Like many men of his era, my father's top priority was providing for his family. With nine children to feed, this high-powered advertising executive used to leave before dawn every day and take the train into New York then return each evening so tired he barely had enough energy to watch the network news. His routine seldom changed; that is unless we had a camping trip planned. Whether it was for a weekend or month in the woods, my father made sure we were well-equipped. That meant a trip to Morsan's Sporting Goods.
Larry Scott is a busy man. The 43-year-old Harvard graduate and former professional athlete runs the Women's Tennis Association tour. The St. Petersburg resident and father of three spends a lot of time on the road or in the air flying to Wimbledon, the French Open and other world class events.
"My schedule can get pretty hectic," he says. "I probably spend about a third of my time away from home."
When Scott is in town, he makes sure he spends quality time with his kids.
"Kids need a routine," Scott said. "So we have our little rituals. It may be something as simple as go to the recycling center. But it is something that we always do on Saturday. They look forward to it."
Sometimes, it is difficult finding the right balance.
"Even though we do things together, they each still need one-on-one attention," he said. "I call this Daddy time."
Baseball, Harry Potter and kingfish
Scott's oldest, 7-year-old Alexander, likes his father to read with him. The youngest, 4-year-old Alana, wants to play sports with her dad. The middle one, 6-year-old Sebastien, lives to fish.
"He just loves it," Scott said. "He wants to go whenever he can."
On each's birthday, Scott lets them pick an activity that they can do with their dad and dad alone.
"Last year, Sebastien and I went bass fishing on Lake Tarpon," he said. "This year, we went fishing for king mackerel."
Scott thought about hiring a guide. But then his neighbor, Richard Mastry, stepped in and offered to take the two offshore. They loaded into Mastry's Spectre vee-bottom and headed out to the wreck of the Betty Rose.
They weren't at it very long when Sebastien hooked a small king. The fish wouldn't have made the leaderboard in a tournament. But to this 6-year-old, it could have just as well been a 500-pound blue marlin.
"That kid had a smile on his face for an hour," Scott said. "That is something he will never forget."
Sebastien might remember his first kingfish, but he will surely never forget those weekly trips to the recycling center.
"I can remember being (Sebastien's) age and watching my father play tennis on every Sunday morning," Scott said. "Because afterwards, we would get to go to Mom's and get a breakfast sandwich."
The Long Island deli would cook eggs any way you wanted and served them on a fresh Kaiser roll.
"They were so good," Scott said. "That was the big treat of the week."
When asked about the secrets of fatherhood, Larry's dad, Paul, talked about the same things — quality time, one-on-one attention for each of his three children — but he was surprised to learn that a simple egg sandwich made such an impression on his son.
"I can't believe he remembers Mom's," Larry Scott said. "Those must have been some special egg sandwiches."
Gold spoons and top-water plugs
Back at Morsan's, the sporting goods store, my father and I would wander the aisles for hours looking at fishing tackle.
Sometimes we would buy a jitterbug or floating Rapala. But more often than not, we would just talk about everything from school to snapping turtles. Then we left empty-handed and headed to Howard Johnson's for some french fries, a root beer and, if I was lucky, a big piece of pumpkin pie with Whip Cream on top.
It's not that the pie, like a Mom's egg sandwich, was something special. But the man who shared it sure was.
Terry Tomalin can be reached at (727) 893-8808 or firstname.lastname@example.org.