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Pardon Another Interruption: This Day, Ten Years Ago

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This is from 2014, ten years after tragedy struck for me and my family. In the years since I wrote it, I look back and think, I probably didn't need to put this out there. But my dad always seemed to enjoy my writing and, now 14 years after his passing, I'm still very much trying to make him proud. Understand, this is not at all Syracuse related, and it might not be a good read, but it's for my dad.

A black-and-white photo of my dad, possibly the last time he was seen without a suit/tie combo.
A black-and-white photo of my dad, possibly the last time he was seen without a suit/tie combo.

(From October 2, 2014) Do you know what you did ten years ago today? Do you remember what you ate, drank, and watched on T.V.? Do you remember the people you spoke with then? Do you remember the feel of that day?

I do. I remember the smells. I remember conversations. I can't forget even though I would like nothing more than to forget. Three-thousand-six-hundred-fifty-two days later and I still can't get those hours out of my brain.

October 2, 2004

Daylight shining in through my apartment windows, the sky is too bright to sleep on this Saturday. So I flip on the television staring at me from the end of the bed. Dora the Explorer is on the local CBS affiliate and it's capturing my attention for far too long being a twenty-three-year old male. My girlfriend and I finally get out of bed and eat breakfast; I'll wind up this day at my parent's house, my center. Dad and me, with my mom floating in and out of the family room, talking Syracuse and Rutgers and then inevitably watching college football all day.

"Think Pasqualoni saves his job this year?" "Man, I thought Rutgers deserved to win that one." "Boy, Fresno State isn't looking good at Washington."

Father and son conversations.

"It's dinner time already? It's a little cold out, but this is way too nice of a day to be getting dark so early!"

I say "no thanks" to delivery pizza and start back to the apartment. But first, a stop at Rod's Big 'M,' grabbing a six-pack of Sam Adams Octoberfest -- my girlfriend is staying the night at her parent's house, so the plan: have a couple of beers and watch even more college football.

The plan is cut short.

I did get back to the apartment, where I cooked some frozen pizza in the irony of ironies. I could have stayed and enjoyed Ramsey's original pizza, but instead I went home and ate Tony's Pizza. Ug. (What could have been had I just stayed at my parent's?) I washed the fake pizza down with generic orange soda, swigging straight from the bottle. I plopped down for the night, dead center in the living room, ass-to-floor.

But it wasn't long after "dinner" when my sister, Kristi, called.

"Dad fell down the stairs at the house! The ambulance is coming...you've got to get there...I'm heading over now...it's bad!"

Sometimes I can hear my voice getting louder when I talk -- yelling to someone in another room, for example -- and it reminds me of how I sounded when I called my girlfriend that evening, October 2, 2004. I don't remember hanging up with my sister or even dialing my girlfriend, but I know I did those things as I ran upstairs searching for sandals, shoes, ANYTHING to put on my feet and get out of the damn apartment and to my dad. I found sandals and, as quickly as I could, explained the situation to my girlfriend, voice-volume control limited.

"My dad fell down at the house! Kris says it's bad! I GOTTA GO!"

I wasn't yelling because I wanted to get off the phone with her, I was yelling because it hit me: I was scared as hell.

God, those phone calls.

From there, I threw the phone and ran out of the apartment, almost knocking over the soda bottle sitting on the apartment living room floor.

My dad died.

For the longest time I felt like I had that sentence tattooed on my forehead. Everywhere you go in a small town, people know EVERYTHING. It was almost like a never-ending mobile A-A meeting. "Hi, I'm Matt McClusky and yes, my dad died. I'll have a cheeseburger, medium rare, with a coke, please."

Now it's ten years later?

Ten years can be a lifetime, especially when I tell my four-year-old stories of his grandpa, my hero.

Ten years can be a blink of an eye, especially when my four-year-old does something so funny I want to stop and call his grandpa, my hero.

And because of that, occasionally, as I've written here before, I'll flip open the laptop and post about my dad. Sometimes this day a decade ago, or my dad's memory in general, won't be the first thing I start to write about, sometimes it's the only thing I can write about. Trust me, though, it's never done out of pity, I never wanted that and I certainly don't need it now. I'm lucky to have a wonderful family -- a rock of a wife, the same girl who dropped everything to meet me at the hospital that night. I'm also fortunate to have this area, to just pour some thoughts out of my brain and into a column. And really, today of all days just had to be something about William J. McClusky.

And while that day still plays on loop for me every so often, it's especially so today. That perfect fall day, when Syracuse beat Rutgers and college football was in its full glory, like it usually is in early October. That day, man...that day.

Amazing how a series of moments in what would have been just another enjoyable but forgettable Saturday in the fall can completely change you.

October 2, 2004.

Although, technically, my dad, that brilliant attorney, loving husband and wise father to eight, passed away the next day at the hospital, ten years ago tomorrow. I guess that's officially the day it went from watching football with dad to thinking about a funeral for dad. But I'll be damned if I can remember the specifics of October 3, 2004.