Something told me to go back. I'd just finished an emotional visit to my dad's room in the hospice, knowing that it would be most likely the last time I'd see him, and he was not the man I remembered- the vibrant, athletic, talkative father with whom I'd grown up was now a weak, emaciated, very ill man, ravaged by a disease worse than death itself, unable to walk very far or eat very much or breathe very well. We cried, we talked basketball, he slept a lot, and then it was time for me to go back to California and we parted tearfully and I walked down the hall and lost it. The floodgates opened, and a nurse came over to comfort me. And while she patted my shoulder and told me how I should just go ahead and let it out, I stopped. Something told me to go back to the room and look in on him just one last time, and I did.
The last time I saw my father, he was sitting in a chair with a portable radio in his lap, tuning in a talk station, smiling. I'd like to think that was some kind of sign.
I want to tell you about my father, how he spent his career as a school principal helping inner city kids escape the futility of poverty and lack of education, how he used to coach youth basketball and I'd go to the games with him and run like the 5 year old maniac I was along the baseline, how he managed to spend his Army hitch during the Korean War playing baseball in Europe. I want to tell you about his passion for tennis, how he played every single day until a few months before the insidious illness took him away, how proud he was that in his very last match, with less than one functioning lung, he won. I want to tell you about how I spoke to him every single day, even after we moved very far apart. I want to tell you how much I loved talking basketball and baseball with him, how as a child I went with him to countless Phillies and Mets and Yankees games, how proud I was that as an adult I could take him to Marlins and Dodgers and Heat and Lakers games, how on the last day I saw him he told a nurse about the game I'd taken him to a couple of years ago in which the Lakers stormed back from 40 points down to beat Dallas. There's so much I want to tell you about him, but it wouldn't matter. You didn't know him.
I wish you did.
My Dad, Harold Simon, died this morning. He was 73, and when I say that he died young, you could only understand that if you knew him. What I am, what I became, what I will be, I owe to him. Thanks, Dad.