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:

“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 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.

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

  1. hcmorris77 says:

    Oh how I miss my dad! And my mom!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sad and yet beautiful too.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. This is the best post I have read on your blog, Mitch. It especially hits home for me, because today would have been my dad’s 85th birthday. But he died at the age of 53. A heart attack.

    I hadn’t seen or spoken to my father for over eight years before he died. A huge wall of ice. But one month before his unexpected death, i sent him a letter, telling him that I had decided to think about the good memories and let go of the bad.

    Liked by 5 people

  4. What an incredible blessing God gave you and your dad with those three months. Such beautiful words, the love you had (and have) for your dad is palpable through your writing. I have no doubt that he knew. God bless you and your family

    Liked by 4 people

  5. meenawalia says:

    I miss my dad as well.he had said he has written a letter for all three of us .me and my 2 brothers and kept it for us to read after he has gone.but we searched everywhere but couldn’t find it.i still feel.sad that we couldn’t read his last words that he had written for us

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Eliza Ayres says:

    Reblogged this on Blue Dragon Journal and commented:
    Both parents died two decades ago. I still miss them. I took care of them in their last years, something I will never regret.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Cyranny says:

    Thank you for sharing this, Mitch… you’ve got me teary-eyed now! I still have both Mom and Dad, and I am grateful for that everyday! xx

    Liked by 3 people

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  9. Thank you for sharing this story. What a good reminder to tell those we love that we love them and that simple actions do speak louder than words.

    Funny how not having a job during that time lead to be a blessing of spending time with your father. Sending much love to you and your family.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Artfully and effectively related. You are a good teacher. Your mom was right: sometimes actions speak louder than words.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. You’ve put into words a story I’ve lived through twice now. I did tell my dad I loved him before it was too late, but I didn’t tell my mother. Like your father her passing was sudden (if not unexpected) and there was no warning. No time for closure nor telling her I loved her. I just hope she realizes now that I did and do. The second time was my husband’s passing. I saw him briefly before he slipped into the coma that he never woke from. He was agitated and spouting gibberish and I was numb. I didn’t think to tell him I loved him and the last conversation we’d had prior to his hospitalization was a fight over stupid trivial things. He died eleven days later and again, like with my mom, no closure and no time to say goodbye. In my belief system (religious choice) we believe there is life after death. That our loved ones wait for us and know our actions before we join them. Thus my husband and my mother must know I love them and how deeply they are missed. All we can do is cling to hope to get us through. Your story was amazing. Thank you for sharing it.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Sorry for your loss, Mitch. I lost my dad 15 years ago. He was a wall of ice, but I tried my best to chisel through. I would hug him when leaving after a visit and he would stiffen up, not quite sure what to do with the emotional stuff. I wish we could’ve had a closer relationship, but I know he did the best he could. Thanks for this post and encouraging us to try to connect with our dads before it’s too late.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Nancy Ruegg says:

    I am so sorry, Mitch, that you lost your dad while still so young. I agree with your mom–your dad knew you loved him every morning you got up at 2:30 with him. And no doubt those three months of wee-hours togetherness brought him much joy.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. numrhood says:

    what was your father cause of death, & how old was he?

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Clever Girl says:

    Sorry Mitch. This was very heartfelt.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. smzang says:


    A father and son laughing together is the best magic in the world.
    and while speaking of bests, this memorial that you’ve written could
    not be surpassed. It radiates love, and it generates heart cleansing
    tears for this reader. I am guessing that it will have a similar effect
    on all who read it.

    Many blessings to you and yours.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Bill Sweeney says:

    Thank you for sharing this deeply personal story, Mitch. I’m sorry you lost your dad so young. Maybe it was from the harsh realities of the Great Depression, but our parents’ generation wasn’t really big on “I love you.” Maybe I’m just trying to make excuses for my never telling my dad I loved him before he died.

    Liked by 3 people

    • mitchteemley says:

      Oh, I think you’re right, Bill. The children of the Great Depression demonstrated their love by providing for their offspring. But hugs and words of affection? Not so much.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Somehow my Dad was both – a great provider, but also very demonstrative, to the point where my sister and I would react to his wet kisses with “ew! yuck!” – until we were mature enough to appreciate how sweet and affectionate our dad was. I think it was at least partly because he was the youngest of three boys (picked on?), with no sisters, and when after nine childless years of marriage he finally had two daughters, he was over the moon. ❤

        Liked by 1 person

      • mitchteemley says:

        Aww. I’m a two-daughters dad, too, and I’ve been accused of acute mushiness at rimes.

