Saturday, April 28, 2012

First and Last

Gloria and I recently finished watching Episode 14 of Season 6 of How I Met Your Mother.  The episode is entitled "Last Words" and through a series of funeral humor bits, Marshall obsesses and mourns over the last words of his father who just died of a heart attack.  As some of you know, my father died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 40 over spring break my sophomore year at Purdue.

The last time I saw my father was a week before his death at the Big Ten Championships.  I'm old enough that the Big Ten actually had ten teams at that point, and I had just been beaten badly and eliminated in only two matches from the tournament that my family had driven up to see.  I don't even remember clearly where we were wrestling, but a quick internet search confirms my vague recollection that it was at the University of Minnesota in 1986.

While my parents, who had me very young, may have made a mistake or two in raising me, they could not be faulted for supporting me by showing up to my events.  Because Purdue was a ways from home in Iowa, they had only made a few trips to see me that dismal year and Minnesota was obviously a good opportunity at the end of the season.  When I recount the story, I usually try to add a bit of humor that I placed 10th out of 10 in the Big Ten.  I was so bad that year, it's quite probably true that I was unable to beat a single person in the tournament.

After showering, I headed over to my folks' hotel room to face the music with dad.  There was always a comment when I lost.  His solutions generally revolved around working harder or lifting more weights.  Mom said he was at the bar across the street, which was no surprise.  Walking inside, dad was sitting just inside the door on the corner of the bar chatting up a local, so I pulled up a stool to fill out the short end.

Shortly after sitting down, he asked me, "Are you too good to have a beer with your old man?"  I mumble no, but I don't know what to order.  Funny, now, I know.  Over 25 years later, I miss him most when I'm surrounded by people at a festival and dream how dad and I would've talked, laughed and really enjoyed days of drinking beer together.  The bartender brought me something yellow and macro, probably Miller Lite since dad was one of the early patrons that made it so popular.  But it was beer, I was legal and sitting beside my dad--drinking our first and last beer together.

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