Sometimes unfortunate circumstances can lead to serendipitous conclusions.
My father landed in the hospital for a few nights. There’s a joke picture on the internet with the billboard that reads “This year thousands of men will die from stubbornness” in typed font, and underneath it someone spray-painted “NO WE WON’T.” If it wasn’t my father who spray-painted that reply, he certainly could have.
The fact that he went to the hospital, much less stayed, means he probably should have gone several days earlier to be checked out.
With him laid up at Piedmont Newnan, my wife and daughter went to stay with my mom. My son happened to be off work with no plans. Between work and a normal 19-year-old’s social life, he’s not at the house as much I wish he was. But I understand. Either way, I wasn’t going to miss the opportunity for a father-son night.
A few months ago, we watched “Tombstone” together. He had never seen it. I think he ended up watching it three or four times in the next few days. A few days after that, he had a “Tombstone” movie poster on his wall.
On this night, I figured it was a perfect time to watch “Young Guns” and, if I was lucky, “Young Guns 2.” It worked out perfectly. He enjoyed the first one so much we got to watch both.
It was not a bad way to spend a Saturday night, him sitting on the sofa and me sitting in the recliner.
The next day, my wife brought my mom down to spend the night with us. I loaded up our Netflix account and had it set on Season 1, Episode 1 of “The Andy Griffith Show.” As soon as my mom got inside and comfortable, I hit play.
And there we sat for the rest of the day, watching Andy and Barney do their thing. About every third episode she would tell me we could watch something else if I wanted. I reassured her that there was nothing I would rather watch. Then she would tell us that it was the best show they ever made.
Not a bad way to spend a Sunday evening, her on the sofa and me in the recliner.
I shushed my wife right after I told her. I wanted to tell them all at the same time, her and the kids.
She had just pulled in with the groceries and was ready to start unloading. I told her to come in real quick, which made her ask what was wrong. She knew something was wrong.
I went ahead and told her as we walked to the house.
“Pop died this morning.”
She let out a loud “What?” at the exact moment our son was opening the door to come help with the groceries.
So I shushed her. In hindsight, not my proudest moment. I just wanted the kids to be sitting down when they heard.
It was completely unexpected news. Hearing it was bad. Having to say it was worse.
I’ve done death notifications at work. They’re one of the worst parts of the job. As hard as it is there, it’s harder when it’s your own blood.
After I told them, my wife came to hug me. I kind of pushed her off on our daughter, who was crying pretty bad.
In hindsight, my wife probably needed a hug more than she needed to give a hug. Pop has been her father-in-law since the mid-90s. Her own father died many years ago, and the “in-law” part dropped off long ago. He was a father to her too.
And I just wasn’t thinking.
You can do it every day at work and never be prepared when it’s you and yours.
I know for certain I made him proud twice. The first time I was dressed as a woman. I competed in the “Dragging for Dollars” charity for the Cancer Treatment Centers of America.
The second time I was dressed as a deputy. He rode down to Columbus to watch our class graduate.
From then on, anytime he introduced me, it went from being “This is my son Toby” to “This is my son Toby. He’s a Coweta County deputy.”
He was proud of that. He bought a gray Law Enforcement shirt and wore it often — even after I told him he probably shouldn’t. Not everyone likes the law, and I didn’t want him to ever be a target.
On Sunday night, Pop went to sleep and he just didn’t wake up.
He didn’t suffer. That’s about all I can say about that.
I can only ever remember seeing him cry once. It was when he got the phone call that his older brother had passed away. He walked out on his front porch, looked up and cried. Then he walked back inside and went on about just being sad.
I remember looking at him through the window. I had heard him say “Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about” more times than I could count, and here he was, out there crying.
He never did make good on his threat to give me something to cry about until today. He gave me something to cry about today.
I’ll probably write about my father a lot as I enter this year of firsts. First birthday without him. First Easter, first Christmas.
I guess I’ll get it started with the first column of mine he’ll never read.