June 17, 2005
I really feel bad.
Each time I cut the grass this past spring, I would hear a song by John Anderson that I planned to feature in an entry about Mothers' Day. The song is called It Wouldn't Kill Me, and is a sad song that gives one pause about the relationship with a loved one, and how complacency can enter and affect two people. It sounds like a husband speaking about his wife..."It wouldn't kill me to tell her that I love her"..."If I could take more time to tell her how she makes my life so right"...
Mothers' Day 2005 came and went without a word about that song and how I think it applies to the lives of husbands and wives, or sons and their mothers.
So here comes Fathers' Day and the song still applies.
I come from an Irish Catholic family in the `50's and 60's. It seems that the Irish tend to either hold in their feelings, or wear them on their sleeves. Ours was no different.
Looking back with the hindsight of age and parenthood, I can recognize and remember signs of my parents' love, which went unnoticed as a child or young adult. Life is funny that way. We think we know and understand so much in our youth, only to learn how much more there was to learn.
"It wouldn't kill me to tell her that I love her."
I was 34 years old and the father of a two year old the first time I remember saying "I love you" to my father. He was in the hospital facing an operation where the artery in his neck was to be opened up and scraped clean of the debris of his 73 years of smoking. There was a high risk involved, but the alternative wasn't too good.
My son Jim was with me, an innocent two year old mesmerized by the tubes and machines in Dad's hospital room.
In the two years of Jim's life, I don't think a day had passed that I hadn't told him that I loved him. It was a joy to pick him up and hug him, and say those special words. Why was I so free with them to my son, but denied my Dad the same?
Maybe our Irish blood had kept my Dad from saying it to me- I don't remember if he did or didn't. But I realized that it had never passed from my lips to his ears, and that knowledge had been haunting me since my own son's birth. Now it might be too late for me-more so, for him.
The orderlies came and wheeled Dad to the elevator. Little Jim and I followed and stood at the elevator as Dad was backed in and the buttons were pushed to take him away-perhaps for the last time.
I held Jim up and said, "Say I love you to Grandpa." The little boy did, and my Dad smiled that big Irish smile of his and said, "I love you too Jimmy."
The doors started to close as I called out, "I love you Dad."
Joe Cooney's big smile took on a different look, and he answered," I love you too son." The doors closed and the tears came.
Luckily for me, the operation went well and I had a little more time to tell my Dad that I loved him.
It didn't kill me.
So here we are as another Fathers' Day approaches, and how many sons and fathers find it difficult to say what's in their hearts?
As a baseball coach, I have seen that loved played out year after year in the lives of the sons I borrow from their Dads. Look in the stands and see a father suffering through each pitch of his boy in a tough game, watch the joyful interaction of father and son after a good game, witness the dedication of parents who provide everything within their power to enable their son to develop as a young player and play at the highest level of college baseball.
It wouldn't kill us to tell someone how much all that love matters. For a great number of families the verbalization of what seems so obvious comes easily, but not for everyone.
So, if you're looking for a good Fathers' Day gift, or a belated Mothers' Day present, give some thought to telling someone how you feel. You'll see that it's a present to them and to yourself.
HERE I AM AL...
The other night I got a phone call from Nicholas Ziegler, a former high school baseball coach from Michigan. We don't know each other, but Mr. Ziegler said he had written something he'd like me to read. He and his wife live nearby and were at my driveway in no time.
It seems that after 30 years of living in Florida, Mr. Ziegler finally went with a friend to a spring training game, back when Al Leiter was with the Mets. As he and a friend stood by the fence, Al Leiter walked by and willingly agreed to pose with Mr. Ziegler for a picture.
Here's the rest of the story in Mr. Ziegler's own words..."It was a thoughtful gesture and I thanked him and he indicated he appreciated me as a baseball fan. I've got the picture to prove it happened. Some day I'll get Al's autograph on it and put it on the wall.
I haven't figured out how to get the autograph...
What can I say about Al Leiter? I have heard Al talk about his love for the game of baseball. I have read the article, `Looking For My Father'. (the story of Al Leiter's difficult childhood relationship with his father)
When Al takes the time to stand for a picture with an old guy, isn't it an act of love for someone else's father, and doesn't it show his love for his father? I think so.
By the way, I'm the same age as Al's father would have been.
Here I am Al, ready to pinch hit, but you'll have to hurry.
Mr. Zeigler has watched Al Leiter struggle this season and feels his pain. His hope is that his story can help the big lefty from NJ through a difficult stretch. I'm hoping to get it to Leiter by Fathers' Day. Maybe it'll change his luck.
Happy Fathers' Day to everyone. KC