Anything But a Super Sunday

Note: My Dad died seven years ago today. This is for him. And for me.

The Rams were playing the Titans in the NFL championship game. But for me, Sunday, January 30, 2000, was anything but super.

That’s the day my Dad died.

(It was hard to type that — even now.)

I’ll never forget the last time I saw him. It was Sunday, January 23. My wife and I were living in Vermont at the time — nearly five hours away.

When it was clear things weren’t going to turnaround, I started coming home every weekend to see my Dad. We had a routine of sorts. We’d sit in the TV room and watch whatever college basketball game was on.

At the end of the game, I’d get up to leave. He’d get up, too, although it wasn’t easy for him. And it definitely wasn’t easy for me to see him this way. That didn’t matter when he shook my hand, though. As firm and as strong as ever, regardless of what was happening to the rest of his body.

I told him I would see him next week.

“Stay home,” he told me. “I know you have plans for the game. I’ll see you the following week.”

Oh how I wish that were true.

Instead, I suffered from the cruelest of ironies. The one weekend I didn’t come home (at least initially), is the weekend, well, you know.

We did have plans to watch the game with friends. And then the phone rang Sunday morning. It was my brother, Tom. In short, Tom told me things had gotten worse for my Dad. Everyone was at the house. I should come home.

This was about noon. The call itself wasn’t a surprise. The timing was. That’s why it took a few hours for my wife and I to get all we needed together before heading home. I had to make work arrangements, as did she. We had to pack for a prolonged visit. Finally, we were on the road. I think it was about 3 p.m.

Looking back, that’s what I most wish I could change about that day. Either that my family would have called me earlier. Or that we could have gotten out of the house and on the road quicker.

Why?

Because I wasn’t there when he died.

My wife and I would stop every hour or so and give updates on how close we were and get updates from my family.

I’ll never forget the phone call I made from a phone booth outside a Mobile Station in Greenfield, MA.

“Making good time,” I told my brother, Tim, who answered the phone. “Probably another hour and a half.”

“Michael,” he said. “Dad died a little while ago.”

I just stood there. I don’t remember what I said. But I remember what Tim said:

“The nurse said it was getting close. We were all there. We all took turns saying goodbye.”

I must have shown some sign of emotion, because the next thing I remember was my wife giving me a big hug outside the phone booth.

She drove the rest of the way, and I cried for about the next 15 to 20 minutes. While i know what Tim meant, he was wrong. We weren’t all there. We didn’t all take turns saying goodbye.

I wasn’t there. I didn’t get to say goodbye until two days later when I finally saw him at the funeral home.

I’ll probably never get over that part. That I wasn’t there. That I didn’t come home that weekend. I think about that. A lot.

I also think about what my Dad has missed. My son will never know his Papa O. He includes him in his prayers, and we light a candle every week at church for him, because he knows “Papa O is in heaven.”

But, he’ll never see the Papa O look my Dad used to give one of my nieces and my three nephews. He’ll never see my dad umpire a baseball game, or perform a card trick for him. And he’ll never have the chance to hear my dad tell him a story or help him learn a new word.

The two biggest things that my Dad missed? Seeing my sister and me as parents. I think about him holding my sister’s daughter and telling her how lucky she is to have Lynn as a Mom. And I think about him talking to my son, trying to be serious as he listens to him, but seeing him barely able to hold back a smile.

One of the more selfish things I think about is something that didn’t happen — but that I wish did. As I said, my Dad died on Sunday. His hospice nurse later told us that my Dad’s plan for Monday was to write letters to each of us kids. He never got the chance. And there are times when I wonder if he did, what mine would say.

Would he tell me that he was sorry he called me out on three straight strikes when he umpired one of my first Little League games, or would he tell me that he knew one day I would make a good Dad?

Either one would be more than OK.

I can’t help it. These are the things I think about. My Dad died seven years ago. And I wasn’t there.

Miss you, Dad.

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Concert Critique

Wife and I went to see Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band last night.

He was fabulous. Much better than expected. His voice was incredibly strong. And, while he might not have the best stage presence, it wasn’t half bad for someone who is 61.

But, I’m not here to review the performance of Seger and friends, other than what I’ve already written.

No. I’m here to write about some of the 9,000 people that were at the show with us.

See, concerts, if anything, are an amazing place to people watch — particularly at a show like this when the average age of the audience is, well, on the older side of things.

I’m a music guy. I’ve been to, oh, I don’t know, a lot of live shows. Easily more than 50. At this point, it’s probably closer to 100.

Many of the things you see at concerts are universal. Some have been happening for a long time. Some, well, are newer, dare I say it, ‘traditions.’

For instance, I’m sure you’ve noticed the guy (because, for some reason, it is a guy who does this 9 times out of 10) who has his cellphone to his ear. He’s not calling home to check in on the babysitter. He’s calling the guy he knows half way around the arena so they can wave to each other.

I mean, are you kidding? What’s the point here? And, I’ve gotta think it’s always the guy in the better seats that initiates the call. You know. To rub it in that he has better seats. This, and many other things, are even funnier when it’s a 45-year-old guy doing it.

