November 2, 1999 Tuesday
As Collinsville, Tom and I were having the Greek discussion of the last entry (“Why I Write This Thing 2”), a story broke on the TV that Walter Payton had died at noon. It’s one of those moments you can’t describe. Walter had been ill since at least last February when he was disclosed being diagnosed with a rare cancer of the liver. This did not make sense it any of us at the time; in youth he had been completely indestructible, bending and breaking back whole defenses with his wrought-iron determination to keep this legs of steel moving forever forward. I wrote about Walter Payton just this last semester in my night class, about the time I met the man called Sweetness at the 1985 Chicago Bears training camp with Dad in Platteville, Wisconsin. I recounted in the piece the way Dad had spoken of him, like he was a larger-than-life immortal.
He was. Today the Chicago Tribune was just full of football stories, amazing stats, and the records of a football legend, but also many memories of a truly kind man with an even mightier soul.
I haven’t talked to Dad about it yet. We probably won’t say much. I’ll comment on how good he was, and he’ll probably reply, “There’ll never be another. He was the greatest,” but not many more words will be used. That will probably be about the extent of the conversation, but it will be what is not said that we’ll be listening to.