I’m sure you’ve seen this movie before. Our hero is dying. He, or she, is laying there, straining to share those last words with that special loved one.
“Go on with your life, don’t you miss me,” he, or she, says softly, and takes that last breath. It sounds so humble, so selfless. But it is also a lie, because we all want to be missed.
While working at Autryville on election day, a lady from my daddy’s church came over to where I was working and chatted after she had voted. She said that she and her husband and some friends from daddy’s church were driving by Pa’s house the other day. They started talking about L.F. and how much they missed him.
“Mac, we sure do miss your daddy,” she said. I grinned and said, “I do, too.” It’s been almost two years since daddy passed away. I chuckled to myself and thought, “That’s exactly what Pa would want, people to still miss him.” Now, he wouldn’t want the people around him to continue to be sad about his passing, but he would be glad to know that we still miss him.
I miss those phone calls around ten o’clock just about every night. I would call him or he would call me. When I would ask him about what was going on, he would almost always say, “Not much of nothing.” Then we would talk for a few minutes about our day. I miss that.
If Terri had cooked a big meal, we’d fix Pa a plate and take it to him. After he would eat, we’d sit around, watch TV and drink a cup of coffee. I miss that. Other times, we would go by and pick him up and go out to eat. I’d ask him where did he want to go, and he would say, “I don’t care, you’re driving.” But it seems like we would usually end up at the K&W Cafeteria. I miss that.
It’s good to miss those who have gone on. It may not be easy sometimes, but it is good. Because it means that there was something there worth missing. This Fall I have had to come to grips with this truth all over again.
For many years, Fall has meant to me one thing. Football, particularly college football. To be even more specific, it meant East Carolina Pirate football. And that meant going to games with my friend, Dale Denning. Like me, Dale was a graduate of ECU, and, like me, a Pirate football fan.
Around twenty years ago we started buying season football tickets together. Sometimes our wives would go to the games with us. Often our friends and relatives would be there. And last year, Dale took his granddaughter and I took my grandson to a game. But throughout the years, it was always Dale and I, there at the games, cheering on the Pirates.
We were there for the ups and downs of Pirate football. And it seemed often like there were more downs than ups. We learned a long time ago, “it ain’t easy being a Pirate.” But it was not just the games. It was the traveling to the games, to home games in Greenville, and the road trips, often with friends, to away games. It was the shared experiences, and the memories from those experiences. Like when Dale and I got stuck in Atlanta while flying to Houston for a bowl game several years ago. The airline put us up in a motel because of the missed flight. But the van from the airport carried us to the wrong motel. We ended up in the seedy part of Atlanta. It was late at night and the motel had locked its doors and wouldn’t open them up for us or the others on the van. (Did I mention that it was a seedy part of Atlanta?) As we stood outside the locked motel, Dale said, “Well, it could be worse, our wives could be with us.” We finally got to the right motel, made it to Houston and ECU actually won the bowl game.
Dale passed away suddenly a couple of months ago. I’ve gone to the games this fall at ECU. Terri and my grandson have gone with me. My nephew, who lives in Greenville, has sat with me. I’ve enjoyed them and the games. But it’s not the same without Dale. And Dale, just like Pa, would be glad to know that. Because it’s good to be missed.