleats on and stood by the goal until one of the players invited him to join in. Invited might be an overstatement. The conversation went like this:

“Who the hell is that?”

“Some guy! Says he wants to play.”

“I guess you can have a red shirt. But if you suck, you’re out.”

Thirty seconds later he scored a goal. They let him stay. He’s planning to make a habit of this.

Best Father’s Day Gift Ever. It’s healthy and fun. Granting a wish he’s had for years but been unable to grant for himself. Possibly lifechanging, if he keeps it up.

And it wound up costing me nothing but time. Turns out the first one is free, just like crack.

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