Love. Before It’s Too Late


My dad, Bill Teemley, was ambitious, hard-working, and deeply conservative. And I was a wildly liberal 23 year old who’d recently completed a “useless” Theatre Arts degree and moved back in with the folks.  Somewhere along the line a Game of Thrones-sized ice wall had grown up between us. We barely spoke. Dad didn’t get me (I’m an only child, so everything is about me), and I sure didn’t get him. But did it matter? I figured he never even thought about me. Still, with multiple non-job offers flooding in, I had time on my hands.

So I asked Mom what I could do about The Wall.

“Why don’t you go with him to pick up newspapers?” she answered.

Dad’s job as a newspaper dealer included picking up papers from the plant at 3:30 a.m. Seven days a week. So naturally my response was,

“Is there something else I could do?”

Mom looked at me and blinked.

So I told Dad I thought it might “fun” to go with him.

He woke me up at 2:30 the next morning. I thought I was in purgatory.

We drove to Denny’s where, to my surprise, Dad wasn’t a generic “hun” but a warmly hello-ed Bill. We avoided each other over omelets.

But the next morning, we actually had a conversation. It went something like this:

“Coffee’s sure dark.”


dennys-buena-parkFor three months, I went with Dad to pick up newspapers, always stopping at Denny’s, each time saying a little more.

We never had any Big Talks. But over those three months we slowly rediscovered each other. Nothing magical—unless you count being able to laugh together again—just us.

When I finally landed a job and had to stop, I actually missed it.

Being a newspaper dealer, Dad had a couple dozen carriers, mostly college guys, who picked up their papers at 4:00 a.m. and disseminated them to the sleeping world. But every other week, one of them would fail to show up. And then Dad would have to deliver newspapers in the dark.

July 20th was one of those mornings.

I was still asleep when the phone rang. Mom answered it at her end of the house, but was suddenly next to me pushing on my shoulder:

“Honey, wake up. It’s about your dad…”

“Did they say…?”

She didn’t know any more than that.  She didn’t want to. Because if she knew more, it would make it real.

I drove us to the hospital through a sea of undulating hope and fear. Neither of us spoke.

When we got there, we gave them Dad’s name and were ushered into a room with a curtain. Suddenly Mom was the child and I was the grown-up. A doctor entered and pulled back the curtain. Mom gasped.

stock-footage-an-empty-emergency-roomThere was nothing there but Dad’s wallet and keys.

“Where did they…?” I began.

“I’m sorry. Mr. Teemley has passed.”

“No, wait, you mean they moved him to another…”

“Mr. Teemley is dead.”

“No. You mean…” If I couldn’t see him, he couldn’t be dead.

The doctor told us what little they knew: Dad had had a heart attack while delivering papers and been found several hours later. It was just enough to solidify the nightmare into a stony reality that we could never wake up from.

We drove home in silence. There were no undulating layers now. Only a grey, featureless sea of despair.

When we got home, I couldn’t cry. I had to be there for Mom. She moaned like an animal with its foot in a trap, never speaking any actual words.

Finally, a couple of hours later, I got up and thumbed through Dad’s wallet. It contained five photographs: One of Mom and four of me.

I called Mom’s sister and asked to her to tell everyone on both sides of the family.

Then I called my childhood best bud, Jeff, and asked him to tell all our friends. I was matter-of-fact. Monotone. I had to be.

“How are you doing?” Jeff asked.

And then I said what I hadn’t even known I was thinking:

“I never told him I loved him.” And the tears broke.

That was when Mom, as if released from a spell, suddenly stood up, crossed over to me and said, before enfolding me in her arms,

“You told him every day for three months.”

If you love someone—or, worse, if you fear you don’t—

tell them you love them.  Now.

In memoriam: I love you, Dad.

Bill Teemley-mid 50s

About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
This entry was posted in For Pastors and Teachers, Memoir, Story Power and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

76 Responses to Love. Before It’s Too Late

  1. Those three months are more than many men have with their dads. You are blessed even though, I know you miss him. I’m sad for your loss.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Erika Kind says:

    I so understand that feeling of shock and not believing. Something similar happened to my dad. Sudden heart death. He was supposed to pick up my mom from the train station and did not show up. I picked her (and her mom) up. I was barely home the phone rang and my mom told me that the hospital left a message. She called them and they sad may dad had died. We went to the hospital and I couldn’t believe it although we saw the crops. That wasn’t my father. I too couldn’t cry because I worried about my mom. I was in a state of shock for at least two days. We also had to take care of his company…. it was overwhelming. Sorry, it is your story. But it just reminded me because of the similarities.But of course you were much younger.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ellen says:

    Mitch, I remember that day too well. My Mom answering the phone and bursting into tears, I asked what was wrong and she told me that my Uncle Will had died, she said
    “my little brother is gone”. She cried and cried, my brothers holding her in his arms.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. emmagc75 says:

    A beautiful and heartbreaking story. I’m sorry for your loss. Your Dad knew you loved him. Growing up my Mom taught us all to say I love you every time we say goodbye. Years ago I asked her why. She said because you never know what might happen. We all have carried on the tradition with spouses, family n friends. Hugs to you xo.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. jacobemet says:

    Thank you, Mitch. I needed to read that.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. de castro says:

    Am sure your dad loved you too.
    As a father of 4 two girls two boys who respect and hopefully love me it was inspiring to read.
    As a grandfather of 6 five girls and one boy our respect and love is even stronger.
    Love never dies. If there is an afterlife its going to be one hell of a party to celebrate.
    Que Sera sera

    Liked by 1 person

  7. frenchc1955 says:

    Mitch, thank you for an excellent and moving story. I am sure your father knew that you loved him and he loved you. The point that you make in this post, however, is one that everyone should remember and act on.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Truer words never spoken, Mitch. So folks be sure you do. I know the feeling all too well, Mitch. It feels like a punch to the gut.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thanks for sharing this truth, wrapped in your lovely artistic voice. Our natural longing to love, be loved and share love should never be swept under the carpet of we are different so….. The old cliche “actions speak louder than words” has its base in experiences just like this.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. knabbler says:

    Thank you for the insight and share. Well written, well understood. Best wishes.

