I know that most of the community comes here to exchange witty banter, engage in sarcasm and talk about Flyers hockey. The site is an escape from the harsh realities of everyday life. But if everyone could indulge me a few minutes, I would be grateful.
On Sept. 25, my father, MJDI, lost his two year battle with pancreatic cancer. The last two months were some of the most difficult days a person should ever have to endure. I wouldn't wish this on my worst enemy on their worst day. To watch someone you love wither away to nothing, lose their independence and pride, is humbling and demoralizing. The sorrow and sadness I feel is numbing and it leaves me empty inside. I am an only child and my parents have been divorced since I was very young, so it's been just me and my pop supporting each other for the better part of my 44 years.
The last two years have been tiring, draining and depressing. Endless medical appointments and hospital visits. But through all this I had BSH to help me lose reality and pass all those grueling hours. All those hours and days of bickering with Geoff or Hintzy and others were really me just passing time while I was sitting and waiting with my dad at Fox Chase, Hahnemann or Suburban hospitals. I really feel this community can truly appreciate the special relationship my father and I had with the Flyers and the sport of hockey.
Now, I am not sure how other sons relate with their dads, but it seems that with us there was a bit of a masculine awkwardness. My dad was a pretty tough guy who had a pretty tough upbringing. He showed me love but wanted me to be a man first. Respect was demanded and hard work was expected. But through our learning process there was always one area of common ground -- a time where emotions went unchecked and feelings weren't awkward. It was hockey.
Whether it was when I was playing youth hockey and we would spend weekends together in the car driving from Maryland to the Lehigh Valley, or watching Flyers hockey on television together at least one night a week during the season, hockey was always our time. Once a year we would hit the road and see an away game.
Our last trip was just after his first surgery to remove the tumor in his bile duct. We went to Carolina to see the Rod Brind'Amour retirement ceremony. We had a blast.
This is the part where I brag about my dad's history with the team, and how we became a Flyers family. The Flyers weren't merely a local rooting interest for us. My dad was the physical therapist and trainer for the team from 1976-77 through 1979-80. For those four seasons my dad spent nearly 365 days a year around the team, treating and preparing the guys for battle. If you have ever seen a game from that era and a player went down, my dad was the guy who ran out on the ice. He was there for Bernie, Tom Bladon and Rick MacLeish.
He was also there when a highly anticipated young player, who the team was grooming to fill the role of both enforcer and contributor, needed some fine tuning with balance and agility. My dad felt martial arts might be the right avenue. He brought in a physical therapist he met who was also a black belt in karate.
That player was Paul Holmgren, and that therapist was Pat Croce. Seemed to work out pretty well for both of them.
This was also how I came to love the sport of hockey and the Philadelphia Flyers. In those days, I spent a majority of time with my dad either sitting around the practice locker room at the Class of ‘23 rink playing tape ball hockey with Bob Clarke and Bernie, among others, or hanging in the corridors of the Spectrum before and after games waiting for my dad.
I know this lockout is a real downer for the sport and the fans who love it, but for me it really could not have come at a better time. It's going to take a long time for me to enjoy the sport and team which is so close to my heart. am not sure it will ever be the same again. But I am grateful for this outlet and this community.
Thank you for allowing me to ramble and brag about one of the most important people of my life. It is not my place to preach, because everyone has their own relationships with their parents, but I now know from the worst possible case scenario not to take them for granted.
While you fill your days with work and bullshit establishing your own life, take a second to appreciate your own relationships with your parents. I have had two long years and still feel like it was way too short.