My dad, who I called “Pops,” told me about a dream he had about 30 years ago.

He operated a construction company. While I was working for him part time, he dreamed that something went wrong on a job site that cost him thousands of dollars. He was angry and vented his angst on me, though I had nothing to do with the error.

As he yelled and screamed at me — in the dream — I morphed from a 30-year-old man to a 30-month-old toddler. Pops felt so terrible yelling at his young son that he called me over to sit on his lap.

This was when the dream became a nightmare. If you know me, you recognize that sitting me on your knee can become a painful and weighty concern.

Pops said he woke up dripping in sweat and crying. This was not from dreaming me on his lap but recognizing he was so angry with me as a child when I hadn’t done anything wrong.

Over my adult life, Pops was there for me when I needed him. When I was young, he was not around at all. When I was 23, Pops got sober and went the next four decades without a drink. During my childhood and teen years, Pops bounced in and out of my life. He took my sister, brother and me to the park to feed stale bread to ducks, to a few public events, like air shows, and he took me around in his pickup most Wednesdays to deliver my weekly paper route.

Other than that, I learned to shoot pool, play tabletop shuffleboard, and bet on dice games at numerous bars and lounges that served food along with alcohol. The food license allowed kids to be in a bar.

Many people may think that I had a bad childhood and a poor relationship with my father. But when bars and being tossed aside for booze and bottles of beer are all you know as a kid, it becomes your life, and you seek out the positives rather than the negatives. And like I said, Pops stopped drinking when I was in my 20s, and the man who I missed when I was a kid was in my life for nearly 40 years.

Unfortunately, Pops starting developing Alzheimer’s disease in 2011. He died last week from complications associated with Alzheimer’s, and the time I spent with him exclusively was by video conferencing.

I was on one of those calls the day before Pops died. He was lucid and talking. I told him I loved him, and he said, “I love you, too, Duke.”

About 18 hours later, he was gone.

Pops was a good man. As society tells it, he was considered a deadbeat dad. But he was my Pops. Even though the times we spent together were sparse and fleeting when I was young, I would not have traded it for anything and don’t know today what I would have done if given more time back then.

I am reminded of the Harry Chapin song “Cat’s in the Cradle.” People would tell me that Pops would get his comeuppance for not being around and beg to see me when he grew old. The problem with that analogy is that I was satisfied with Pops when I was a kid and loved whatever time I could spend with him as an adult.

As for that dream, he did not need to be sad. He never yelled or spanked me. Whatever he gave me in that dream, I probably deserved for all the childhood problems I caused but was never punished.

I love you, Pops. May God forever bless you as you rest in the peace of His loving embrace.

Contact Duke Conover at and 252-676-6813.