PLYMOUTH — A man was sitting on a bench at a bus stop several years back. As I walked by, I noticed a forlorn look on his face, so I stopped to ask if he was OK.
The man told me he had just come from visiting his father in a hospital nearby. He said his dad wasn’t doing well — that he wasn’t expected to make it.
It was especially trying because it was just a few days before Father’s Day and about a week, he said, from his dad’s 90th birthday. The man said he was hoping that his dad would make it for both celebrations.
But that wasn’t the only thing on the man’s mind. He said he was thinking about his life and all the good times with his father. He smiled when he thought about those times of fishing, baseball games, long road trips, holidays and family. He was remembering all that made him feel good.
But then he said he was also thinking about the good times that never happened — when his dad wanted to do something with him or take him someplace or just get together and talk. He said he regretted that he often declined those invitations, all for what he now called silly, stupid, selfish reasons.
You could tell it really bothered the man. Here he was waiting for a bus to go home for the evening not knowing if when he returned that his father would still be alive. He struggled as he tried to cope with the possibility of time running out with his dad and whether he did enough, said enough, spent enough time with him.
The man said he felt he should have realized years before how important it was to spend as much time as possible with his dad because time, eventually, would run out. And now he found himself at that point — sitting at a bus stop waiting to return home, but thinking maybe he should go back to the hospital, to his father’s bedside to spend time and to tell him how much he loved him.
The conversation ended when the bus arrived. The doors opened and the man got up to get on the bus. But he couldn’t do it. He smiled a sad, crooked smile and apologized to the bus driver and walked away. I knew where he was going. I hoped he wouldn’t be too late. I prayed that he would have that conversation with his father to let him know how he felt and how much he appreciated their life together.
As I walked to my car, I couldn’t stop thinking about that man and his words. Driving home, the words kept repeating in my head. I decided I had to do something.
On the Saturday before Father’s Day, I drove to my dad’s house, walked in and told him to get dressed, that we were going for a ride. He asked me where we were going, but I would only reveal that he would enjoy this day.
We drove to Cooperstown, New York, to the Baseball Hall of Fame. We toured the entire museum, stopping at every display that my dad wanted to visit. He especially wanted to see every ball, bat, glove, uniform and plaque of every New York Yankee in history. To say he enjoyed this visit would be an understatement — he absolutely loved it.
We walked out to Doubleday Field and we stopped in a few shops along the main street. We had lunch at one of the restaurants and bought a few souvenirs. At lunch, my dad asked me why I brought him to Cooperstown.
My dad was a baseball fan, plain and simple. In 1950, he and his friend, Joseph “Shep” Chepulis, founded the Plymouth Little League. My dad served as president of the league his entire life, except for four years — the four years I played in the league. Dad said he never wanted even the hint of any favoritism shown to his son.
Dad and I, and my mom and my aunt and uncle, would make several trips every summer to Yankee Stadium and Connie Mack Stadium. We even traveled to Pittsburgh to Forbes Field — the Pirates and Giants were playing a weekend series. Roberto Clemente, Willie Mays, Willie McCovey and many more stars took the field.
So when dad asked why I drove him to Cooperstown, my answer was simple. I told him if anybody deserves to be in the Baseball Hall of Fame, it was him. He loved the game, he respected the game and he passed on to his only son those same feelings for baseball.
And I wanted to show him how much I appreciated all he had done for me and I told him I loved him. And I told him that every day after until the day he died. God I miss him.
Happy Father’s Day.
Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle, or email at [email protected]