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You Are Home Now

When you wake up in Ireland your relatives see you. They look at you. They come around you. They don’t say “Welcome to Ireland” but they do say “Welcome Home” to you. My dad went home this week. I miss him already, miss him like crazy. I miss his voice.

It’s so silly. I get the news in Hershey, PA, in the middle of the carnival atmosphere at Hershey Park from your sister and my Aunt Peg. I text you on the phone and said three words - I love you. How pointless, huh? You would like the irony.

This is from “Stealing Home”:

He has another, more obvious, power. He can go straight from the stop sign to the road at the far end of town, the quickest route home, put the station wagon in the garage, and remain. He guesses the girls are still awake. He’d probably end up answering Annie’s questions about the ball game; finding out what Suzie did today at the Andersons’; listening to Marilyn talk about the fabrics she’s been working on; waiting up to talk to Bobo. None of that would be unusual, yet in his power he knows that none of it would be quite usual either. He’s reminded of the way a certain hit or pitch can turn the course of a ball game, always a matter of inches and small angles. The championship game, played yesterday or tomorrow, might have ended differently. Even played today it might have. Suppose, he thinks, Moose had thrown just a few inches higher than the one Bobo sent back against his foot…But the speculation is pointless and could lead to others, as pointless. The game has ended; he has seen it through. Elsewhere nothing has ended.

The light has again turned green.

Seeing it, he raises his hands to the steering wheel and presses his foot softly against the accelerator.

Tonight, at least, there is only one place to be.

Your spirit survives. In all of your writing your characters wrestled with issues.

I wish I would have talked to you more dad, asked you more about so many things. But it’s all speculation now and that could lead to others. This game of life has ended; you have seen it through. My relationship with you just started, the dialogue continues.

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4 Responses

  1. Bill R. Leaver Says:

    I remember the first class I took with Professor O’Connor. It was formative, it not only structured my literary style and voice, but my life. The lessons learned translate from the classroom to the boardroom over and over again. Thank You!

  2. Zalman (Stewart) Lachman Says:

    O Phil. A poet, I never had a class with you. We just spent time once in a while, and the talks were always genuine and warming. My personally inscribed copy of Stealing Home is well worn. I never steal home, though I admit to stealing lines. Is that license or justice? The empty space in the dusty corner of my consciousness where you used to live. Goodbye, Phil.

    Zalman (Stewart) Lachman
    MFA Poetry ‘76

  3. Howard McCord Says:

    It is hard to imagine that Phil is dead. He seemed so solid and permanent. He picked me up at the Toledo Airport in June of 1971 when I came to be interviewed for the Director’s job. And for the next twenty-nine years I saw him several times a week when the university was in session.He could always be depended on to defend the Creative Writing Program from all attacks and slights, and his loyalty to his students was unmatched. We shared more than most people knew–failed first marriages and very happy second marriages, with wonderful children from both. Phil wrote wonderful and original books which rightly received great praise. He had a vision which encompassed the complexity of human relationships and the nuances of style required to
    express it. He was a master of prose.

    He was a dear friend to me, and to my wife Jennifer, and we will miss him greatly. Our condolences to his children and to his wife, Martha.

    Howard McCord

  4. Anne Panning Says:

    Phil was so important to me as a young writer. It was his phone call to me to let me know I was accepted into the MFA program as BGSU that made me want to go there. I still joke with my students sometimes about something he used to say about occasional stories that would come through workshop: “Send it to the New Yorker!” He had a good heart that way–passionate belief in his students. I am so sad to hear about his passing.