    Liked by 1 person

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  12. DeniseBalog says:

    That is beautiful.Thank you for sharing your heart. Beautiful. Your Dad was a handsome man:) Having a beautiful son for sharing:) Thank you. blessings, denise

    Liked by 1 person

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  14. Nancy Ruegg says:

    Demonstrating your love those early mornings, accompanying your dad on his rounds, surely spoke louder than any words, Mitch. However, “I love you” are the most powerful words a human being can share with another. Perhaps when spoken from a heart of pure longing, they break through the barriers of time and space, similar to God’s love for us (Romans 8:31). I wouldn’t be surprised that your dad did indeed hear your expression of love!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Mitch, thanks to you, I just did – they’re 80 & 83 and who knows when… Thank you for this post. There are times when I’m so happy being on WP, I never know what I will come across from an unknown friend from some far corner of the world, that will really strike a chord!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Faith says:

    wow. BIG wow. Good job. You “hit the mark.”

    Liked by 1 person

  17. barbara says:


    Liked by 1 person

  18. A beautiful and moving piece. There is nothing stronger and more wonderful than love! Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Sheron says:

    My dad died suddenly one January from a heart attack. It was a shock, but I knew he loved me and he knew I loved him. Our big family Christmas a few weeks earlier made the memories wonderful and poignant.
    This was A well told tale.

    Liked by 1 person

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  21. Lucie says:

    Damn, Mitch! You sure know how to make a girl cry……another beautiful, intimate piece.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. mitchteemley says:

    Reblogged this on Mitch Teemley and commented:

    Adults have children. Children become adults. Two short sentences. Two life sentences.


  23. hoveprinting says:

    Beautiful memoir. Hit a lot of home truths about my own relationship with my father, and reminded me I need to do something about that before it’s too late. Thank you Mitch.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Ron Huston says:

    Yeah, me too ! My dad died in a motor vehicle accident when he was only 50.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Sunshine Quotes says:

    Thank you for visiting my site. I had a similar experience with my father as you have described in this post…

    Sunshine 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Yu/stan/kema says:

    Beautifully written. Heart-felt post. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Laurie Welch says:

    Oh boy….I hardly every cry at blog posts……

    Liked by 1 person

  28. My dad also left for work one morning and didn’t come home. Died at work. He never got to know my wife or her family or his now 7 month old grandson. I was in college when he died. Appreciate the moments we have!

    Liked by 1 person

  29. I am so glad that my last words to my son were “I love you” and his to me were ” I love you Mom”. I hold onto those words when I miss him. Its so very true, we need to say the words while we are here. We might not get a chance if we wait. Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Beautiful story, Mitch. It was hard to see the screen though, something in my eyes I guess. My relationship with my dad was similar. My father fell into a coma after a heart attack. He and my mom were getting into the car to go to the emergency room after dad woke with chest pains. Mom was on a walker after hip replacement surgery. She said dad fell next to the car after helping her in. She was helpless to do anything. Just then, the newspaper deliveryman drove up, saw what was happening, and gave my dad CPR. Dad held on for 11 days, enough time for me to fly home from my aircraft carrier on deployment and care for him. I got a lot off of my chest in those 11 days, and told dad over and over again how much I loved him and appreciated his life.

    Liked by 1 person

  31. Pingback: As You Lay Dying | Writers Envy

  32. Thank you for sharing your story. It reminds me of my dad. When my mom was in the hospital with many illnesses, she didn’t eat unless my dad fed her. My dad walked up a steep hill to the hospital twice a day to feed my mom. Eventually he had a heart attack. I immediately flew to Hong Kong to see him. I stayed as long as I could the time that I was there. He paralyzed on the left side of the body, so he could communicate with writing with his right hand. I “talked” to him. stoke his back. He liked it. It was hard for him and for me to depart when I had to come back to US. He was healthy and active until the day he had a stroke. He was hanging in for 8 more months, then passed away. He died early (85) because of his undying love for my mom.

    I’m glad that our family members are good in saying “I love you to each other.” My husband says that to me even in the middle of watching TV.

    Liked by 1 person

  33. nancyehead says:

    Reblogged this on Nancy E. Head and commented:
    Restoring cracked relationships–among the most important things we do in this life.

    Liked by 1 person

  34. nancyehead says:

    One of your best, Mitch. Love it! God bless!

    Liked by 1 person

  35. I was moved by your story and I’m shocked that I was. While I loved my father, my relationship with him was complicated, which I’m guessing is not a unique experience.

    Thank you farmhouse honesty and authenticity.


    Liked by 1 person

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  39. barbigelow says:

    My parents never said I love you to their 5 kids until my older sister died of cancer in their living room. After that they said it regularly, as if a wall of sadness had broken through. They have both passed away now but I’m glad they could finally say it before it was too late.

    Liked by 1 person

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  42. YaksterX says:

    I read about your dad in a different post but this was very touchy. My dad and I barley talked, talk, and I think I will start doing that now. Actually I will apply your experience to other people I know.
    We never know when we are going to lose someone and we do take many things for granted.

    thank you for sharing this.

    /thumbs up

    Liked by 1 person

  43. mitchteemley says:

    Glad to know the post spoke to you, Yakir. Blessings.


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