HOUSTON -- Clint Barmes was holding his father's hand when he took his last breath. That much, he knows for sure. The rest of it -- the inconsolable grief of losing a father and knowing his father won't be able to see his grandkids grow -- is something Barmes is still trying to understand.
The hectic pace of a life spent mostly on the road, especially when there's a new baby in the house, hasn't allowed the Astros shortstop much time to reflect on losing his the man he called "Dad." Perhaps when the season is over, he'll allow it to soak in. Or maybe there will be time for reflection on Sunday, which will be Barmes' first Father's Day without him.
"As busy as it's been since he passed, it doesn't seem real," Barmes, 32, said. "It still doesn't."
Barry Barmes was a farmer, a role model and a father. He died of lung cancer on Oct. 13, 2010, at the age of 56 -- with his family at his side. The Barmes clan of Vincennes, Ind., always was a tight-knit group, the type of family that didn't need an occasion to gather. Nothing is stronger than a bloodline.
That's what will make this Father's Day so difficult for Barmes, who, for the first time in his life, won't be able to call home and see how Dad is doing. Barmes is miles away from where he grew up, but his thoughts on Father's Day will be back home in Indiana.
"It's going to be tough, obviously, the first Father's Day without him. But I wouldn't be where I'm at right now without him, either," Barmes said earlier this week. "I definitely miss him, and it's not going to be easy. I'm very thankful for all the time he spent with me growing up and all that he did to help me to be the man that I am today. I owe a lot of credit to him. It's a very special day for all the fathers out there."
Father's Day took on extra meaning for Barmes years ago. He and his wife, Summer, have a 3-year-old son, Wyatt James, and last October they welcomed their first daughter, Whitney Jane. The baby girl was born Oct. 6, and shares the same birthday as her grandfather, who died a week later.
Barmes -- traded to the Astros a month after his father's death, after breaking into the Major Leagues with the Rockies in 2003 -- is the kind of dad his father wanted him to be. Barry Barmes always made time to be with Clint and his brother, Trevor, whether it was shooting hoops or playing catch in the yard.
Barmes' father was a farmer when he was younger, but drove a truck for a while and eventually went into construction after the farm went belly up in the early 1980s. Barmes tagged along with his dad to work whenever he could, learning the value of hard work at an early age.
"Through the years, I remember I spent all my free time with him," Barmes said. "Growing up from 10 years old, up until I got into pro ball, I was on the job site with my dad and my uncles, and pretty much doing everything."
Growing up in rural Indiana, basketball was king. But Barmes' father loved baseball -- a love he passed down to his oldest son.
"It's one of those where there's a lot of kids, a lot of boys, especially, who look up to their dads -- and my dad was a big baseball fan," Barmes said. "He played baseball and basketball both growing up as a kid, and I played baseball and basketball. If he didn't love the game as much as he did, I probably wouldn't. All the time that he spent with me and my brother growing up -- without that, I know there's no way I'd be where I'm at right now."
Barmes is raising his son the same way, always willing to play catch -- no matter how bad things are going at work. Hitless days at the ballpark are easier to take when he walks through the door at home and sees the little faces of Wyatt and Whitney.
"I've learned a lot," Barmes said. "And now being a father myself, just the way he raised my brother and I growing up, it makes me want to be that type of father to my kids."
Barry Barmes was extremely proud of Clint, who was drafted by the Rockies out of Indiana State in 2000 and reached the Majors three years later. What father wouldn't be? Clint was making a run at National League Rookie of the Year in 2005 before he broke his collarbone in a freak accident, and it was at times like that he needed his dad more than ever.
"I know he was proud," Barmes said. "He showed it with the way he supported me through all the issues I went through at every level and in the big leagues. It's funny. You look in the last 10 years in the best picture we could find of my dad, one of the most recent ones before he got real bad, and he's wearing a Rockies shirt. He had tons of Rockies T-shirts and sweatshirts and everything. That's all he wore. You see my dad running around through town, that's all he wore to work. It's one of those things where he definitely supported me and was huge for me. It's going to be hard."
Barmes' mother, Erma, beat breast cancer five years ago, and still works back home as a respiratory therapist. It was at this time last year that Barmes' father got sick. He had been coughing for two months, and an overdue trip to the doctor revealed stage-4 lung cancer that had spread to his bones and his spine.
He had barely months to live.
Barmes was already struggling through a difficult season with the Rockies, and he ended up taking two leaves of absence during the season to return home and be with his father, who rapidly began to lose weight. Suddenly, time at home was more important than batting average.
"I talked to him nearly every day once I found out," Barmes said. "We never talked about anything but baseball. He never wanted to talk about his situation. My mom said he never one time said, 'Why me?' or was mad or was afraid. He was at peace, and I learned a lot from the way he handled that. He knew he was dying, and there was nothing you could do. How would I do it? I don't know how I would handle it."
The challenge Barmes is now facing, trying to make it through the first Father's Day without his dad, will be met with a heavy heart. Baseball, after all, is about fathers and sons and spending time together -- moments Barmes can cherish in his memory while passing lessons down to his son.
Wyatt, who will turn 4 in September, was following Clint around the clubhouse earlier this week, bat in hand and hanging on every word his dad said. Like father, like son.
"Going through that whole situation with my dad and seeing him, and seeing how at peace he was and saying things that needed to be said, I feel at peace with everything, as well," Barmes said. "I mean, I know how much he obviously loved us, me and my brother and my mom. That makes it a lot easier on us, as well. Because he was at peace."
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.