Expressway: A grandson and I learn the secrets of men

Peter Ferrante, grandson of Linda Cucurullo of Hempstead, Peter Ferrante, grandson of Linda Cucurullo of Hempstead, was taught to “take control” as a young basketball player upstate. Photo Credit: Linda Cucurullo

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I have always wondered about the confidence of men.

I grew up in Long Beach in the 1950s in a family of girls, except for my dad, who usually let my mother handle their two daughters.

Over the years, I realized that men were always taking charge of everything. During one period, I worked in sales for a hardware manufacturer in Chicago. I recall holding my tongue while some salesmen confidently made predictions -- some of which never panned out.

Then in the late 1990s, I had an epiphany.

I was visiting my son's family upstate and on this day, my 8-year-old grandson, Peter, had a school basketball game. I had forgotten about hectic households with small children. Peter ran around trying to find his uniform. Jeremiah, his year-old brother, cried for his bottle. Mom and dad worked together to get the day started. Breakfast, baths and dressing. I smiled, grateful that I was no longer a young parent.

We drove to Peter's school on a cold, frosty morning. Peter went to the locker room to put on his uniform. As they entered the gym, the little boys shoved each other, laughing, making faces and falling on purpose. They were so cute with their skinny legs and oversized T-shirts. I thought, "These are babies. How are they going to play this game and know all the rules?"

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My son, Richard, was the coach. His first words to the team were, "Take control."

Those two words rang in my head like a gong. It was an "aha moment."

Take control.

If I had known the impact of those two little words, I would have come much further much quicker. I would have been more confident at an earlier stage. In my all-girls gym classes, I never heard those words.

During the game, I watched and listened to gestures and words that were sure to bring success, self-esteem, determination and confidence.

"Get out there and dance around, stay with your man," my son said.

"Don't take your eyes off the ball. . . . Stop and look before you shoot. . . . Take your stance, take the chance. . . . Freeze. Look where you are. Is this where you want to be? . . . Go for it, take control."

Over and over, I heard those words: "Take control."

Boys glanced over to the sidelines, where their dads sat. The dads reciprocated with silent acknowledgements -- thumbs-up, winks, whispered words: "Go for it. Take it all the way."

I was amazed by my son. As a single mother, I surely never taught him these things. Where did he learn to be so aggressive? Where did he learn to take control? When I asked later, he shrugged and said, "I picked it up along the way."

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Basketball is so much more than basketball. Over breakfast, I looked at these two men: my son, who never had a dad to show him the way and succeeded in spite of it, and this new little man, who was learning how to shape his own life. I was taught the secrets of men.

Peter is 23 years old now. He has his own apartment, a new car, a good job and plenty of friends. I guess he learned the lesson: Take control.

Reader Linda Cucurullo lives in Hempstead.

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