the only being I’m probably really important to is my dog, Rowdy.
and, with my vital role in the world always vitally suspect, my wife Joanne constantly rolling her eyes at me is telling.
but, that said, the point of this post, today, is to correlate two stories (and, a personal mission):
last night, against the Atlanta Falcons, Detroit Lions receiver, Calvin Johnson, aka “Megatron”, broke the legendary Jerry Rice’s single-season receiving record.
(sorry about the obnoxious advertisement)
he’s said some great things leading up to that. and, it’s likely the stage is set for many more a terrific bon mot, but the following quote caught me straight between the eyes, and to heart…
“It’s an accomplishment that took a lot of work,” Johnson said after the game. “You’re still in the moment – in the play that just happened, so I was still focused. I don’t think I even said anything when I gave my dad the ball. I just gave him a hug. But when I think back on it, it’s a special moment.”
as soon as I read that, my mind instantly went to the day of my college graduation from Radford University.
I probably did not belong in college at the on-set. but, my Mom and Dad leveraged an uncommon force-of-will to get me there. long story short, I’ve worked every day to have earned that. but, I can’t remember saying thanks to my Dad.
“hey Dad. I sure to love you. and, I miss you. Haley Anne and Emma Jo have been out-right cheated by never having you in their lives, physically. but, almost every day they get a ‘Grandad story’. yeah… sometimes they roll their eyes. but, to be certain, another day they will realize the value.
two days, moments actually, often pop into my head, and typically at the seemingly most random times…
the last moment I saw you alive. we had just spent a couple of hours at your hotel while you were visiting Los Angeles on business. you had told me _____ was no good for me and to find the right girl (Dad never met Joanne, but he would adore her). I was listening. and, as I swaggered down the hall, I looked back and you were standing near the door to your room, sort of leaning against the wall with your hands shoved casually in your pockets gazing rather enigmatically at me. it was a tough read. but, I saw love, pride, sadness… a lot of stuff.
I took that moment for granted, just like I always took the too few years, months, weeks, days, hours and seconds I had with you.
then there was graduation day at Radford. Mom could not make it because she was dying of cancer at home. oddly, the import of that just struck me harder than ever before as I tap these words into existence. I know you were suffering. but, you were at Radford for me, and for the moment. a lot had gone-on the days leading up to that. I had sold a business and was sitting on some serious cash. Greg had drunk too much at a fraternity party and almost killed me, Eddie an himself driving back to my apartment. I had found Heather Hillier an hour before the ceremony, and then failed to look her in the eye and admit I had blown it by not ending-up with her instead of Dede (see below).
but, after the whooping-and-hollering and throwing of caps into the air, I found you standing off to the side by the fountain (Radford collective: you blew it by what you’ve relegated the fountain to). you had your coat looped through your arm with it being such a balmy Spring. and, of course, you had both that distant smile on your face – and, such a Gatsby air about yourself. were you a Last Gentleman a la, Walker Percy, after all?”
I do recall saying, “well… we did it”. however, I can’t recall much else. and, it was a bummer that you were distracted about Mom, and what lay ahead with Greg, the police, and all of that…
despite my efforts to immortalize what I understood (or, not) about you on this blog over the years, and in stories to friends-and-family, I’ll probably never fully appreciate what that day meant to you, and on my behalf.
you grew up damn-dirt-poor (your words). but, your success is beyond measure. not just as a military officer. but, as a man and Dad. I know you had demons. and, they scarred us all. but, none of that could hide your efforts and the unflinching love and effort you put into your sons. Mom fought like hell to get me attention from college coaches despite my grades. but, you fought the odds and made it possible for me to be there. you never really talked about your own personal commitment to education, your advanced degrees (all long-after you were married and with kids), all that. what you cared about was Greg and me; our education. it was meaningful to you. so, graduation day was all the more special.
after you were gone, and I was able to get to Omaha, and while I was sorting through your affects, my mind a bit numb and body wracked with grief, I came upon a small box with my name neatly (nobody else ever had clean hand-writing like yours) stenciled across the top, and along one side (probably just for good measure). in that box were some momentos that you had carefully accumulated and I was unaware of… one of my running medals (why that one? …wait… I know why), a fishing hook, and a Political Science position paper I had written for Dr. Nick Pappas in my (ironically) Sophomore year with the words, “well done…” scrawled in a corner.
in my minds-eye, I see myself, with a re-wind like an old tape-to-tape reel, approaching you, giving you another hug, then stepping-back with an effort to be the man you saw, taking your hand firmly in my own (you taught me the importance of a firm hand-shake with eye-to-eye contact), and calmly state, “thank you Dad. I fully appreciate that everything you did since the day I was born was for, us. and, while you have given me an uncommon gift that will be measured more-and-more by the days yet ahead, this moment is for you. I want you to carry the memory of this day along with the notion that I could never conceive of the result without you being part of it every step leading up to, through, and beyond it”.
thanks for the ball, Dad.
today, I’m listening to Autumn Leaves, by Ed Sheeran. Haley Anne found this artist and shared him with me.
peace be to my Brothers and Sisters.
brian patrick cork