In Memoriam of William Patrick Hurley, 1948-2022.
This still water runs deep.
I have a confession to make.
About two weeks after I got this job, I got the news that my stepfather, William Patrick Hurley found out he was dying of terminal pancreatic cancer. But let us not stand on formality, practically everyone knew him as Bill. He had been sick for quite a while and the writing was basically on the wall until the diagnosis was finally confirmed.
Point of order: don’t get sick in the Central Valley of California, as the vast majority of the hospitals there are terrible, in my opinion. It’s like Scrubs, but not funny. I really try not to bash the place where I grew up, but at times like these (and while trying to avoid the No Politics rule) - it’s hard.
Anyway, I told the writers’ room of TrueBlueLA, and I asked them to keep my pain to themselves. They all complied for which I am grateful. Moreover, I did not miss a deadline and I met my quota every single week, except the week that Trevor Bauer decided he missed being a YouTuber. I have always considered myself a professional, and that’s what professionals do - they keep working and do their job without complaint until they physically cannot. That mindset applies to both my day job as a transactional attorney and my gig writing here.
On March 30, 2022, at about 12:12 pm, Bill finally was released from the physical agony of his cancer. He passed peacefully in his sleep surrounded by family and friends. We should all be so lucky.
However, the cancer did not beat him. Cancer only wins when one’s spirit is broken. Bill had his good days and had his bad days in the end, but he fought cancer to a draw. And now he knows the answer to the eternal mystery.
In my ongoing quest to provide content and insight off the beaten path, I passionately recommend “The Leftovers,” an HBO modern classic about grief, loss, and not being spoon-fed the answers to unknowable questions. Just do not watch it at the start of a global pandemic after your better half has gone to bed. Then she will likely get up when you start silently weeping because you have been moved to tears by this gem of underrated television that virtually none of you watched.
I would not say that I was particularly close with my stepfather. He would admit that fact too. We had a respectful distance as we met well into my adulthood. However, that statement is not to say that we were distant or estranged by any means. Our respectful distance with each other worked because when I first met Bill Hurley, I was quite skeptical of his intentions towards my mother. But I was wrong. My mother could not have found a better partner.
I wanted my mother to be happy and she just divorced my father. To be fair, my parents’ marriage was generally quite an unhappy one in the end. Thankfully, both of my parents remarried and have found suitable partners. The point is not to harp on my biological family. At a certain point, regardless of how you are, it is up to you to fix who you are. There is a quote that I will borrow from the late Burt Reynolds, so I can make my point and move on.
Bill Hurley remarried my mother about fifteen years ago. I told him that if he hurt my mother he meet an unhappy end. He laughed and reminded me that he used to be a biker. I told him that I was a nerd that was not afraid to fight dirty. That conversation aside, there was a quiet understanding, a respectful distance that developed between Bill and me as we settled into the roles of stepfather and stepson.
Bill had himself quite a life. He also used to be a skydiving instructor, a ballroom dance instructor, an entrepreneur, an actor, an auto mechanic, a builder of motorcycles, a stuntman, a trainer of gymnasts, and a registered nurse. He said he walked that line between good and bad and spent plenty of time on both sides of that line. He said that he lived three lives in the span of one.
But as I said to most folks, he was just Bill. And now, he’s gone.
Oil and Water
To say that Bill and I had virtually nothing in common would be an understatement. He was most at home on his Harley Davidson motorcycle. As for me, you could not pay me enough money to get on a motorcycle. By his own account, he must have spent over 50 years riding various Harley Davidson motorcycles. He would attempt to tell me about some tinkering he was doing and I would listen respectfully but the conversation would go like this:
I know nothing about motorcycles. I want nothing to do with motorcycles. But motorcycles made him happy. To be fair, he would have a similar look when I was talking about my interest in Gunpla, or talking about the current season of the Dodgers, or whatever shenanigans I got up to. But we would sit quietly when I came to visit my mother and after exchanging pleasantries, as often there was no need to say anything else. In the end, I did find out we had a shared interest in anime, which floors me to this day.
Bill was willing to help me out in a pinch though, even though we were not related by blood. When I was in law school, I needed someone credible to play the medical expert in a mock trial I had. He worked twelve hours the night before as a radiology nurse and drove up four hours north with my mother on the morning of the trial, learning the material. Bill stole the show, skunked the other side, and actually earned some praise from my trial advocacy professors.
Bill loved acting, he loved helping my mother, my sister, and the rest of us with whatever we were doing when he was able to. From band to mock trial and all points in between, whenever anyone from my family needed him, he was there.
