Wednesday, January 25, 2012

I'm just...sad.

I know some of you think it's weird that I'm sad over the loss of Joe Paterno. I don't care, you don't have to get it. You can think he is a bad person, you can think anything you want. But I'm sad. Actually, I'm heartbroken.

I've seen my husband cry 3 times in seven years. When his grandfather died, our wedding day (which he vehemently denies!) and when he moved to Ohio. Three times. That's it. And our wedding was more of just...moist eyes. The times I've seen him truly SAD, other than those times above, are maybe five times total. A coupe personal things, when the Steelers lost the Super Bowl last year (not kidding) and this. This whole Penn State mess. It's strange to see Dave sad. But he is. Really sad.

And I'm sad too. Kind of like a grey cloud has settled on our shoulders and we're trying to shake it.

Source: via Angela on Pinterest

I thought I'd share a great story I read on Facebook today. (The guy who posted it wants it shared!)

I debated whether or not to share this, but as everyone has been sharing their "JoePa stories" lately, I thought it'd be appropriate to share mine.

Despite attending Penn State University Park for 4.5 years, I never had the opportunity to meet JoePa. I heard stories of friends that had - most memorably two friends who, while out riding their bikes, saw him driving home from practice on the eve of the 2005 Ohio State game. They decided to follow him all the way into his garage so that they could shake his hand and wish him luck. Instead of being weirded out (which would have been pretty understandable) he was very gracious and thanked them for the support.

The first weekend in this past December, I was visiting Penn State for a number of different reasons. While I was there, I wanted to show my support for Joe in light of his cancer diagnosis and how he had been mistreated by the University and the press (based on incomplete information and misinformation) in the last month. I decided to leave him a note expressing my support along with a blue & white bouquet of flowers. I felt awkward approaching the Paternos' home. I had heard stories of students and alumni that had walked right up, rung the doorbell, and been welcomed in by Joe and Sue - in some cases, even being fed by Sue - but having never met the Paternos, I didn't have the nerve. I left the note and bouquet on their doorstep and walked away. That was the afternoon of Sunday, Dec. 4.

On Wednesday, Dec. 7, I received a text from my Mom:

"Does Joe Pa live on McKee St? If so, you got a card from him."

I think my jaw must have dropped about five feet. I was absolutely stunned that Joe and Sue would take the time to send me a card. Later, when I read the card, I was even more humbled by what it contained. Joe and Sue thanked me for the flowers and the note, and said that Joe was drawing strength in his battle with cancer from all the support he had received from Penn Staters. They said that it was "good to be reminded of what we were trying to accomplish at Penn State." They said that after they finished "getting Joe healthy," they would work to remind people of the values that Joe had tried to impart during his time at Penn State. The card was signed, "Very fondly, Joe and Sue Paterno"

But here is the most amazing thing about all of this and what shocks me even to this day: I DIDN'T LEAVE ANY CONTACT INFORMATION WITH MY NOTE. I had signed the note with my name, and mentioned my graduation year, but had been very intentional about not leaving an address, email address, phone number, anything. This means that Sue (I have to think it was her, given Joe's health at the time), despite receiving hundreds of letters from alumni per day, took the time to look me up in the alumni directory (which still contained my parents' address at the time) and send me a card. The Paternos had never met me before; I'm not a huge donor to the school; I'm not someone important who can do anything for them; I'm just another alum. And they went way out of their way to send me a thank you card THE VERY NEXT DAY.

Recently, Penn Staters have been characterized as football-crazed idiots for supporting JoePa despite the allegations made against him in the press. I can tell you that Penn Staters' love for JoePa has almost nothing to do with football. Chris Grovich of Black Shoe Diaries may have put it best when he wrote, "[JoePa] believed in all of us [Penn Staters], whether we knew it or not." Penn Staters are the Paternos' life work and legacy. Joe never missed an opportunity to remind us that success is only valuable when it comes with honor, and that all of us - football players or not - were at college primarily to gain an education, broaden our horizons, and become better people. It is not an overstatement to say that a part of who I am today is directly because of Joe Paterno and his love for Penn State.

Simply put, Joe loved Penn State. That's the only kind of thing that could keep him at Penn State, where he was paid a salary 1/8 the size of other college coaches with half his wins and rejected multimillion dollar offers from NFL teams. That's the only kind of thing that could cause him to donate $100,000 to Penn State a month after the administration fired him over the phone. That's the only kind of thing that could make someone of Joe's stature take the time to send a thank you card to an anonymous alum despite dealing with immense personal trials himself. Joe loved Penn State.

And Penn State loves him back. Thank you, Coach. -Mark Willard

When all is said and done, I hope I can an impact on so many people the way Joe did. Could he have done more? Couldn't we all. 


Neely said...

Thinking about you friend

Tayler said...

I get it. I'm sad too, so sad. It's hard to understand unless you're part of it. The valley's been quiet this past week. We're mourning the loss of an exceptional man.

RAY J said...

I can understand where you're coming from a little bit - my parents are both Penn State Alum and remember JoePa as well... they're both very saddened by the way the media treated him, tainting his legacy the way they did and now to hear about his sudden passing... they were both pretty sad when the rumor broke Saturday night and then when he officially passed Sunday... it just sucks how everything went down for the guy and people without ties to Penn State don't seem to understand =(