        Liked by 1 person

  18. hettystuart says:

    Beautiful story! So glad you had 3 months, even if there was no mountain-top experience. You have a very wise mother. She said the exact words you needed to hear. Thanks for sharing. Hetty

    Liked by 1 person

  19. pastorpete51 says:

    Dear Mitch: Thank you for this simple story. I have read your blog off and on for a long time but for me this was the best thing you have ever written. God bless you and thanks again.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Jeff Rab says:

    Excellent post, Mitch. Painfully excellent post!

    Liked by 1 person

  21. This was so beautifully written. Thank you for sharing your story ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  22. This one really hit me. Definitely a reminder we could all use.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. cazehner says:

    My parents are gone, but my sisters aren’t. I need to make a call. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. anitashope says:

    Wonderful heartfelt post. A good reminder for us all.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. What a beautifully written tribute to your dad. I’m so sorry you lost him the way you did.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. The unspoken love was there. He knew you loved him. Some people don’t need to hear the actual words. It seems your dad didn’t. But he knew you loved him.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. karanoel says:

    What a poignant post. So glad you made that choice to connect with him!

    Liked by 1 person

  28. ❤ Mitch, for such a heartfelt post.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. This is a comfort to me. Today, my daddy has been gone twenty one years. Thank you for telling your father story. I’m certain many will tell someone they love them today!

    Liked by 2 people

  30. I read this post last night and had no words. I reread it this morning and still no words….simply, beautiful, Mitch! I felt every word you wrote. Hugs to you and prayers for those who have strained or nonexistent relationships with family members.

    Liked by 2 people

  31. Ann Coleman says:

    What a beautiful post about the importance of telling our loved ones how we feel about them! I’m so sorry your lost your father so suddenly when you were young. But I agree with your mom: you did tell him, just not in actual words. Thank you again for this powerful reminder!

    Liked by 2 people

  32. nancyehead says:

    Such a beautiful message, Mitch. God bless and comfort. Thanks for the reminder to say the words out loud.

    Liked by 2 people

  33. Jennie says:

    Just wonderful, Mitch!

    Liked by 2 people

  34. So profound! Thank you,

    Liked by 2 people

  35. Christi says:

    This was profoundly moving, Mitch. Thank God for your Mom’s suggestion that gave you those three months together, and thank God you listened. I don’t think either were accidents.

    Liked by 2 people

  36. I don’t tear up easily, but I did tear up (in a good way) while reading this heartfelt and lovingly crafted post.

    Liked by 2 people

  37. themeonnblog says:

    I would have never looked at it that way, but your mom was right…“You told him every day for three months.”
    Thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 2 people

  38. @Mellow_Curmdgeon It does make one think, doesn’t it? Sometimes our lives don’t seem to be simply “random.” Even the agnostic has to ponder things like this.

    Liked by 2 people

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  40. Wonderful and so true. I lost my Dad to a heart attack in 1996, the day after my 40th birthday. I would give anything to turn back the clock to the Wednesday before so that I could hug him and tell him I loved him before I left the hospital. He had been looking forward to coming home but had another massive heart attack the following day. He never regained consciousness. I was with him and my Mum 16 hours a day, my sister did four hours and my brother did the other four, so that neither Mum nor my Dad were on their own. Mum joined him in January 2018. She was 95 and had dementia. I am confident they are together no in the Garden of Forever.
    I miss them both and hope they knew how much I loved them.

    Liked by 2 people

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  47. Lisa Coleman says:

    Quite powerful! So sorry for your loss & that you were unable to relay that, but given the fact that he had 4 pictures of you in his wallet, he loved you & he knew you loved him. I was estranged from my dad for 12 years when I was a young adult. No matter the reason. It took me that long to forgive him, but once I did, it was good. We saw each other occasionally as we lived on opposite sides of the US. As he was in the last 9 months of his life 4 years ago battling Alzheimer’s, I was glad that we had mended our relationship years earlier & was able to say those 3 simple words. Those last months were most difficult because he was in Hawaii & I was/am in Florida. This was after losing my mom to a major stroke a year earlier, but our relationship was much closer. She was only in Texas & I went out to see her often. We always told each other that we loved each other before hanging up the phone. I do this with my kids & grandkids now. They are constantly told in person, on the phone or on facetime. Praying for you and your mom!

    Liked by 1 person

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  49. So sorry for your loss Mitch. I can’t possibly understand how you feel because I’m very lucky to still have my parents and I’m almost sixty (sshh, don’t tell anyone). I’m really glad you got to spend time with your dad during those three months Mitch and just like your mom said – you told him you loved him every one of those days. Caz x

    Liked by 1 person

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