Tales from Timnath: Auto-Obituary


Phil Goldstein

The following is my obituary. Now before jumping to any conclusions, please know that I’m very much alive and hoping I’ll remain so for quite some time. But I thought I’d take a crack at this because of my wife’s observation.

While helping a family member write an obituary, she noted the emotional and cognitive difficulties in capturing the details of a loved one’s life at such a trying time. She then suggested since she lived with a gifted writer, that I draft my own, thus saving her the eventual trouble. After discretely having the dog taste my food for some time thereafter, I began seeing the value in her idea. Why should one leave such an important literary function to those who might not memorialize you as you would have preferred? Besides, while I’m surely not the first person who’s written their own obituary, I’m certainly the first who’s actually reading it in print. So here goes:

Philip H. (Phil) Goldstein passed away on (pending), surrounded by (also pending but presumably at least wife, Amy). The cause of his demise was purportedly terminal irritation at the little things in life that he could not control. 

Phil was born and raised in Morgantown, West Virginia. He had only straight-laced friends throughout his early years, but in his teens, he fell in with a more disreputable but fun-loving group who simultaneously introduced him to Stroh’s beer and ID altering. Phil earned three degrees at West Virginia University. He unabashedly acknowledged that having such a swell time outside the classroom for nine years while simultaneously avoiding a real career warranted this educational perseverance.

Phil’s parents taught him many valuable lessons, foremost among them, not to leave well enough alone; always be the bigger person; never take advantage or do something just because you can; and especially, do not go along to get along. They also taught him the value of a saved dollar, which Amy often bemoaned that they had taught him too well. 

Phil had very few indulgences in life, one of which was owning quality automobiles, no doubt prompted by driving his high school dates in a 1960 Studebaker. He also favored classic wind-up watches, presumably because he valued keeping at least one lost skill relevant. 

Phil idolized Amy and her famous pasta salad from afar for several years before nervously introducing himself. Later, his premium seats at her favorite sporting events became the lure leading to (enter number) years of blissful marriage. Amy promised Phil that if they adopted a dog, it would not sleep in the bed. While he complained when that vow went unfulfilled, he never really minded.

Phil unceasingly followed his parents’ lessons throughout his long career in intercollegiate athletics administration, most recently at Colorado State University, where he often found himself conflicted between propriety and tenure. Phil retired in 2007 with the emeritus title of Associate Athletics Director for Caught in the Middle. He took great pride in restoring fiscal integrity to four different athletic programs. According to one grateful university president, that was a result of treating the institution’s money like his own.

Phil found post-career satisfaction in civic service, in particular his years on Timnath’s Planning Commission, volunteer coordination of several community betterment endeavors, and the presidency of his homeowner’s association. The HOA disbanded after he passed away since no other member would assume such a thankless job.

Phil took up the drums regrettably late in life. Sadly, he never did master Iron Butterfly’s “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida”.

Growing up, Phil always envied his varsity athlete friends, since most sports competition initially eluded him. However, he found a competitive athletics niche in distance running after college, going on to respectable finishes at distances from 5K to the marathon. One of Phil’s more memorable outright victories bizarrely occurred only when the real race leader took a wrong turn a mile from the finish line. 

Later in life, one of Phil’s passions was coaching pickleball, although he eventually quit because too many of his students just preferred playing for fun.

But Phil was perhaps proudest of finally using his first college degree (in journalism) only 40-some years after earning it, writing for North Forty News and other prestigious area publications. He often spoke of his retributive satisfaction in having a forum for satirizing and lampooning. His opaque composition style, admittedly written for his own amusement, often baffled even his own publishing team. However, those who could grasp his lyrical nuances had many a laugh at his metaphorical subjects’ expense. Common themes in Phil’s columns included: why you should never raise your hand when the HOA needs board members; the sad illogic of all family members texting, not talking at dinner; the dreaded ‘now what’ after retirement; and why Meat Loaf belongs in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Reportedly with an ironic but satisfied expression on his face, Phil’s last words were, “I guess I’m finally going along to get along.”

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to Timnath’s Swetsville Zoo, which held a never-explained fascination for Phil in his later years.

Phil Goldstein writes Tales from Timnath periodically for North Forty News. Phil is a 12-year Timnath resident who proudly serves the Town of Timnath as chair of the Timnath Planning Commission. Phil is finally using his journalism degree after getting sidetracked 49 years ago. The views expressed herein are Phil’s only. Contact him with comments on the column or suggestions for future columns at NFNTimnath@gmail.com.


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