At 4, I was old enough to know something serious was happening but too young to understand what that was. I remember my mom looking scared - something that to this day, I haven't seen very often - and I remember my dad looking strange but still, I couldn't really make sense of it. I remember that he was sitting in the blue and white chair in the corner of the living room, slightly hunched over. I remember walking over to him and leaning against his big legs and I remember him putting a hand on the top of my head. I remember him saying softly, "Do you hear the ambulances coming for Daddy?" and realizing that yes, I could hear ambulances getting louder and louder. And then I don't remember anything else. That was the last time I saw my dad, dead of a heart attack at 38. When I was a kid, 38 seemed so old and out of reach. Now every year that goes by I realize how desperately young that was. My older brothers are both older than 38 and my husband is just a little over a year from that. I'm not that far away from it myself. 38. God.
I have a hodgepodge of memories, some of which I'm pretty sure are genuine and some of which I'm pretty sure I only "remember" because I've heard the same story so many times. I've had a long time to get used to not having my dad around and for the most part, Father's Day goes by me without much of a thought. I don't know, this year it's been different for some reason. I think it's partly another year of celebrating Mother's and Father's Day with no kids of our own, a long story probably best saved for another time. Part of it is all the Father's Day's headlines this year, many revolving around the sudden death of Tim Russert at 58. Also far too young but still 20 years more than my dad had.
It's probably also because I really think my dad would get a kick out of this blog. I think he'd get a kick out of his little girl - not any of his three sons but his little girl - devotedly writing a blog about a hockey team. I don't even really know how big of a sports fan he was and I don't know anything about him in regards to hockey other than knowing that he and my mom once went to a hockey game together where he got hit with a puck. But I don't know, it's just a feeling. I also think he'd get a kick out of the fact that after growing up in the sunny south, I wandered back up to the snowy north, not all that far from where he grew up. I like to think that if he were alive today maybe some part of him would still have a soft spot for the Penguins even after all those years in Alabama and I like to imagine us having conversations about Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and Derek Roy and Thomas Vanek. I think that would be nice.
Mark spent a lot of last night watching videos of Tim Russert, many of which had to do with his Buffalo Bills. In one of those, Russert talked about speaking to the team at a luncheon before the season began and this is what he said:
When you go out on that field, I know you're playing for your pride, I know you're playing for your career but you're also playing for this life called Buffalo. This life that represents people who honestly believe that against all the odds, that against some of the worst weather imaginable, they have a magnificent life that they're proud of.
I know exactly what Russert is talking about and I know my dad would be proud of the simple but maginficent life I've made here. I know that he would be glad that despite some bumps in the road, I can and would say I'm happy and blessed.
But I'm sorry he's not here to see it himself. If you're fortunate enough to have a father in your life, don't forget to hug his neck and thank him and tell him you love him not just today but as often as you possibly can. If you're lucky enough to be a father, don't take a single moment with your children for granted because some day every one of those moments will be a precious memory for you and them.
In honor of Tim, my dad and all the dads in Buffalo, those who are still with us and those who aren't, I offer a hearty, "Go Bills!"
(We'll return to our regularly scheduled, more light-hearted posting shortly.)