It’s a week that reminds why editor misses father so much
Today marks a dozen years without my father, who died on Oct. 25, 2004, and I thought about him more than usual this past week.Dad would have loved this past week, and not just because he loved giving me a boatload of grief on my birthday.“You’re catching up with me,” he’d say every single year until I turned 33, which was the age he stopped counting.In 1998, when I turned 33, he didn’t send me a birthday card, he sent me a “Congratulations” card. I thought he had lost it or had just been a typical guy who grabbed the first card he saw.But when I opened up the card, I read his little note to me. “Bobby, I’m sure you’re wondering about this card, but my memory and mind are just fine ... I just wanted to congratulate you for finally catching me.”When Dad died, our pastor at the time — a wise man named Lee Laaveg — told me something to the effect that even years later, I would want to pick up my phone and dial my dad’s number.“You may even get half the number dialed, too.”I thought Lee was exaggerating a bit, but it’s true and more than once last week, I wanted to grab my phone and dial “507-387 ...”Dad loved sports and a good story, not necessarily in that order. And last week had both, some of which intertwined.•••••Last Wednesday, I turned 51, the age my dad was in 1984, my freshman year of college.At the time, I couldn’t imagine being that old and that responsible.Well, I’m that old, but I’m certainly not that responsible. It’s something I need to work on, but like a lot of people who have lost their parents, I’ve become very appreciative of both Dad and Mom and all they did for my sister and me.There are days I wish I was half the parent my Dad was to me because I know that would be an improvement.But my father’s favorite line — “Just keep putting one foot in front of the other because you’ll trip if you walk backwards” — has kept me going, even in the darkest of times.•••••I’ve often joked that if Dad was still alive, he’d probably live in New Hampton so he could watch the boys play.And I know he would have loved Friday night, when New Hampton beat Clear Lake 22-6 to finish the regular season 8-1.It’s been an exciting-yet-at-times-nerve-wracking fall for me. No offense to our School Board or City Council members but I’m only half-joking when I say covering sports is the reward for sitting through a meeting.This year, though, with two sons playing on the team I feel like I’m in some weird dual role in which the supposedly unbiased reporter is clashing with a very biased father.But it’s been fun, and my only regret is that Mel Fenske isn’t there to cheer on Josh and Noah Fenske and the rest of the Chickasaws.•••••Years ago, when I was in high school, I traveled with Dad to Texas for one of his military reunions.Dad was a 20-year veteran of the Air Force, and every year, the unit he served with in Turkey gathered.That year, I heard some stories about Dad that told me he wasn’t always the hard-working, straight-laced father I knew.As we were driving home, I was giving him grief, and he said, “This might have been a mistake.”On Saturday, Noah tagged along with me to the wedding of a college friend, and unfortunately, one of my former professors shared the story of how we got kicked out of our hotel in the middle of a night during the Minnesota Newspaper Association Convention years ago.The details aren’t important, but let’s just say that it’s not exactly a story I wanted my kids to hear for a few years, if ever.Noah, though, was laughing so hard I thought he was going to cry. Finally, he stopped, glanced my way with a look of mock disgust and said, “Really, Dad?”Yeah, this might have been a mistake.•••••When we arrived home on Sunday, a story my dad would have loved was waiting for me.On Friday night, Aaron Dunn, a Waverly-Shell Rock student who has autism, scored on a 43-yard touchdown in the Go-Hawks’ 55-7 win over Charles City.What makes this story so cool is this: The idea to get Aaron a touchdown came from Charles City wide receiver Malik Knighten.It’s a story worth telling again, for how many kids who are getting their butts handed to them by an opponent would have come up with that idea?Maybe, if my father was right, more than we think.“Kids get it,” he once told me when we were having a discussion about sports long ago. “They get it’s a game way more than we adults do.”I don’t often pitch other media in the Tribune, but if you want to fight back some tears of get some giant goose bumps, go to kwwl.com and check out the story.It’s a tale I think you will like. What I do know is that Dad would absolutely would have loved it.So Dad, enjoy the story and know that even 12 years after you left us, you’re still with me every single day.