Anything But a Super SundayPosted: January 30, 2007
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.
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.