By Gary Kopycinski
Walked past Dave Mattio’s office today. Choked up a bit. Think I need to go into work after hours sometime, sit down in front of his office, and let it sink in. Let myself cry.
I was so afraid of him when I started working at Marian in 1990.
A former colleague eventually told me, “He’s a Teddy bear.”
Warmed up to him. Talked football, sports, Web design (promised him I would get “Marian Football” to the first page of Google results when I did the initial Web page redesign. I did.).
He liked the Steelers, or at least talking about the Steelers. Always referred back to conversations I had with my Dad when speaking with Dave about the Steelers.
Dad, after all, is the expert.
Genuinely came to enjoy conversations with Dave. Eventually could hold my own when discussing football, or at least the Steelers, with him.
When I found out he had pancreatic cancer, I went down to his office that same day.
Walked in. Just looked at him.
There was a momentary pause.
“It’s true,” he said.
Nothing more needed to be said.
Don’t remember what else we spoke about. Someone was in his office making crude jokes at the time.
“It’s a Heights thing,” he said to me, reading that I did not understand the conversation he was having with the other visitor.
When I left his office, I tapped my fingers on his desk and said, “Love you, Bud.”
Glad I said that.
The last time I saw him was over the summer. Visited Marian to work with perhaps his closest confidant in the school, Kevin Kelly. Worked with Kevin, and still do, on the MarianCHS.com Web site.
Dave came to Kevin’s office.
He had lost weight. Had what appeared to be a cut on the side of his face.
He was bald.
From the treatments.
Extended my hand to shake his.
As we shook hands, he pulled me close, gave me a hug.
I’m glad he did.
Heard him in the hallway after, walking back to his office. Sounded like he was leaning against the wall while walking.
Not following him. “Coach, can I walk with you?”
Today, he understands.
Today, he rests.
And, today, I missed him again.
The writer works at Marian Catholic High School.