Father's Day Post

Memories of my father..... 

My Mom and Dad would sit across the kitchen table every morning reading the paper and manys a time, as my Mom relates it, Dad would remark to her about a particularly enjoyable letter to the editor he'd just read. 

"Listen to this one," he'd say, and read it aloud. 
"Who wrote that?" she'd ask. 
And then he'd look back at the paper and say, "Oooh...Jim Mallon," like he'd only just realized it. 

She always thought that was so funny.

"How is it you don't remark on those letters by saying, 'Listen to this letter Jim wrote?' It's like you don't recognize your own name right there in front of you." 

And they'd get a big laugh. 

It's remarkable, the things missed, when your Dad is gone. I miss talking shit about politics till my blood pressure hits the ceiling and all the while my Dad, dyed-in-the-wool Northeast Philly Irish Catholic Liberal Democrat, sitting there calmly bemused at my passion. 

"Son," he used to say to me, "you'd be good conversation at a dinner party."  

He once told me it was I who rescued him from religion with my arguments about all the bullshit embedded in the Catholic Church when, truth be told, he actually came around on his own, when he reasoned that no just or all-powerful God would ever create the sick or the lame or the terminally ill or the mentally challenged or gay people, in particular, because of all the suffering and abuse they were forced to endure at the hands of hypocrites, bigots, assholes and self-righteous "Christians." 

I miss talking baseball with my Dad. I miss going to games with him. When the Phillies won the World Series in 2008, the victory came just 5 months after he'd died.

That's what you call bad timing...on the Phillies' part

He loved Chase Utley. He loved Chooch Ruiz.

He loved grinders and singles hitters and base-stealers and guys who were "good with the glove" or could "take the extra base."  He, like I, loved Derek Jeter and we both thought Pete Rose, whatever his faults, should be in the Hall of Fame.  My Dad, like I,  loved baseball.  And the reason I love baseball is because of him.

When I was in Little League, I wore #9.  That was Reggie Jackson's number when he was on the A's. He was a swing-for-the-fences home run hitter if ever there was one, and it's remarkably funny that a 70-pound singles-hitter-steal-two-bases-and-score-a-run midget like me would revere Reggie Jackson like I did, I know, but I'll be damned if my Dad didn't take me to an A's game and stick around after to get the man's autograph. Catfish Hunter too.

My brother and I (and a friend from SLO and two Philly cousins) went to games 3 and 4 in Philadelphia that fateful year of 2008, and when the Phillies finally actually won the World Series again and when Robin Roberts -- my dad's 2nd all-time favorite player behind the late-great Richie Ashburn -- threw out the first pitch for Game 4, I called my Mom from our seats and bawled my eyes out with her for 10 minutes. We'd all had a few and were wearing our sentimental, emotional Irish hearts on our sleeves. 

Here's an amazing story about my Dad: Before he died he made these little 3x5 note cards for everyone in the family. I think he made 35 or 40 of them in all. On those cards he wrote notes about the many sweet little memories he had of the person the card was for. Then he had them laminated. He put them in the care of my brother Patrick, with specific instructions they not be distributed until after he was gone. We call them "JVM Cards." 

Talk about a gift from the beyond. 

Now before you think these cards ended up in peoples' bottom drawers, consider this: 

My cousin Kevin McGeehan is the #1 assistant head basketball coach at Richmond University in Virginia. He's been doing this job for 10 or 12 years or so. They've made the Tournament a few times. He told us he carries his JVM Card in his coat pocket for every game. On the front side of his card it says, quite simply, "See other side."  On the back side it says: "Richmond Spiders, Final Four." My bother Pat and I went down to watch them play UCLA earlier this year and when Kevin saw us up in the stands from the court he tapped the pocket over his heart and gave us a wink. 

My cousin Brian McGeehan got married back in Philly a couple of Octobers ago, and after the ceremony, at the reception, we were all gathered together telling stories and tipping our cups and generally carrying on like you're supposed to at a decent Irish wedding, when all of the sudden Brian says, "Check this out," and he pulls his JVM Card from his coat pocket. Next thing you know, four or five others, cousins, uncles etc...are holding theirs out too. 

There's a friend of the Mallons' named GR Nesenthaler. He grew up in the New Jersey shore town where we have a house and he befriended my brothers back when they were wee lads. GR's dad died when he was young and my Dad took a liking to him. The years went by and after GR graduated from college he was looking for a fresh start out west. He came and lived with my brother Pat and me and basically he's been a part of our family forever. 

GR got a JVM Card too. 

He was the only non-blood relative to get one. 

And his came came with a spare message, just four words: "Stick with the family." 

We all love GR.

I just had breakfast with my nephew Patrick on Sunday. He looked great. He's lost something like 23 pounds in a month. He quit smoking and quit soda. 

"Why the big changes?" I asked him. 

"Well, one day I was looking at my JVM Card and on it Poppy reminded me to 'Get Organized', so the first thing I did was start making my bed every day. One thing led to another and I haven't had a cigarette or a soda in a month and I feel great." 

That same kid [I'm his godfather] once told me he was glad I was around because I remind him of JVM, my Dad, his Poppy. That's the best compliment I ever received. 

My Dad, and yours probably, was awesome.

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