Having a very reflective, Throwback (if you will), Thursday evening. A song came on that sent me to the depths of my love for my father and grief over losing him. It prompted me to search for the eulogy I wrote and delivered for him. It’s hard for me to remember what I actually said. When I do really important public speaking, I tend to sort of go into autopilot/blackout mode. I just know that it happened and it was over. But, this is what I wrote down, printed out, and for the most part read from. There are so many private stories behind what I said at his funeral that make me smile, laugh, and cry. You can’t really capture the essence of a person in a speech. But, you can try. One of our dear loved ones, after after Dad’s services, asked if I could please give him a copy of the speech I wrote. He was very moved by what I said and wanted to keep it. That meant so much to me. So, I just felt like sharing today. Take it as you will. This is my official Throwback Thursday of losing my dad almost 5 years ago. I miss him terribly still. I know I will for ages. So here it went…
On behalf of my family I would like to thank everyone for coming today to honor my father. Throughout the last several years, so many of you in so many ways have let us know how much you care for us and how much Dad meant to you as we dealt with his decline from Alzheimer’s disease. We appreciate all the love and support you have shown and you being here today as this particular journey comes to an end means a great deal.
For those who met him, there were three things you learned about him right off the bat. The first thing was that he seemed to be a pretty sweet guy, easy to like. The second was that he loved his wife more than anything on the face of the earth. And the kids were OK too. The third thing you learned was that he was always easy for a smile or a laugh. Those things were consistent from the day that you met him to the last time that you saw him.
He was the kind of man that didn’t hide who he was but instead wore his heart on his sleeve and hoped that you liked him for him. Like most people, he had his fair share of things he liked to complain about… traffic on the Schuylkill, the Eagles losing (again), and the deer eating his tomato plants in the garden behind our house. In general, though, he was a happy guy and his smile could melt even the coldest of hearts.
He was successful in his work and well respected by his colleagues, but his true passions were outside of the office. He had quite a few adventures in his life before taking on the roles of husband and father, the roles that most here knew him for. His twenties were spent living the bachelor life in Philadelphia, going to Oktoberfest in Munich, and having a chance meeting with Jack Ruby just weeks before he shot Lee Harvey Oswald in the wake of JFK’s assassination.
Then, he met her. In his own words: “Love started almost immediately – we were together constantly. It didn’t take me all that long to pop the question. Anne said yes, but she was a bit gun shy about telling her father and mother what we were planning. But, Anne’s father and I bonded over a Manhattan every time I picked her up to go out.”
His wife, my beautiful mother, consumed his world. His love for her could move mountains and he made it known every day. He was a true example of a devoted husband.
His favorite moments were spent with Mom and us kids. Summers at the shore, family vacations to Disney or the Caribbean, little league coaching gigs, and Sunday night family dinners.
One of his greatest passions, though, was finding ways to make himself and others laugh. He absolutely loved to laugh. He was raised that way, his parents were the life of the party and so he continued the legacy through his own life. The slapstick antics of Three Stooges kept him rolling. Jerry Lewis’s movie “Cracking Up” was a favorite. He and Mom listened to George Carlin’s stand up over and over.
He was good at using comedy to explain life. One of our favorite Dad-isms was his explanation of what happens during adolescence. Did you know that when a child reaches about 13, his or her brain actually dislodges from the cranium? It’s true. In early teenage hood, it travels down the spine until it comes to rest at that fleshy part right near the tailbone. It stays there for a few years, causing teenagers to exhibit some fairly odd behavior. As the person nears the end of their teens, the brain travels its way back up the spinal column and reattaches itself inside the cranium somewhere in the very early twenties. Dad explained this to us time and time again. It was usually explained at the particular time in our lives when we were sitting on our brain, so we didn’t get it until much much later.
His love for sports was legendary. A baseball player at a young age and an armchair quarterback for the Eagles in his adulthood.
He was, in every sense, a good man. I wrote him a letter for Father’s Day in 2005 to express my gratitude for so many things. The things he taught me were the same as he taught my siblings, so I’ll paraphrase:
You showed us what it means to be independent and successful. You showed us how a good education can really take you places. You showed us that family is more important than money, but we better come home with a paycheck. You taught us that weekends are for spending time with loved ones. We learned from you that “Date Night” is still essential even after 32 years of marriage. We’ve seen what a good grandfather you are and we wish you could spend time with our children yet to come. You taught us that mistakes are ok as long as they’re learned from. We’ve learned from you the importance of saving for a rainy day – and that rainy day usually means repairs on the house or car and not something fun like a vacation. We’ve learned from you that annual vacations are important for your sanity. All this and much more you’ve taught us.
Thank you for letting us help you in the garden, for coaching little league, for choosing your family first, for teaching us that we have a champagne taste on a beer budget (and we still do!), for the long talks at the kitchen table, for always being there to give advice or lend a hand, for being such a wonderful dad, for taking good care of all of us, for loving us the way that you do, thank you for just being you.
We love you, Daddy. Rest now. We’ll take it from here.