Phil Osborne: Say It Now

Say it now. You may not have the chance to say it tomorrow.

This is the second Father’s Day I’ll spend without mine. He passed away in March 2010. He would have been 79 last month.

We had an interesting, and sometimes tumultuous relationship. He was an absentee dad because he had to be. That’s where his jobs were. Long-haul trucker, construction worker, shift worker at factories, military service. You get the picture.

But when he was home, I have fond memories of hours at Fultz’s pay lake in Carter County where we’d fish for bluegill and mud cats.

Or the special Christmas gifts that my sister and I would make like cutting little ovals into a carton of cigarettes to insert our latest class photos. Low budget production.

But we were never really close. And now we’ll never have the chance to be.

He grew up in Carter County, as did my mother. He dropped out of school at 16 and lied about his age to get into the Army. He was a decorated veteran of the Korean War and was stationed in Alabama in 1953 when I was born. When he was discharged, he came back to Carter County and held a series of jobs before we moved to Ohio when I was four.

There, we lived in what is euphemistically referred to now as federally subsidized housing. We called them the projects. That’s when the call of the road came and he started trucking. So between truck driving and some factory work my mother took on, we made it through three years in Warren, Ohio.

Then, back to Carter County and the little community of Globe. More trucking, but then he landed a construction job in Winchester. Sometimes he would come home on weekends; sometimes we would visit him staying with my aunt and uncle in the Clark County version of the projects at Stephenson Heights. But income was more predictable.

We moved to Winchester when I was in fourth grade and moved out of the projects and into our own modest little house the next year. I graduated from high school in that house.

When he secured a good paying and steady job at Rockwell, we were set. No more worries about absentee fatherhood, which put us in the house together to argue, fuss, fight and fume. All fathers and sons have their issues. We had enough for two families on occasion.

I’m not writing this as a “woe is me” bit of narrative. I got some lucky breaks in my life that my father never did and I’m thankful for it. And I’m thankful that life’s lessons have made me a better person because of who we were and what we did while I was under his roof.

I loved my father. Problem is, I never told him. And I know he loved me, he just didn’t say it.

Nearly every conversation with my wife, mother or any of our four children ends with “Love you.”

That never happened with my dad. The only time I told him was when I kissed him on the head at Clark Regional Medical Center and said goodbye for the last time after he had passed away.

Say it now. You may not have the chance to say it tomorrow.

William Amon “Doodle” Osborne. I love you.

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