I never got around to asking my father why he loved Elder so much. I wish I had.
I made the mistake we all make: I thought there was time. That’s the problem with time – it’s always there, until it’s not.
My dad, Steve Baum, passed away the morning of Oct. 21 from a massive heart attack. He was 60 years old. If you’re lucky, you get a great dad. I was lucky.
My father loved without fear or hesitation, and he loved Elder with ease. It’s easy to love. So was my dad.
His last trip to The Pit was Oct. 17, a 28-21 win over Winton Woods. As always, he went with his best friend, my mom. Twenty years ago, they got season tickets. They never left.
Friday’s La Salle game presented a problem. My mom didn’t want to go by herself. So my big brother and I took her to the game. It was cold and rainy.
Mom mentioned that dad’s job would have been to keep her warm. It was also senior night. On senior night, it’s not about the players, it’s about your biggest fans flanked on each side of you.
My brother and I played football at Elder. I was a fullback, he was an offensive lineman. On Friday night, we sat and watched moms and dads walk their sons by the hand, into a memory that time can’t touch.
It’s not a long walk. Maybe 30 seconds. But, it was the last time I walked anywhere holding hands with both my parents. My brother and I never had to wonder if they were proud of us. My dad was always proud. He failed to hide it, along with his excitement.
After a game at Elder, the team walks back to the grotto to pray. Then you walk back down onto the field and head for the locker room. The stadium is usually cleared out, except for a group that almost forms a tunnel that the team walks through to get to the locker room.
This was my favorite part of playing football at Elder. Heading for that locker room, with a very important stop along the way. My dad’s hand always shot up, like he thought I wouldn’t see them. We’d hug. Now that he’s gone, I find myself thinking about those hugs. Wanting one now.
My father graduated from Oak Hills in 1972. He played baseball. Growing up, he told me he lost the starting catching job as a junior. Anything that’s worth doing is never easy. My dad knew this. He was happy to work for it.
He came back his senior season and played so well he was drafted by the Oakland Athletics. He signed with them straight out of high school and played four seasons in their minor league system. Chasing your dream, whatever it may be, can’t be taken away from you. You get to keep that.
After coming home, he took a job at Procter & Gamble. He was the mail boy. That’s where he met my mom.
Fear and uncertainty have currently clouded my head and my heart. I’m told that’s normal.
I remind myself what my father taught me about fear. At 18 years old, he packed his bags, left everyone and everything he’d ever loved in search of a dream. Being scared wasn’t a good enough reason to stop him.
I take a deep breath and ponder what scares me. Writing this scares me. That’s why I had to do it.
Life is frightening. It demands bravery. That thing you’re scared of, do that. Chase that. That’s what my dad would say.
You have to be ready for opportunities. Dad said that, too.
The day my dad died, he woke up early, took a shower, shaved, got dressed for work and ate his oatmeal.
He was ready for the day, not ready to die. He asked my mom to call an ambulance. She said they arrived quickly. She told him she loved him. He said the same.
Before they reached the hospital, he was gone.
Anyone who’s ever lost someone has struggled with why. I have. It’s impossible to imagine a future without my dad in it.
Comfort can be found in the people you love. My mom. The strongest, and the best person I know.
Life will always get in the way of what’s truly important. Don’t waste time. It’s an easy thing to regret.
My dad is gone. That means I can’t give him a hug, tell him how I proud I am of him, or how lucky I was to have him teach me how to be a man.
If you’re lucky enough to be able to give your mom or dad a hug and tell them you love them, act accordingly.
While there’s time. ■