Ask anyone that knew my dad and they would tell you he was one of the toughest people they knew.
The thing that everyone who knew him well also always knew, was how kind hearted he was.
Honestly, dad would probably say “no way” if you called him kind hearted, but it was the truth.
Dad would always claim he was the type of parent, and grandparent, that never put up with anything. That he was the tough person around.
However, me and my sister, Laura, learned at an early age, dad could never say no to us. And, watching over the past decade it was clear he never could say no to my nephew and nieces either.
The toughest man I’ve known. The man who had the kindest heart of anyone was taken way too early and leaves a hole I know won’t ever be replaced.
The tough parent, who never put up with anything is the same man who bought me a bunny for Easter when I was a kid. Not a stuffed animal, but an actual bunny.
We were at a store and I saw the bunny and had to have it. “Daddy, daddy, I want a bunny” quickly led to us going home with a rabbit, that my mom was never a fan of.
So, we came home with Thumper, the tiny dwarf rabbit, that 12 years later when I was in college had somehow grown into a huge bunny.
Me always taking care of the rabbit quickly became dad taking care of the bunny a lot of the time. But, he saw the smile on my face that Easter, and that was enough to make him happy.
My love of sports started in a lot of ways because of my dad.
I remember my dad and grandpa arguing over football when I was a kid.
Grandpa was a Bills fan. Dad was a Raiders fan. They never agreed, and more than once I got asked who I liked, and one day I just saw the Giants on TV and said I like them, and that started a lifelong fandom of the Giants.
While my dad was always a football fan, there were sports he never enjoyed.
Dad never liked baseball, and he really didn’t like basketball at all.
Still, one birthday I got a trip with my dad to see Michael Jordan and the Bulls in Toronto. Dad hated basketball, but he knew how much I wanted to see Jordan play, so there we were, on a bus trip to Toronto, buying me a Jordan jersey at the arena, watching the game that I wanted to see.
Baseball always was something that bored my dad. Still, our trip to New York City as a family included a game at Yankee Stadium and me coming home with a jersey, because not enjoying a sport was trumped for my dad when he saw the joy on my face as I made my first trip to Yankee Stadium.
Billy Joel sang “Only the Good Die Young,” and maybe he’s right.
I’ve tried to make sense of all of this. Tried to figure out why I lost my dad in his 60s.
Sometimes, you can’t make sense of things. Sometimes there just are no answers.
I am missing out on so many years with my dad. Missing out on so many opportunities to make memories.
The thing is, there are plenty of memories I have already. The truth is, I have a lifetime of memories, even if that lifetime wasn’t as long as it should have been.
My life is spent with sports, and I got a chance to share some of that with my dad.
Growing up, cameras were always a part of our family’s life as my dad worked at Kodak.
He loved photography long before I ever did anything with it.
And, in the time at the paper, my dad used his photography skills to help us out. He shot some locals in college. He shot some events with local kids out of the area. He spent some time with me at Watkins Glen, serving as one of The Daily Review’s photographers for NASCAR weekends.
Getting the chance to shoot photos with my dad, seeing his excitement when he got a good photo that was in our paper, it was something I will never forget.
As a kid, we’d be in the car and dad would ask me when a song he liked came on the radio, who sings this.
When I was little, I never had any idea. As I got older I started to guess more and more.
After my dad retired early from Kodak, we had more time and were able to make a lot of trips to concerts together.
From being a kid listening to my dad play Bob Seger, Styx, the Who, Def Leppard, Jethro Tull, Heart, Joan Jett and many others, it became me going with my dad to see all those bands in person as an adult.
There were also trips to see bands that I had always loved, like Guns N’ Roses, because, my dad was always wanting to do things to make others happy. But the most fun was seeing my dad get a chance to see some of the bands he had always loved when he was younger.
I never imagined Bob Seger would be our last concert together. But, in retrospect what better show could there be? Seger was always one of my dad’s favorite singers. And seeing the look on his face as “Turn the Page” was being sung is a memory I won’t ever forget.
Retiring early also meant my dad got to move closer to my nephew and nieces, and he got to spend a lot of time with them.
Dad got to watch movies with J.J., taking him fishing, and spoiling him like crazy, even if he didn’t want to admit that.
You just could see the joy in my dad when he saw the smiles on the faces of Audrey and Jacqueline as they played. My sister always said she was a daddy’s girl, and she definitely was. And, her daughters were definitely grandpa’s girls. It’s not fair he didn’t have enough time with them, but I swear he got a year’s worth of memories every time he saw them.
Sometimes life isn’t fair.
Sometimes there just aren’t answers for why things happen.
As I said goodbye to my dad I whispered “I love you dad, I am going to miss you so much, but maybe your dad is thinking how long he’s been missing you for.”
My grandpa died when I was in elementary school. Maybe he needed to see my dad again, maybe dad missed his parents.
I don’t know the reasons why. I don’t know why I have to say goodbye to my dad when I thought I’d have so much more time.
But, what I do know is how much he meant to me. What I do know is dad was my hero, my best friend.
Every time I started to cry, I remember all the concerts. Remember getting a chance to go to sporting events with my dad, and take pictures with him. Every time I get sad I remember being the little boy, bunny in his arms, smile as big as anyone in the world, knowing how much my dad just wanted to see me happy.