I Miss You, Dad...
My dad passed away in the latter part of March, 2002. So long ago, it seems, that I often forget that it was not really that far removed from the present. A mere six years--one seventh of my time here on Earth--that he went quietly into that good night.
I remember, fondly, the days of my youth. Days spent riding in his Triumph Spitfire Mk IV. Going to work with my dad, and watching the F-105s, spitting fire, as they roared down the runway at Hill AFB. Playing catch. Getting up at 5:00am to go to help him shovel snow off of the tennis court at the club so that we could play a couple of sets. Driving across this great land, as we took our summer vacations.
Then, as a teenager. The time he flew back to Utah so that he could teach me algebra. The days (and nights) he spent camping with me (and the Boy Scouts). How he encouraged me to earn my Eagle Scout badge. How he helped me prepare for high school debate tournaments. And, how he supported me when I dropped out of high school, hell bent on going to college rather than change schools in my senior year.
When I went away to Wake Forest, he was proud. He called or wrote me a letter nearly every day; and, he supported me, even when no one else seemed to think I would make it. He helped me get my act together, to get off of academic probation, and to graduate with a reasonably fair Grade Point Average. Indeed, when I graduated, I handed him a cigar, a glass (actually, a bottle) of champagne, and my diploma, and said, "Thanks, dad. You earned this as much as I did." I realised that he had gotten smarter with every passing day.
Law school was our next challenge; and, he was my conscience and my guide. He gave me encouragement (again), and helped me to survive the rough patches. He introduced me to the joys of coaching a Little League team (that finished second in the City of Coral Gables), and to umpiring. Some of my happiest moments were those times spent working games together, at FIU, the University of Miami, and at Barry University.
As a grown-up, he was always there for me. With advice, with a little extra money, and with a hug when I got off of the plane in Florida. We played golf, smoked cigars, and drank whisky. We solved the problems of the world every single day that we were together (or, even apart).
And, when he was dying, he told me stories of his youth. Of losing his brother, Sam, when he was run over by a car. The fear that he felt when he woke one morning, paralysed by polio. The sadness in his heart when his dad passed away.
The beauty of his death, surrounded by friends and family. The way he closed his eyes, called out, "Sam", and said, "I love you" to those of us who were by his side. Then, he was gone.
And, part of me was gone, too.
I lost my father and my best friend, all at once.
Not a day goes by when I don't think about him; and, not a day goes by that I do not wish for one more day. One more hour. One more minute with him in my life.
He loved his children and grandchildren. He loved his wife, my mother. He loved life.
So, today, Father's Day, I will think of him as I play with my kids; and, as I umpire a Cranberry League double-header.
And, as I call the game, I know that he will be with me, helping me.