By FRANK BARNING
American journalist and humorist Helen Rowland wrote, "A man's desire for a son is usually nothing but the wish to duplicate himself in order that such a remarkable pattern may not be lost to the world".
While Vivian was expecting, friends and family would ask if I wanted a boy or a girl. I lied, saying it didn't matter.
When our son Randy was born on May 7, 1973 at Mercy Hospital in Rockville Centre, I was overjoyed that Vivian and the baby were healthy, but the icing on the cake was that I had a son.
People knew that Vivian and I were big baseball fans, both rooting for the Brooklyn Dodgers until the team moved to Los Angeles after the 1957 season. Then starting in 1962 when they were created, the New York Mets were our team. So many baby gifts were shirts and other clothing items with baseball themes. Randy even received a couple of miniature baseball gloves.
His best sport turned out to be basketball. The photo of the two of us was taken in our backyard in 1991 when Randy was on the team at La Jolla Country Day School in San Diego. One of our most memorable days was when he made the varsity in junior year and was handed his uniform.
Randy and I played a lot of basketball on a court near our home. Maybe he was around 10 when we started. We'd have shooting contests, games such as H-O-R-S-E and one-on-one competition. Sometimes we would play together in pickup games. In the early years, he was totally overmatched by a dad who was in his early 40s. But as time passed, our skills evened out.
And then came the day, around the time Randy was a freshman in high school, that the torch was passed. The son exceeded the dad and he loved to rub it in my face, in a nice way. He was so pleased with himself, and I was proud of him. Hey, he loved a sport I had played since I was a pre-teen.
When it came time to apply to colleges, Randy already knew which school he wanted. Eventually, he had an impressive choice of universities that offered him admission. The University of California system has some great schools and Randy had his choice. He did not want to stay home, so the San Diego campus was rejected even though I tried to bribe him with a new car. The top schools were the University of California Berkeley and the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). Randy chose UCLA, about a three-hour drive or train ride from home. Vivian and I were thrilled.
I don't know if many young men who have options pick a college because of its basketball history and tradition, but our son did. He wanted to be a Bruin, the school of fabled coach John Wooden and such immortals as Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul Jabbar) and San Diegan Bill Walton, among others.
The first week of school, he talked to some of the assistant basketball coaches about becoming a team manager, but all the spots were taken. Instead, he played intramural basketball on the team of the fraternity he joined and attended just about all the Bruins' home games at fabled Pauley Pavilion, where all the national championship banners are hung.
In March of 1995, the team won its 11th national title and only one since coach Wooden retired in 1975. Randy was a senior and attended the Final Four games in Seattle. In June, his department's commencement was held in Pauley Pavilion, amid the banners. Three of the other grads in his department were starters on the basketball team. The master of ceremonies, as I recall, mentioned by name only three graduates. They received a standing ovation.
At age 38, Randy Barning continues to be all a dad could have wished for. An unknown author wrote, "Son, you outgrew my lap, but never my heart".
Originally published in Early Levittown and Beyond on August 18, 2011