I write for a living. Yes, that writing is primarily confined to my day job, but now I get paid (a pittance) to write about my adventures being a Dodgers fan. At the end of the day, Bill and I were different people with completely different interests who shared the love and affection of a woman. Granted that love and affection from said woman took vastly different forms. But at the end of the day, he did care for me. He was proud of me. He liked me. He said as much when I found out that he had terminal pancreatic cancer and could go at any time. In the end, I liked him, too. My mother and he got along famously, as they made each other happy. As the eldest son, I could not want more than that.
And of course, for once, he actually needed my help after he got his diagnosis. So I had no qualms about dropping everything at both jobs and racing home to help him and my mother. I will always be grateful for my immediate supervisor, Stephanie Margossian, who respected my wishes and left me to address my family’s needs in a trying time. I will always be grateful to the collective writing staff at TBLA, who told me to stop writing and focus on family. Honestly, I focused on my writing here and my job until it was time to grieve.
So that first week of February 2022, I raced home and I took care of what needed taking care of. But I made a point to stop for a bottle of Bill’s favorite wine. Personally, I felt he had awful taste in wine. But you like what you like, and from my perspective, if you’re dying, you get what you want, no questions asked. (There are exceptions to this rule.) That bottle sat unopened until the end as he was too weak to have any. Needless to say, I got the job done.
Why is this essay here?
That’s a fair question. Bill would not describe himself as a Dodgers fan, and as far I know, he never went to any games. But that fact was not from my lack of trying. Late last year, before the final trip to St. Louis, et al, I realized at some point that I started traveling, in part, for attention rather than enjoyment, so I put a stop to that selfishness. But more importantly, I realized that the person I most wanted to travel with no longer wanted anything to do with me. My behavior was understandable; after all, if you spend three years making a life with someone who straight-up abandons you, you cannot help but not take that a little personally and react accordingly.
So I decided that I was going to share my travels with friends and family. And I did, for the most part. The only pair that had not committed to joining me on the road or up in San Francisco was Bill and Mom. Bill and Mom couldn’t make their schedules work last year, but then I had the million-IQ idea. What if they joined me in Milwaukee in 2022, as the trip would be on my mother’s birthday.
When I was in Milwaukee, during the first #SaveEli trip, I kept coming across stuff that I thought “gee, Mom and Bill would love this activity/location - it’s entirely wasted on me.” So I proposed the idea to the two of them and they said yes. And they were willing to travel for Dodgers baseball. Admittedly, Mom and Bill would have spent the majority of that proposed trip at the Harley Davidson Museum and the Potawatomi Hotel & Casino, down the road from not-Miller Park. But the draw of the trip was to spend time together. So before his health failed him, the original plan in 2022, was for Bill and Mom to meet me in Milwaukee after I enjoyed a couple of games in Kansas City. And we just ran out of time.
By the time you read this essay, I will be on the eve of my first trip of the year to Minneapolis. Odds are that I will miss Bill like hell. He told me before he lost consciousness in the end that he was proud of me and that he was grateful for my help. My sole regret is that I missed that last window where he was conscious. By the time I got there, he had settled into a sleep from which he would not awake until he finally passed on that Wednesday afternoon. But my sister was able to say goodbye to him and my mother was able to have one last night sleeping next to him. Yes, my mother and my sister will miss him more. The loss my mother and my sister now feel is incalculable and that grief breaks my heart. The loss my niece and nephew feel also breaks my heart.
When I was with Bill that week in early February, we had about an hour alone together where we talked and said what could have passed for our final words to each other. I told him that when he passed, I was going to say goodbye to him in an article for the site. This essay would serve as my personal eulogy for a man who did not want a funeral service. Moreover, I told him that I would do one last thing to honor him, which I will now share with you. He agreed to my plan and chuckled. He said the following in response, which I quote now:
As such, I plan to dedicate the Milwaukee page of the Guide to him. He was slightly confused by my plan, but he saw that my heart was in the right place and gave me my blessing. However, I did not think that he would pass this quickly. But he would want us (my family) to live. My mother and I may end up going to Milwaukee this season as the Dodgers play in Milwaukee on her birthday. It’d be a nice way to say goodbye, and I would enjoy the company on the trip.
So live we shall, regardless of whether we go on that trip, as I now share my personal burden with you. The hard part is over, and what remains is what we do next.
That statement pretty much sums the whole thing up, as his name was Bill Hurley. And this essay is my eulogy for him.