20 June 2010
Eight years ago I wished my dad a Happy Father’s Day.
For the last time.
Thirteen days later, he died of a massive heart attack.
The good news is he suffered for about 15 seconds.
The bad news is I have suffered for nearly eight years.
Father’s Day is not the same without your father.
I wasn't there that morning
When my father passed away
I didn't get to tell him
All the things I had to say
My father made it very clear that I was his earth and his moon.
And his only son.
My parents got divorced when I was 12 and I was pretty much raised by a single dad.
He did the best job he could -- a damn good job -- considering his father died when he was nine.
My dad, an only child, spent the next 50 years raising his mom.
He graduated from New York University after going to seven years of night school.
That gave him the opportunity to work during the day to bring in money for the two of them.
He believed in working hard and wasn't afraid to do it.
The result was an amazing career.
He started off in the newspaper business, then moved briefly to TV before locking in on a career as an executive in the sports world.
He became one of the most respected people in his field, worked with several sports teams in professional basketball, football and baseball and was the first, and one of the only people to earn a Super Bowl ring AND a World Series ring.
At 5-foot-9, he did it the hard way, through the front office.
He spent the last 10 years of his life hosting a sports radio program.
While our lines of work had a lot in common, we went about our business in different ways.
He would often call me to get my thoughts on his shows, listening to every piece of advice I gave him.
I would call him too, but many times I was too clueless to hear what he had to say.
If there was something bothering him, he would never burden me.
Anytime I would get frustrated, I would go to him to vent.
And each time, it would end with him telling me to “keep my chin up.”
It got to the point where I would mouth the words at the same time he said them as our phone conversation came to a close.
Shame on me. I would give anything to hear that from him again.
Every generation blames the one before
And all of their frustrations
Come beating on your door
I know that I'm a prisoner
To all my father held so dear
I know that I'm a hostage
To all his hopes and fears
I just wish I could have told him
In the living years
On June 29, 2002, he hosted his last radio show.
Immediately after that show was over, he met some friends for dinner at a local restaurant.
He asked me and my family to join, but we passed.
Instead we went out to dinner with a former colleague and his family who were in town for a visit.
When my dad and his party got seated at their restaurant he asked his wife to order him a Dalwhinnie (Scotch) on the rocks as he left for the restroom.
As he stepped a few feet away from the table, he collapsed.
No warning signs. No significant pain. Nothing.
To this day, I still think about why I wasn’t at the restaurant with him that night.
Deep down I know it would've been a terrible thing for his grandchildren to watch him die.
It would’ve been a terrible thing for his son to watch him die too.
But I still think, why wasn’t I there?
I can still remember that night, as clear as yesterday, hanging out with my three-year old son in his bottom bunk when the phone rang.
My wife came in and said Barbara was on the phone.
Barbara was my dad’s second wife, of 17 years.
I told her to take a message.
Nothing was more important than my son and I having one of those moments.
One of those moments where a father and son are doing absolutely nothing but hanging out and loving each other.
Unfortunately that moment was cut short.
My wife said Barbara NEEDED to speak to me, “it was very important.”
Within seconds, she informed me that my dad had collapsed and that I needed to get to the hospital right away.
“They didn’t think he was going to make it.”
Talk about a wake-up call.
By the time I got to the hospital, it was too late.
I walked into his room, spoke to him for several minutes, told him I loved him, said a prayer and kissed his cold forehead goodbye.
I knew something was about to hit me, but I didn’t realize how hard of a hit it was.
Say it loud
Say it clear
You can listen as well as you hear
It's too late when we die
To admit we don't see eye to eye
So we open up a quarrel
Between the present and the past
We only sacrifice the future
It's the bitterness that lasts
So don't yield to the fortunes
You sometimes see as fate
It may have a new perspective
On a different day
And if you don't give up
And don't give in
You may just be O.K.
I told my three kids tonight that I was going to write a blog about my dad, on this, Father’s Day.
The older kids each have a picture of them with their grandfather hanging up in their room.
My son says he looks at it EVERY night before he goes to bed.
I asked each of them, individually, questions about their relationship with my dad.
I’m not really sure what kind of reaction I was expecting or what kind of reaction I was going to get, but I wasn’t really prepared for the one that I got.
Within seconds, there were tears in their eyes.
I asked why they were crying, but I didn’t really get a good answer -- not that I needed one.
My oldest daughter remembered the moment when I told her my dad had passed away.
She said I explained that “Papa has left us. God took him away because he needed him in Heaven.”
She was five at the time.
She is 13 now.
My son is 11.
His eyes welled up tonight when he said "even though he was really busy, he always found time for us.”
I asked him why he was crying.
He told me that this was a subject he didn’t like to talk about.
I then spoke with my six-year old daughter about the grandfather she never met.
In the Jewish religion, you are not allowed to name a newborn after someone who is still alive.
When I asked her about my dad, she proudly stated that she was named after him.
She then broke down and said she was sorry she would never get to meet him.
I think I caught his spirit
Later that same year
I'm sure I heard his echo
In my baby's new born tears
I just wish I could have told him
In the living years
Mike and the Mechanics, The Living Years