Smile Politely

A fond farewell, indeed

I wasn’t going to write a column this week because, honestly, the past few days have been a real bastard. Even though I’m completely not in the mood, I sort of have to write one anyway.

Strangely, the reason I don’t want to write a column and the reason I am writing a column are exactly the same. I need to write one for my dad and the reason I don’t want to is because he’s not around anymore, at least not in a literal sense.

He died last week and while it would seem perfectly normal to me if I took a few days off, I’m fairly sure he would have none of that. He’d tell me I have a job to do and I need to do it. He’d also probably mention something about nutting up and not acting like a pussy all the goddamned time. You know what? Even though I hate to admit it, he’s absolutely right. It turns out that as I’ve gotten older he was absolutely right about quite a lot of things, but as I said before, I always hate to admit things like that.

I won‘t go into all the details or anything but his death was pretty sudden. The thing is, while it was a complete shock that still hasn’t really soaked in yet, it was less of a surprise than I’d really imagined it would be. He got a condition called spinal stenosis a few years ago. It was making it hard for him to get around and I’m pretty sure it was getting hard for him to do much of anything. He wasn’t much of a complainer though, so it’s hard to know just how bad it was. It sucks that he went so quickly, but in a way it’s totally a blessing. He would not have been much of a nursing home guy and I’m 100% positive that he would not have been a favorite among the nursing home staff. Anyway, enough of that part already.


If you met my father, and thankfully, most of my friends got to, it was a matter of time until he started telling you stories. Some of them were true, at least partially. Some of them ended up being jokes. Most of them were some sort of hybrid of the two. They always took a long time and they were always amusing enough to hold your interest until the very end. Here’s one of his favorites, which I will condense and not tell as well as he did.

Dad was working and got stranded by a snowstorm somewhere in Michigan. It was cold and driving was basically impossible, but my dad found a motel and decided he also needed to find a place to get some food and maybe a couple of drinks. He went to the closest place and it was pretty much what he was looking for: a little dark bar/restaurant. He had a couple of drinks, ate some dinner, and then decided he might as well stick around for a while.

After an hour or so, my dad got up from the table and he noticed that two people were kissing each other in a booth. He didn’t think anything of it, but he looked back again and realized that it was two men kissing each other in a booth. My dad couldn’t believe it, so he looked at the man he was dancing with and said, “Hey, what kind of fucking place is this anyway?”


The wounds are still a little fresh, but he was such an amazing guy that it’s hard to even focus on his death because all I can think of is his life. I’m glad he got to see the Cardinals win a World Series last year. I’m glad I got to take him to a Cardinals World Series game in 1987. We were down on the field before the game. We rode an elevator with Tommy Lasorda, who patted my dad’s stomach and suggested they had the same personal trainer. Bob Gibson even held a door open for him while dad was carrying his beer and hot dog back to his seat. He smiled the entire time he was there and I can’t help smiling when I think about it.

What I’m most happy about, however, is that even though we always loved each other, we actually learned to put up with each other and then eventually became really good friends. There was a window of about five or six years when that wasn’t the case. This had something to do with both of us being a pain in the ass, but whatever it was, we just didn’t get along particularly well for a time. I’m not sure when it changed, but it just did. I think mostly we just started missing each other’s company. Since then I talked with him at least twice a week and that’s what I will miss the most: just hearing his voice.

Take it or leave it, but trust me, if there’s someone is your life that you love and haven’t talked to in a while, suck up all your pride or whatever it is and talk to them. You will still miss them when they’re gone, but the peace you will have in knowing that it ended in the best way imaginable will make all of it seem just a little bit better.


It’s been a long, hot, and dry summer and dad and I would bitch about it every time we talked on the phone. It only seemed appropriate once he was gone that we got a little rain. I’m not sure he necessarily had anything to do with it, but I’d really like to think he did.

Some people have asked if we want flowers or if there is anything they can do. It’s nice to have so many people that care, but honestly, we just don’t need a bunch of flowers. My mom and I talked about it and she quickly said that if anyone wants to do something they should just donate to the Champaign County Humane Society or any humane society, for that matter. He would have liked that. I’d say overall that he enjoyed the company of many dogs far more than the company of many humans, so that just seems appropriate. It was one of the things we had in common.

Even after a few days, I miss him more than I could have imagined, but he had a great and happy life. He loved me. He loved my mom. We’ll be okay, though, and so will he. Here’s his favorite George Jones song instead of Louis Prima, just for this week.


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