Today marks 20 years since my Dad passed away.
My parents had been divorced for about a year, and he had been hanging out with other divorcees. That night, as part of his group, he attended the football game at Faurot Field between the Missouri Tigers and Colorado Buffaloes, a rematch of the 5th Down Game. He had headed down to the concessions to get drinks for the others, and collapsed under the stands on the way back to his seat. He was rushed across the street to the UofM Medical Center, but they were unable to revive him. He was 47 years old.
My father wasn't really into sports at all - he played a little intramural football in high school, but otherwise had only passing interest in baseball. He did see that my brother and I had a love for the Cardinals, and did manage to take us all the way to St Louis (we lived ENE of Fulton MO then) for a game. It was the July 20th, 1991 game versus Atlanta, and we got seats either at the very top row of the stadium (or just below) to the left of home plate.
Glavine against Tewks, both going seven, with the Cards taking a 1-0 lead into the top of the 9th. Big Lee Arthur sauntered out and promptly gave up a drive into left-center of the bat of Ron Gant. Gilkey and Lankford both went for it, the ball bounced off the base of the wall, and rolled all the way back to the infield for an inside-the-parker. The Cardinals came back in the bottom of the inning with a Felix Jose leadoff double, a 1-out IBB to Pags, a 2-out IBB to Craig Wilson, and then a GW bases-loaded BB for Gilkey. 2-1 Cardinals, and that's a winner!
It's one of just a handful of memories I have of my father and sports in a positive light. He hardly played catch with us, and Mom was much more involved with us in Little League (for as little as we played) and the limited school athletic events. It didn't help that he worked 3rd shift all the way up in Moberly and then had work around our family farm to do whenever he was home. But he was glad to have given us that game.
I went back to college that fall, my brother went on to the USNavy within a few months after that, and then I moved in with my Mom after school in 1992 (got a job at a pizza place just down the road from her place and walked to work). The last I saw or spoke with my Dad was a quick birthday lunch (my Dad, my twin brother, and I all share the same June birthday) and a talk about my plans to join the USAF. Four months later, he was gone and all the opportunities to talk with him, play catch, go to a game, etc., they were all gone too. It's one of my great regrets in life, that I didn't use the time I had with him better.
Don't put off the chances you have to spend time with family and friends, if the only reason for it is "we've got plenty of time to get to that." It may not come to pass the way you hope - both my Dad and his father died in their forties, an age-range I'm less than a year away from myself. You don't have to go out and act like you or someone you care about may die tomorrow, and try to do a bucket list every weekend. But do those things when they make sense without putting them off flippantly.
There are plenty of things that we didn't get to do as father and sons, but I'll always remember that sweltering night in the cheap seats and that joyously tired ride home. Thanks, Dad.