CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- On a brisk, sunny December afternoon, my 22-month-old son, Gunnar, had his short legs moving quickly around a neighborhood basketball court while I sat on the concrete - the faded 3-point line underneath me - and observed.
He didn't have a ball in hand; he was just burning energy, as kids are wont to do. When he grew tired, he made his way over to me and put his hands on the knees of my jeans. If I sit Indian style, he'll turn around and back onto my lap and use me as a heated seat.
This parent always obliges, so he wiggled his 23-pound body onto my crossed calves and leaned the back of his head into my chest. The wind blew. The leaves rustled. Conversation ensued.
In this moment, we created our chat for three.
It might seem hard to fathom, but I'm a Mountain State native who doesn't hunt or fish. My automotive knowledge is limited. Basketball is the McGill family father-son pastime, and someday, if he embraces the sport, Gunnar and I may have our share of 1-on-1 battles.
Shoot, my love of the 3-pointer helped inspire my son's given name.
Competition, however, is only a small part of what transpires on the court.
As Gunnar nears his second birthday and enters his third calendar year, his vocabulary seems to expand as quickly as he scurries from room to room.
Our talks can be one-sided, but he is starting to carve out more space in the conversation for his own words. This delights me. He uttered "Da-da" long before "Ma," and he has a knack for classifying small vehicles as a car and anything large as a bus. The FedEx truck that rolled by the park that afternoon elicited shouts of "Bus! Bus!" The planes that soared overhead to and from Yeager Airport drew "oohs" and "ahhs."
In his moments of silence in between, he listened to my stories about basketball. He'll not recall that day, but hopefully he'll remember what is written here.
As Gunnar grows - from the 4-pound, 5-ounce premature baby to the man he'll become - there are lessons his proud father hopes his son takes from the court ... and not ones that involve going left or using one's feet on defense.