Love. Before It’s Too Late.


My dad, Bill Teemley, was ambitious, hard-working, and deeply conservative. 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 grew 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. So 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 replied.

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:

“The coffee here’s sure brown.”


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 magical). 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 newspapers 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 caught 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.

Always did. Always will.

Bill Teemley-mid 50s

About mitchteemley

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

124 Responses to Love. Before It’s Too Late.

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  4. This really touched me, Mitch. July 20th was my Dad’s birthday. He’s been gone almost 4 years. Never got to say goodbye but I had said everything I wanted to beforehand.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. RasmaSandra says:

    That is the one thing that has gotten me every time. I lost my dad when I was only ten but from then on it was that I never got to say goodbye. The same thing happened suddenly with my husband, One day he goes into the hospital my step-daughter and I leave him to find out what is happening the next day and there was no next day he was gone and never got to say I love you or goodbye. However, our loved ones are near us always and are watching over us and that is how life goes,

    Liked by 1 person

  6. A well lived story well told. There’s something beautiful about the silent breakfasts; being present as much as one can be that early in the morning; solidifying a memory you didn’t know you would until it is needed to be remembered. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Very touching! This story tells me a lot. It tells me that words sometimes doesn’t carry as much weight as action. We all know the expression ‘a picture is worth a thousand words.” Well action such as picking up newspapers with your dad at the dawn of each day for 3 months is worth a lot more than a thousand words!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. What a great post! It can be so hard to cross the divide that seperates generations, but it sounds like you managed to do so quite well. Sorry for your loss.

    Liked by 1 person

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  10. Yes yes yes. Every moment matters. Your mother was right — and you did it his way.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Oh and I think we might also use these words: “I know you love me.”

    Liked by 1 person

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  13. Use those words often Mitch, thanks for the back-up reassurance. Sorry for the loss, especially that way. Way back in my young CT State Police days, I made numerous, ” I’m sorry to advise you” notices. Probably the hardest part of my job. Now a volunteer Chaplain in a hospital, back in the saddle again. Peace my friend.

    Liked by 1 person

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  15. Thank you for sharing your heartfelt story. I am sorry for you and your family’s sudden loss. What a gift that you had time alone with him prior to his passing. 💗

    Liked by 1 person

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  17. Linda Lee/Lady Quixote says:

    I remember reading this back when you posted it. Reading it again still makes my heart ache.

    My father was born on October 10. On the day you posted this, he would have been 85 years old. But he died at the age of 53. A sudden, unexpected death. A heart attack.

    Part of why I’m writing a memoir is to try to understand my father, my mother, and myself.

    Liked by 1 person

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  19. Beautiful. And being able to laugh together again is absolutely magical.❤

    Liked by 1 person

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