On Memorial Day, my father passed away. I was at work when it happened. I was actually sitting in the office, putting spices into containers for a new promotion. I was actually quite proud of the idea I had and wanted to show Lindsey. So I took a picture with my phone and sent it to her. I left the phone sit on the desk.
I looked down and saw that Dad was calling me. I never answer my phone at work, so I just allowed it to go to voice mail. As soon as the called ended, it started ringing again. That scared me because when my Dad normally called, he would leave a voice mail and say “hey Josh, this is your Dad, call me. Love ya. Bye.” If he was calling back right away, something must have happened.
I answered it and instead of Dad’s voice, my Aunt Sandy was like “Josh, this is your Aunt Sandy, your Dad’s had a heart attack. It does not look good.” I asked where he was and she told me they were at the house and that I should try to get there.
Fortunately, it was one of the rare days where there was a second manager there, so I was able to leave immediately. I called my mom and asked her to try and call Adam since I could not reach him. I told her what happened and she said she would call him and that she would call other family if needed.
I drove fairly fast and then I started to think “well by the time I get there, the ambulance should have him on the way to the hospital. I need to find out where they would take him. I would hate to drive to Philipsburg from State College and find out they took him back to State. So I called my dad’s phone and this time a paramedic answered.
Me: This is Josh, I am Charlie’s son. I am on my way now, where are they taking my dad?
Paramedic: Your dad did not make it.
Me: Did not make it where?
Paramedic: He did not make it…
Me: Wait, what?
Paramedic: He passed away. I am sorry. Where are you? Do you need someone to come get you? If you are driving, you should stop.
Me: Ummm, I am okay. I am about halfway. I can make it. I should just come to his house then?
Paramedic: Yes, your family is here waiting for the coroner.
What a way to find out that your father has died. I was in shock, I started crying while I drove. For once in my life I was actually driving slow on the highway. Like 50 MPH in a 65. After a bit of crying, I was able to compose myself and the tears stopped.
I was so upset that one of the last times I saw him had ended up in a negative manner. I felt like he and I had drifted apart the last few years. I kept saying I would call him and see if he wanted to do something, maybe go out to eat or go to a Curve game whenever he came home from working away.
Then I realized that I was never going to get the chance to tell him things. Anything. Not just the emotional stuff, but the stupid stuff. We were never going to have a discussion about the Buccos again. No more talking about a movie that we both randomly liked (Garden State immediately comes to mind).
I believe this was the moment where I truly realized he was gone. And yes, it was that fast. I have no clue how my brain is able to process emotions, but in that last twenty minutes of my drive, I went through most of the stages of grief. I know that seems weird, but I was able to accept it and it helped me be strong for the rest of my family.
But, what were those emotional things that I wish I could tell my dad? Well I wish I could tell him thank you. So here it goes…
For teaching me so many things. Actually, you taught me practically everything. I remember getting my first baseball glove. It was at the time when you were building the addition to the house. You gave me a tennis ball and said that I should practice catching while you were at work by bouncing the ball off the concrete blocks and trying to catch it. Then when you got home, we would go up in the field and play catch.
I loved playing catch. I never understood how you could throw the ball so hard and so far. I still to this day cannot throw a ball as high as you could. You could throw a ball across our giant field and you made it look effortless. When I was in Little League, I played in the outfield, and I never had a flyball come to me that was actually higher than the balls you would throw.
For teaching me to love baseball. As a little kid, I would sit on the couch while you watched the Pirates. I would ask questions and you would explain what was happening. You told me about the history of the sport and showed me the nuances that I grew to love. There was nothing better than being allowed to stay up to watch the end of a Pirate game (or if you would leave the game on in the kitchen so I could see it from my bed downstairs).
For taking me fishing. I remember going out with spinning rods when I was a little kid, but as I got older, you eventually bought me a flyrod and taught me the fine art of catching a fish on the stream. For many years that was what we did every weekend. Hell, some days after school we would go out to the Six Mile Run and catch a few.
For teaching me to hunt. I may no longer hunt, but I always cherished the time we spent in the woods together. I learned about the outdoors (which always shocks people when I display this knowledge) and to this day I still feel confident that I would be alright if I ever got dropped into the woods.
I have so many stories about our fun trips to camp, my favorite is probably the time when we were turkey hunting in the fall. The morning was actually not too cold, so we wore just thin jackets and pants. You told me to wait and that you would come get me when it was time to go eat lunch. Well after about two hours, the temperature dropped and it started snowing.
About an inch had come down and I was shivering pretty badly. I kept expecting you to come walking down and say “lets go back to camp.” Then all of a sudden, from the opposite direction of where you were, towards the road, I hear a car horn and I hear you whistle (I never met anyone who could whistle as loud as you). You figured that I would get cold and walk to camp, I assumed you would come get me. I guess that was the moment when I realized you were treating me like a man.
Another great thing about hunting was that on Saturdays during the Penn State game, we would take a little break and do a little road hunting. You always knew which roads to stick to in order to pick up the game. We had so much fun laughing at George Paterno as he would mess up all the players names, especially during that magical 1994 season.
Speaking of Penn State, you are the reason I love the Nittany Lions. I remember watching the Fiesta Bowl against the Miami Hurricanes. I was just a little kid, but I remember that we had a party at the house and for some reason the couch was moved so people could see the game better. It is weird the things that stick with you forever. I also remember the excitement. There was nothing better than seeing that victory.
I remember the words you said when the Pirates lost to the Braves in 1992. “Don’t worry, we’ll get ’em next year.” Well it took 21 seasons, but we finally got a winning season. Just glad you got to see that. Also glad I got to take you to a game at PNC, wish it could have been more.
Thank you for teaching me about music. Everyone knows about your love for John Prine. Remember when you only had a radio in the truck? Once we hit Wykoff Run Road, you could not pick up any station, so we would try to sing Prine songs. Trying to remember all the lyrics was fun and it was what spurred you to buy all of his CDs (yeah, you had albums, but it was time to upgrade). Then we got you a CD player for Christmas. You introduced me to so much more music though. Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, and so many other excellent bands. I owe so much of my musical taste to you.
For allowing me to listen to comedians. As I noted in many of the recent comedy posts, you never thought that listening to bad words or adult topics would make me into a bad person. You also allowed me to watch R-rated movies. I will never forget being the only kid who who saw Die Hard when it came out. I remember you had me stay awake one night to watch Young Frankenstein. It was a school night, but you said that it would be alright if I was a little tired the next day. It was well worth it.
Thank you for Princess Bride. I have no clue how many times we watched that movie together, or how often we recited lines to each other. “Inconceivable!” Everyday when Adam and I left for school, you would say “have fun stormin’ the castle boys!” It was always a great way to start the day. Also, thank you for some of the silly names you called us “flush and flow, the toilet twins” was probably my favorite.
Thank you for teaching me to golf. I am not very good, well neither of us were. But, we always had fun going out. We would hit golf balls back and forth to each other in the field, until Bill hit your truck, then we stopped doing that, or at least we stopped aiming that way. Remember when we would play that Penn State Practice Course, but then try to sneak onto the White or Blue? Those were good times.
There are so many great memories of all the stuff we did together, but the thing I want to thank you most for is teaching me to be the man I have become. I hope I made you proud. You taught me to love, to laugh, and that it was alright to cry.
I love you and I am going to miss you Dad.
Happy Father’s Day