John Curley’s letter to his dying father
On Wednesday, Sept. 13, John Curley told his radio co-host Tom Tangney that his father and friend of the show was in a hospital and expected to pass away soon. It reminded them of a birthday letter Curley wrote to his father over the summer.
Before I pick up the shovel, I pick up the pen and write you this letter entitled: “Things you taught me.”
I learned from you “That life is good and so are most people.”
Whenever I would comment that someone seemed nice you would say “Hey John, you will find most people are nice. There are a few jerks out there, but basically the world is filled with good people.”
Traditions play an important role in life
The yearly trips to beach were full of your traditions. From spotting sand on the side of the highway, to “shooting,” as you like to say, into Cooper Kettle Fudge for two boxes — one vanilla, one chocolate. And of course, a weekly trip to Dots for jelly and cream donuts.
One of my favorite beach traditions you did was turn off the waves. You would come into our rooms at night and tell us that by throwing the light switch you were turning off the waves. You did this so we didn’t fret about missing any good ones while we slept.
When I was really young, I use to rush downstairs in the morning to say goodbye. I often missed you. But the scent of Brooks Brothers Bay Rum lingered in the air. You were off to work. You would come home tired with the top button of a white shirt undone and your tie pulled slightly to one side. I told you about my day and you would smile and laugh and pick me up.
There were yellow legal pads with numbers scrawled all over them around the house. You were always thinking, planning, always working. You taught me that work had rewards. Not just the obvious, being money. But sometimes a Reese’s peanut butter cup was the greatest payday after a half a day of raking leaves on chilly autumn afternoon.
You taught me how to make others laugh
One of the greatest sounds I know is the sound of your laughter, dad. My kids talk about grandpa’s laugh, a lot. When I was young, to get you to laugh was a rare and special prize. Your sense of humor is sharp and quick and smart.
You were never an easy laugh, but a great laugh.
Here are two of your favorite punchlines:
“I guess some people just don’t know how to tell a good joke.”
“You’ve done nothing but complain since you’ve been here.”
You said once, “Worry is not a verb.” It was your way of teaching that nothing comes of it. It doesn’t fix things or make progress. It is just a state of mind with no real action forward.
Talk to everyone
We could not go out without you engaging in some conversation with a stranger. The woman behind the checkout stand at the market. Or the guy who would pump our gas, back when they use to do that. And it wasn’t just that you talked with them. You treated them all with respect no matter how simple their job was. You recognized them as people. No better, no worse than you. Treat strangers with respect.
How to pray
I would watch you after you received communion at Sunday mass. You would kneel and put both your hands over your face. I would look at you in amazement. Here you were, the biggest, strongest, smartest person in the world to me, humbled by something more powerful than yourself.
I could go on and on. I’ll just leave it at this. The lessons you taught, I have taught my kids and together we made the world a slightly better place than we found it.
Listen to Tom Tangney read John’s letter to his father (Aug. 1, 2017).