It was just a typical assignment for me 15 years ago, interviewing a retired miner about a historic aspect of his union organizing days for a special section our newspaper was putting together.
But when the old gentleman answered my knock at his front door, it was apparent straight off this wasn't a typical event for him. The door swung open and my interview subject greeted me nattily attired in a gray suit with a dark blue tie.
The tiny home was immaculately clean and the smell of coffee scented the kitchen, which is what his front door opened to reveal. We sat at the table and I accepted the offer of coffee, even though I don't drink it too often.
An interview I expected would take perhaps 20 minutes wound up being a visit that lasted three hours. It became apparent to me this sweet older fellow was starving for conversation.
So after the interview was complete, we sat and chatted about all sorts of things, from the chill in the air to the prospects for the coming football season.
Finally, I had to gather my things and say goodbye because I had been away from the office much longer than I had planned.
With a wistful smile, the gent told me it was nice to have company. When I asked where his family was, he said his son lived in California, his wife and daughter had both passed away and he didn't want to "bug" his grandchildren who lived in the community because "I know how busy they are."
He walked me to the door, shook my hand, then pulled me into a gentle hug.
"It was nice talking with you," he said. He stood on the steps and waved to me as I drove away. He probably had no idea it was tough for me to drive with tears in my eyes.
Such a nice man, such a good interview, such a sweet visit. Such a lonely soul. My regret is I didn't get back to visit him again before he passed away just a few months later.
My hope is that his family DID visit with him, at least some, before he left this world.
With Father's Day coming up Sunday, my fear is there are scores of other sweet old gentlemen sitting at home, waiting for a card or a call or most especially a visit from someone they love.
Mother's Day is a huge enterprise. Restaurants advise us to make our reservations early and flower shops are swamped with orders. Hallmark makes a ton of money in anticipation of that day.
The hoopla isn't so blatant for Father's Day. Sure, you can get a good deal on some aftershave, a tie or a grill, but there isn't the same rush to be sure not to miss the occasion.
That's a pity. Of course, there are some rotten fathers out there. But the majority of dads are good ones. They are the ones who shoot of the video of baby's first steps, put the training wheels on that first bike and pace the floor when a teenager is late coming home from the school dance.
They are the dads who come to the rescue when the windows in that first apartment won't open, help purchase the right first automobile and walk down the aisle with the daughter who somehow is old enough to get married already.
Dad might not seek your attention this Father's Day, but I will bet he deserves it.
The image of the sweet old miner who spent too much time alone has haunted me all these years. This Father's Day, please take the time to remember the men who have made a difference in your life, be it dad, stepdad or grandfather.
You'll never be sorry you did.
Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.