Column: Waving goodbye to Dad
FARGO, N.D. — It was Christmas day and I was in Room 10 of the Medical Cardiac Care Unit at Advocate Christ Medical Center on the south side of Chicago. I was reminding my dad to breathe 14 days before he died.
Memories of hearing his voice telling me to breathe at the end of the lane at swimming lessons when I was young floated alongside my terrified mind. I could still feel the kiss on my head I would get at the end of each lap as I swam by.
My face was underwater, but I hope he knew I smiled every time.
I don’t regret any part of the 27 years, eight months and 10 days with my father.
I don’t regret the two years he had cancer, the day we were told he was in fact not in remission — after going through a stem cell transplant that completely broke him down — and I don’t regret the nights I didn’t think he’d be alive when I woke up.
I don’t regret the phone call from my poor mother I received in the stairwell of The Forum building saying he had died or missing the final 25 minutes of breathing he toughed out with a collapsed lung when he was taken off the ventilator and surrounded by people he loved dearly.
I always thought if he were to die, I’d regret leaving him to chase a dream of being a sports journalist, costing me the last two years of his life. That was until one of his nurses — some of the greatest human beings ever assembled — asked me outside his room if I was the sports reporter.
My dad could barely breathe thanks to pneumonia, but he could puff out his chest talking about his baby boy being a sports reporter and explaining why he was wearing a Fargo hat he got for Christmas.
I don’t regret a second of his life. I regret every second after it.
He will never hold a grandchild and never walk my sister down the aisle on her wedding day, teary-eyed by how beautiful she will look. He will never get to laugh at my brother and I when we have children that are exactly like us, destroying our blood pressure. He won’t be around to realize I wasn’t paying attention during those wars we waged together with the furnace, the sump pump and whatever that thing was in the attic and still have questions.
I’ve never been a fan of reporters taking up space in the newspaper to attempt to teach life based on personal feelings. To me, the newspaper is about stories of others that teach, so I suppose there is a lesson in all of this, deeper than the obvious “life is hard” or the “love everyone” conclusion.
Life is hard, dirty and mean. It’s the hard that makes it beautiful.
I recently saw parents at a high school sporting event waving to their child, who bowed his head and hid.
My dad couldn’t care less about sports, but he went to any sport I played, regardless of how mediocre I was. He never yelled at me, refs or coaches. The only critique he ever had for me after a game was, “So, you know we can hear you swearing, right?”
No one ever says they said “I love you” too much or hugged someone too much. Everyone always regrets the not enough.
So wave to your parents in the crowd, because one day you’ll have to wave goodbye.
I can’t wait to wave to my dad again, but I have some things I have to do first.
Chris Murphy is a sportswriter for The Forum and a former sports editor of the Daily Globe.