I dug up the speech I wrote for my dad’s memorial service. That day – many years ago – I read it from scribbled notes. Today, I decided to type the speech as something I could share with my dad in an email, perhaps. I wonder (even now) what he would think about how I portrayed him and our life growing up – to the hundreds of people in the church. I’ll have to see what “he” says about it.
My father often asked me what I thought about different things…..there were various topics he would ask me my opinion about and my answer was always the same: I don’t know, Da,” to which he would answer, “I didn’t ask you if you knew, I asked you what you thought.” So now, with many difficult questions ahead of me, I still don’t know the answers, but I do have some thoughts about them.
My father lived his life unlike any human being I’ve ever encountered. He had a unique way of doing things and his thoughts were always just a little “different” from everyone else’s.
It didn’t take a lot to make him happy in life. My parents were inseparable. They truly enjoyed just being together – whether they were grocery shopping, reading the bible at night, or having their morning coffee at the table together – you could always tell how happy the two of them were. In fact, I would often criticize them for not “going out” enough. But they got it…they knew what was important. They are so lucky to have found each other at such a young age. – or to have found each other at all for that matter – some people search a lifetime and never find what the two of them got to share for over 35 years.
Though we never had a lot of money, my brothers and I always had everything we could ever want or need when we were growing up. He somehow managed to put us all through Catholic school while still buying us the latest clothes or toys…and he never complained once. It was what he enjoyed..the reason he worked. He recently told me that if all of his bills were paid for the month – even if he didn’t have a dollar in his pocket – he would be a happy man. But, if he did have a dollar in his pocket, he would be the first to give it away to someone in need.
Also while growing up, there were so many quirky little things that he would do. Like sometimes he would go on a kick where he wanted us to make sure the house wasn’t a mess for my mom so he would literally take anything of ours that was lying around the house and throw it outside…we’d come home from school to find our sneakers in the snow–then we’d be informed of the new “house policy.” Or, when my mom complained about too many dishes, he had this brilliant idea to get rid of all the extra dishes so that each of us only had one plate, bowl, cup, spoon and fork each…and we had to write our names on them with marker. We were each supposed to be responsible for our own dishes. Needless to say, that didn’t last very long. He’d also tape the phone bill to the wall and highlight who owed what amount that month.
He loved playing board games with his family, especially monopoly…and he usually won…ad when he did, he would subject us to listening to a song by Bobby Bare called “The Winner,” while he danced and sang in front of us.
My dad ran his household sort of like a business. Well, ok we all know that my mom really runs the house, but we would humor my dad when he felt like enstating some new crazy rules. Every so often he’s declare it to be “New Sneaker Day.” Since sneakers were so important to us growing up, he would randomly select a day and inform the “troops” that each of us could spend up to $50 on a new pair of sneakers, but that we were responsible for paying half of the total price. So, we had to add $50 of our own money if we wanted a $100 pair of sneakers. Opting for a $40 pair meant that we had to chalk up $20. We could only shop at Steckman’s (an old army-navy supply house) in Stapleton and if we didn’t find a pair we liked that day the offer would become null-n-void.
Going to my father for help with a school project was a particularly interesting experience. It usually turned out to be more than I bargained for. Explaining the requirements of the assignment was a painstakingly long and tedious process. He had to get a complete picture of what was expected and would ask more questions than I could answer. This alone would often take up to 45 minutes. Once he had a good grasp of the task at hand, he would come up with some off-the-wall idea that he thought was brilliant and I would then be forced to execute as my science or social studies project. Once in 4th grade he made me write a report about horse racing – something I clearly had no interest in –
My father enjoyed the ferry ride to work each day–he would say it’s the only thing you’re gonna get for free in this city. All through college, I would ride with him in the mornings and it was then that I felt like we really had a chance to connect. I truly enjoyed my father’s company and felt like we shared a special bond. He would park about a mile away to avoid paying for parking and we would sit in our “secret reserved spot.” The ferry was very crowded during rush hour so he’d lead me to where the lifejackets were stored making sounds like “beep beep” through his teeth and saying “coming through…coming through…reserved seats…beep…beep…” just loud enough so that I and a few people nearby could hear. I would laugh through my embarrassment. He’s slide open the big metal door and we’d sit on the ledge together…he, drinking his coffee from his thermos, eating the bagel mom made. We’d talk about whatever book he may have been reading at the time. I am so grateful for those moments together. He would sometimes give me advice on life and one time he said to me “Laura, don’t expect too much out of life.” At the time, I thought he was being incredibly pessimistic. But now, I think I know what he meant. I think he meant that if you don’t expect too much then you won’t be disappointed in life – not that we shouldn’t set our goals high, but to be prepared for disappointments when they come.
I have never met anyone who had a love for animals as much as my father. My dog, Sissy, was his best friend. He once carried a hurt baby bird in a shoe box home from the city. One of the hardest things he ever had to do was to “put the bird out of its misery” in the backyard. That was the only time i ever saw my father cry.
For as long as I can remember, my father has always had some sort of office area with a huge desk- this is where we always knew we could find him. I he was home, nine times out of ten he would be at his desk. My brothers and I never really thought too much about it..once in a while we’d comment on how much time he spent there and how much work he was doing, but we never dwelled on it. Well, we recently found out what he was doing. He really was the most unique, intelligent and, yes, quirky person I can imagine. We discovered records dating back to the ‘80’s…logs of the amount of time spent doing everything from walking to work to the amount of time spent logging in his book! Every penny and dime had been accounted for. Truly amazing!
Though my father had prostate cancer, it wasn’t until two weeks before this all happened that he opened up to me about what it was like to go through it and how glad he was the God was with him. He told me that God “lifted him out of his body momentarily” that first time he received radiation and the=at he was no longer afraid after that. The next time he went he expected it to happen again, but it didn’t. Then, he realized if he didn’t believe it had happened the first time, then he wouldn’t believe it if it happened a hundred more times.
If someone had asked my father father for his identification, he would tug on the cross around his neck and say “Here’s my identification.”. He once got out of jury duty by saying “let he who is without sn be the first to cast a stone.” I think he meant that he – like all of us – belong to God. And now, I guess he’s at home.