As coronavirus continues to impact families throughout our communities, it’s important to hold tight to the lessons and memories we have.
As many of you know, I lost my Dad on Good Friday to the COVID-19 virus coupled with other health issues and because of the coronavirus regulations, I never got a chance to say goodbye and thank him for all he did for me as well as tell him that I loved him.
It is a terrible way we are living in this country right now with so many deaths and so many more to come and my heart goes out to every family suffering through this crisis.
My Dad was a person who always looked at the world in a glass-half-full way and his life was filled with challenges and obstacles. He lost his Mom at the age of two and five years later lost his Dad as well. But in typical fashion, my Dad turned a negative moment into a positive one as he had to live with his aunt and uncle, making their children more like brothers and sisters than cousins. This extended our family to a plethora of cousins whom we hold special relationships with to this day.
Illness was always a part of our growing up but it never affected us as children because our parents kept our lives as normal as possible. I have vivid memories of my childhood with so many moments of being together and also so many great talks with my parents. While I was a Cardinal Spellman High School, I got roughed up on a bus and will never forget the conversation I had with my parents that night.
They implored me to try to put what happened behind me and certainly do not develop prejudices because of my anger. Although there is no excuse for what happened to me, if I submit to that hatred, it will tear me down. In many ways, I never had a more important conversation in my entire life.
The generation that our parents lived in was full of special people that can be summarized in a simple quote from the great Jim Valvano when he said, “Ordinary people do extraordinary things.”
The only goal in life my parents ever had was to give their children a great life with all the educational resources we needed to reach our goals. And they did it without having the resources other families possessed. A heart attack that my dad suffered in 1971 forced him to never work again. But once again, a negative becomes a positive because I got to be around my Mom and Dad together in my teenage years—a time when so many decisions appear before our eyes as we battle the struggle between peer pressure and making the correct decision.
Going to two of the best educational institutions in New York–Cardinal Spellman High School and Fordham University, while we experienced massive financial challenges, was not easy on my parents, but they told us just to concentrate on studies and they would take care of the rest. They took care of it.
In my career as a sports reporter, my parents were so supportive of my projects and I distinctly remember covering the Mets 1986 World Championship as well as the 1994 Rangers Stanley Cup. My first phone call after both was to my parents. They were not huge sports fans but because they knew it was important to me, they became big fans and that made sharing those moments so special.
The past few days, I have heard from so many people and a large number of players that I covered over the years. Some of them met my father—others have not. The David Wright conversation was real special to me because he hit on an important concept when he said to me, “Rich you shared so much about your Dad with me, I feel like I know him even though we never met. And think about this—he got sick while you were a youngster and after that, you got the chance to spend nearly 50 years with him and that’s a blessing.”
As usual, David Wright hits the nail on the head and I feel so blessed.
And now it is up to me and my family to keep Dad’s spirit alive. A big part of that is understanding the only way we get through the coronavirus pandemic is with love and understanding. My Dad made you feel so good about yourself after speaking to him and that is a skill we all need to develop. He also always told me that you let people in your heart and don’t concern yourself with those that disappoint you because the others will inspire you.
The reality in life is out of every 10 people you meet, three are going love what you say, three are going hate what you say, and four might be undecided. Concentrate on the undecided because you could make a change in their life and they can make a change in yours. And use your listening skills in a tangible way—don’t just use that listening time just waiting to talk—Listen intently and the world will be a better place.
Thank you Dad for being the best role model and coach I could ever have. Talent must be combined with hard work to breed success and ignoring either concept will hold us back. I love you Dad and please hug Mom for me in heaven. Baseball will be back soon and I know you will be looking down at me while in CitiField press box watching the game both of you taught me to love.