Kristian Garic:  Happy Father’s Day to my Dad and best friend

Kristian Garic
June 16, 2019 - 12:45 pm
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Growing up with a military dad wasn’t as rough as you might think.  My dad, David Garic, wasn’t the yelling type, nor a pushover either.  He was pretty calm in most situations.  Early in my life, my father’s military job was pretty demanding, forcing him to miss a lot of time with my sister Tara and me.  My Mother did most of the parenting while he was training.  As he moved up in rank, my dad’s time with us increased.  I didn’t really get super close to my father until we moved to Ft. Knox, Kentucky, when I was around 9 years old as I recall.  

Initially, my dad and I forged our bond through sports.  He served as a coach of my baseball team in Radcliff, Kentucky.  He honestly didn’t really know a lot about baseball, but he knew I loved the sport, so he did any and everything to cultivate my love for baseball.  When I was growing up, my dad also served as an assistant coach of my football team.  Again, he didn’t know a lot about coaching the game; it was just his way of spending time with me.  

I’m going to share some of my favorite memories with my father.  Please excuse the timeline; I may jump around a bit.  

One of my absolute favorite memories was December 23rd 1987.  We were stationed at Fort Knox.  An important note:  this was before the advent of satellite TV or the NFL Sunday ticket.  My dad raised me right, to be a die on the vine Saints fan.   That year the Saints were scheduled to play in Cincinnati against the Bengals.  Cincinnati was a short three hour drive from home, so we made the short trip to Cincy.  It was cold, snowy and somewhat miserable, but I was happy, because my dad scored pretty good seats.  There I sat, grinning ear to ear and rocking a Bobby Hebert No. 3 jersey in Riverfront Stadium watching my very first live Saints game with my father.  I still have the tickets framed on the wall in my man cave.  The Saints won 44-24, which at the time, was the largest comeback win in franchise history.

Later as my dad was reassigned to West Point, New York.  We continued to bond as father and son as we watched Saints games, only now it was on TV.   Every Sunday, around 10am we would make a one hour drive through the hills of upstate New York to the “Sports View” sports bar, hoping to watch the Saints on a little bitty TV in the corner of the bar.  (And, yes, that bar’s still there!)  The first time we walked in the owner told my father I wasn’t allowed, because I was a minor.  My dad politely talked him into allowing me to stay.  I think my dad said something the effect of, “Look, he’s a junkie for Saints football.  He’s 12.  If he doesn’t get to watch this game he’s going to have a meltdown like you have never seen before.  Please don’t make me have to tell my son he can’t watch the game.”    After that Dad plea, the owner backed off and obliged.  So from there on out, just about every Sunday during football season we drove to “Sports View” to watch the Saints, mostly break our hearts.  

My time with my dad in West Point, was also the first time I ever experienced a pro baseball game (Yankees and Mets games).  One year, he checked me out of school early and surprised me with a trip to Shae stadium to watch the Mets.   There was one little problem, it was opening day and my dad thought he could just scoop some tickets off the street.  Little did he know, the prices for opening day tickets were a minimum of $300.00 dollars each.  Picture this, my dad - the military guy negotiating with scalpers on the street to get us in.   Even the nosebleed seats were out of his price range.  I’m tugging on his shoulder begging him to pay whatever price necessary.  You see, I wanted to see Dwight Gooden on the mound so bad I could taste it.  My dad was a captain in the U.S. Army at the time, and while he made decent money, he wasn’t in the position to drop $600.00 dollars on a baseball game.  So we didn’t make it into Shae Stadium that day.  But, after getting over the disappointment, we drove back home all the while still chatting ball.  Turns out, that was enough for me.  

There are so many memories with my Dad.  Important lessons too.  The most important was accountability.  He always enforced that.  He also taught me how to be a family man.  Every night, no matter what, we sat together for a family meal.  He would take the phone off the hook; it was his time with his family.  My father, mother, sister and I broke bread and my dad made each one of us go around the table and tell him about our day at school.  He’d ask about homework, grades, and other things he felt were important.  He was especially interested in which boys might be interested in his daughter.  My sister would get a little aggravated whenever he inquired about boys in her life.  I found it funny.  

As I got older my dad pushed me hard, both scholastically and athletically.  My junior year of high school we transferred back to Fort Knox, Kentucky.   That meant a new high school for me.  I went from a tiny 300 student body enrollment to a school with 2,500 students.  At my previous school in New York I was the stud baseball player.  At my new school I quickly learned that I was just another face in the crowd.  This was the first time I faced adversity in my life.  That year when baseball tryouts came around I was humbled.  I made the team, but I remember telling my dad that night at dinner, “Dad, this isn’t like New York.  All these guys are as good as or better than me.  I’m not sure I am gonna play very much.”  My junior year I earned a starting spot at third base, but quickly lost it due to poor performance.  For the first time in my baseball years I was warming the bench.  My father is the reason I didn’t quit.  The reason I lost my job was not because I wasn’t good enough, but because I wasn’t mentally tough enough.  

My dad was there to have very raw and honest conversations.  In Kentucky, at North Hardin High School, we would have 2,000 fans in the stands on a regular bases.  I wasn’t used to that, and I cracked on a big stage.  My dad didn’t allow me to quit after my junior season.  Instead, he challenged me.  That summer he told me, you have to get back to just playing ball as if there were 20 people watching, just like in New York.  Because of his encouragement and counseling, I got over the stage fright.  

My Dad also told me, “Son, you have to get bigger, faster and stronger.”   So he put me on a weight lifting and training regimen during the summer and fall.  Every day he and I woke up at 5:30am and went to the gym.  My dad was the power lifting coach at West Point so he knew some things about weight training.  

That fall, he pushed me through some grueling workouts.  This was five days a week for 9 months.  When I got home from school, and after he got home from work, we also ran 4 miles three times a week, coupled with the 5:30am gym routines.  Suffice it to say, my senior year I showed up at baseball practice a changed human being.  I was much more confident, and in superb shape.   I earned my starting job back and had a great senior year.  At the time, I thought my dad just wanted me to get better at baseball.  The message was much clearer to me later.  

That moment in our father/son history - he taught me about work ethic.  I learned that if you want something bad enough, you will sacrifice anything to accomplish your goal.  Throughout training that season, he would leave me notes of inspiration in my book bag, some of which I still have today.  

After my senior year, I decided to join the United States Marines.  I was already in great shape from training for the past year.  I enlisted the summer after graduation.  My dad was able to swear me in the Marines as a commissioned officer in the Army.   That is probably my favorite memory…my best moment with my dad.  When I shipped for Boot Camp in the Marines, my dad wrote me a letter every day while at Paris Island.  Each one of them had a special inspirational quote at the beginning.  That helped me tremendously.  

Sorry to ramble on, I guess…I just have to acknowledge on this special day that my father had a profound impact on my life.  He’s my best friend.  We have a code…our own language…that you might not understand.  Certain noises or sayings that mean nothing to you will bring laughter to us.  It’s not uncommon for him to shoot a text to me reciting a quote from Seinfeld, the movie Hot Shots, or Space Balls.

I try and talk to my dad nearly every day.  I seek his advice most of the time.  And, when I don’t, sometimes I get unsolicited advice.  We talk about life, the Saints, my job, my kids, his job, nothing’s off the table.  My dad and I have the kind of relationship that on the rare occasion when we don’t see eye to eye, the grudge doesn’t last longer than a day or two.  

Again, Dad…this message is for you.   You’re my best friend.  I’m blessed to have a great father, check that…an amazing father.  I love you dad!  Happy Father’s Day! Gee-Gee!  (He knows what it means).  

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