Dates, like Father and Mother’s Day, come and go quickly. Which is why I say it’s never too early, or too late, to let a parent know that you appreciate what they’ve given you.
Cleveland - I am amazed on how quickly 31 years can come and go. It has been 30 years since my father, Zino, lost his battle with cancer in winter of 1982. That means he has been gone longer than more than half my lifetime, but there are very few days that go by that I don’t recall the good times we shared back at our home on West 98th in Cleveland.
And on the occasion I run into friends who date further back than those past 30 years, they are quick to remind me how special a person Dad was to all he met.
One of those memories was a piece I wrote to a newspaper to share what he meant to me not so long before he died. Fortunately, the sports editor at the morning daily had a soft spot for what I wrote and it has became part of our family archives. And fortunately, it came just after his final Father’s Day before he died.
The piece came back to mind due to this being the 100th anniversary of the 1912 opening of Cleveland West Tech High School which closed in 1995 and is celebrating that bench mark year this summer. Both my father and I graduated from West Tech with Dad being a member of the school’s 1943 city basketball championship team.
Why I share my letter at this time is that with Father’s Day so recently in our rear view mirror, I thought it important to remind one and all to tell loved ones how they feel before it’s too late. While I originally wrote the letter without that particular thought in mind, it worked out much better than I ever imagined. It was there for Zino to read and it got a second life at his funeral less than a year later where my sister, Sherri, took it upon herself to incorporate it into his eulogy. It is a moment I will never forget and one that linked my sister and I in ways we cherish to this day.
Here it is, the letter as it appeared back in 1981.
“Here’s a letter I’ve been saving for a Father’s Day column,” said Plain Dealer sports editor Hal Lebovitz. “So it’s a little late. It’s from Dale Meggas, a native Clevelander who left to become a researcher for the National Collegiate Athletic Association in Kansas City. He recently returned to become publicity director for the Cleveland Cobras soccer team. He wrote this before he came back:”
I’m writing this after a phone conversation with my father. I would like to tell you about him. While trading ‘What’s new?’ my dad informed me that at 55, he plans to return to third base again, where for years he faced the wars of fast-pitch and slow-pitch softball in Parma during their growing years before Parma acquired the “Softball Capital of the World” title.
I never read his name in bold headlines but I know he was a fine enough third baseman to hold his own against the King and his Court. My dad also was a member of the West Tech championship basketball team of 1943. He wasn’t a star but he was a starter.
During my Little League days, my dad didn’t coach my team or make suggestions to the coach. He was just there to give me moral support. Then he would move over to the softball field to see the best player in the family, my sister.
The day my dad was pressed into service as the umpire of a game in which I was playing is one I’ll never forget. He called me out on strikes. I argued but in my heart I knew it was a strike. Today that third strike is something I look back on with great pride, knowing my father sent me to the bench by making a gutsy call.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that he is a star in my eyes. I know my father is proud of me and he knows I’m proud of him. I’d just like other to know how special he is. There are probably other 55-year old third basemen somewhere but he’s my favorite.
Father’s Day is gone for this year. But it can be Father’s Day any day you take the time to say thank you before it’s too late.