My other new favorite thing to mock is the high fivers. You know, the group of buddies who are coming to the show together. They get so excited about a song, that when it’s over, they have to give each other high fives. You’re kidding me, right? No, apparently they aren’t. Get. A. Life.

The waver is another favorite. Most times, artists will move from side of the stage to other to give everyone a chance to get an up close look at the star. I love this. Because it’s then that you always see people wave their hands like crazy and scream at the top of their lungs. Now, keep in mind, the guy on stage can’t see a damned thing with the lights, but the fans are certain they saw them wave or whatnot.

My other least favorite thing is after a show. When 9,000 people leave one place, it can get a little crowded. That’s fine. Just learn how to walk. Please.

Don’t you just love the couple, for example, that decides to literally stop in the middle of an area to discuss something — causing everyone behind them to change their walking plan (what, you don’t have one?) on the fly. Move it to the side and then have your discussion. Don’t you dare have it in the middle of my walking plan.

I mean, the nerve of people.

So, what drives you crazy at a concert?

What else? I got nothin’.


What’s In a Name?

I listen to just about anything. Always have. Probably always will. Heck, I even listen to (some) country now. Thanks to the amazing Jennifer Nettles.

I’ll be the parent in 15 years bringing one of my kids to a concert. You know the parent. The one that’s rocking out and singing all the songs — making their kid(s) feel like a dope. Yup, that’ll be me. Particularly if Bon Jovi is still touring in 15 years.

Anyway, the iPod is perhaps the greatest invention in, oh, I don’t know — ever.

And with it comes my addiction to iTunes.

I’ve listened to some strange music in my day. Being a college DJ will do that to you. I used to (well, OK, maybe I still do) love bands called Nikki Meets the Hibachi, Scruffy the Cat, The Beat Farmers, Webb Wilder and the Lightning Seeds.

Well, to me, good music is good music. And that’s all I want to listen to — good music.

The group name really doesn’t matter. Afterall, consider the names of groups I’ve recently downloaded: Hinder, The Fray, Snow Patrol, Augustana and, perhaps my new favorite, Death Cab for Cutie.

I’m not even sure what that means. But I love the music. So I’m in.

He’s got a pretty normal name, but Mat Kearney is also a new favorite. Of course, he’s just got one t in Mat, so I guess he isn’t all that normal.

So, what’s hot on your iPod? Any strange band names that you love?

What else? I got nothin’.


From the Mouths of Babes…

My son turns three in May.

He’s never met one of his grandfathers as my Dad passed away seven years ago this month.

But, every week at church, we light a candle for Papa O. That was my son’s idea.

And, each night before bed, while doing prayers, we always ask God to bless Papa O, who my son says “is up in heaven.”

So, tonight, it was a boys’ night. My wife is out at book club. So, after dinner (at McDonald’s, of course), we headed home to play Thomas the Tank Engine.

After bath and getting dressed, he got in the crib. I read a few books and then it was time for prayers.

“Where’s Papa O?” I asked.

“In heaven, daddy.”

“That’s right, buddy.”

“Where is heaven, daddy?”

“Way up high in the sky.”

“Papa O house up there?”

“Yes. That’s where he is. Looking down at us.”

“I go there?”

“Someday, yes, you will go there and meet Papa O.”

“Toys in heaven, daddy?”

“Lots of things in heaven, buddy.”

“Sounds good, daddy.”

It sure does, buddy. It sure does.

What else? I got nothin’.


Final Thoughts on 2006

Well, it’s almost over.

2006, that is.

But, fear not, loyal readers, I am here for you — providing one last post for you this year. I have given up my New Year’s Eve plans so that I could be here for you.

Yeah, right. Actually, New Year’s Eve hasn’t really been a big party time for me. Can’t even remember the last party I was at to celebrate it. Will try to watch the ball drop tonight, but I’ll inevitably end up falling asleep in my chair, waking up at like 1:30 and going, Damn, missed it again.

You can tell I’m concerned.

Some final ramblings for the year:

Happy Birthday, Molly. No need for a card, right? I know you’re reading this.

My son, who has decided that, apparently, I’m the meanest man in the world, forgot about that for a minute tonight to say, “Happy New Year, Daddy.” No matter how tough a day it had been, all was right with the world once he said that.

I’m going to try and watch Saw tonight. Fun New Year’s Eve entertainment, I know.

Still have our Christmas tree up. Longest we’ve gone. Probably will come down tomorrow.

I took this entire week off, but it always goes by sooo fast. Lots on the do list at the start of the week. Lots there now.

Haven’t made up a list of resolutions yet. But, I hope to do that. The last few years, I’ve done pretty well in that department.

How long into 2007 before I stop writing 2006 on checks and stuff?

Why was I sitting at the computer the other night waiting to see who was first to have pictures of Saddam?

New Year’s Eve….and no snow yet. Weird.

2006 was a very good year. No complaints anywhere.

2007 — sure to be an amazing one as well.

Especially June 20.

Because that’s the due date of our second child. Gulp.

What else? I got nothin’.