My father AKA The Old Man died of cancer on February 4, 2015. I spoke at his funeral, but it was completely unscripted and straight from the heart. I could hardly keep it together. This is a long time coming (I’ve had it in my head for nearly three years ) but now I’m finally going to try to give him a proper eulogy:
Good Morning. And it truly is a “good morning”. Sure the weather sucks and we all wish we were together under better circumstances, but it truly is a good morning.
Dad is going home today. He now gets to rest in peace after fighting this horrible disease for the last two-and-a-half-months. He’s going home to see Grandma & Grandpa ****** and all his other family members and friends who went before him.
I have to say, right off the bat, that this Cancer thing is getting very personal to me: This disease tried to take my mother from me: now it has succeeded in taking my Dad. I want to get involved in this fight and I encourage any of you within the sound of my voice to do the same.
What more do I need to say about my Dad than to say that he was the most important male role model in my life? He taught me EVERYTHING I know about being a man: how to treat people, how to talk to them, how to take care of your family and committment to your children.
My dad did gave everything he was to my mom and us kids. He would have given me the proverbial shirt off of his back, and probably did more often than I realize. Let me give you a scenario: let’s say you called my dad to ask him to help move some furniture. He’d tell you he could be there in two hours, but he would show up in an hour and-a-half with a moving truck, two guys to help, refreshments, money to get everyone dinner and a full set of tools – just in case you needed them. He was THAT guy. And for his children? Even more so…
I remember back to 2012 as my then-wife and I had decided to separate and divorce. I was talking to my parents abour me coming home, of course. My plan was to simply pack a car full of as many of my belongings as I could and head up to Michigan. My dad was having none of that. He would not let me go through that alone.
I was moving out on a Saturday. He called me the Tuesday before. He said that he had office hours on Friday but he would hit the road as soon as he got out of the school. We talked a few hours later and that turned into him skipping out of office hours for the day, but he had to teach a Thursday class and he would head down after class. After another phone conversation, that turned into him gettimg a sub for Thursday and getting some sleep before hitting the road Thursday night.
I got a call on Thursday afternoon, I remember being shocked that it was Dad, thinking he was going to sleep before hitting the road after dark. He’s calling me from the road – wind in the background and all – to let me know that he was already in Cincinnatti and that my brother was with him. Typical Dad: coming to help earlier than he promised, with reinforcements and a mini van full of food and supplies. In one of the darkest moments of my life, there was my dad, making sure to catch me before I fell once again.
My then-wife came home from work that afternoon. She asked me what was going – in that ridiculously irrelevant small-talk way that people talk to each otherwhen a relationship has ended. I told her that I talked to Dad and that he was on his way down to help me get my stuff out of the house on Saturday.
She freaked out. “Your dad is coming HERE?” she asked. (Jabba will tell you that she respected my dad, but she was actually afraid of him. She’s never learned the difference between respect and fear, but I digress)
“Well, yeah” I replied.
“Because…that’s what families do for each other.” It seemed like such a stupid questions and that was the only response I could make.
Dad was always the voice of reason. Sometimes he would come across as something of a wet blanket, being so sensible all the time, but Dad was always in the calm eye at the center of every storm. No disrespect to my mom, but Dad was the glue that held everything together. Its not unlike The Old Man in “A Christmas Story” who ultimately gets the Red Ryder BB gun for Ralphie. He seems almost disconnected from the kids; only to swoop in and do something monumental. That was ny Dad.
Dad never had to tell us kids “no”. His version of no was more of a “I don’t think that’s a good idea”. I didn’t notice the until I was a teenager, and didn’t think about what it meant ’till I was older still. Eventually, I realized that I trusted and valued his opnion so much that he didn’t have to tell me “no”. His reservations about something I wanted to do were enough of a red light to keep me from doing it.
Going back even a few years earlier to my wedding day. I was in my parents’ basement getting ready for the big day…and wigging out. Dad was the one who came down and talked me off the proverbial ledge. He reminded me that Jabba and I had been already living together for years and that anything we do that day (i.e getting married) would not change our day-to-day lives one bit. When he said that, it seemed so obvious, but made so much sense that I said “ok” and went to the church.
Walking into his house, or more approrpiately his presence, was like walking into a hug. As his son, I knew he always had my back. With all due to respect to my uncle and his eulogy given by my cousin, whenevever I was talking to or with my Dad, I knew that things were not only going to be okay, but they already in fact were okay.
As a child, I feared my Dad. As young man, I respected him. Now as an adult and a father myself in the hour of his passing, I revere him. I’m not even sure if I even believe in God anymore, but I can assure you that when I look to the heavens at night and pray, I will be praying to him. “My father, who art in Heaven…”
I was a really damn lucky guy to grow up with a father like mine. If I am able to be HALF of the father to my kids that my dad was to me, then they’ll be be just fine.
I love you Dad. I want you to know what I’ve accomplished everything I set out to do on my “list” so far. I did it, and I never would have gotten through any of this without you. I will miss you forever and I look forward to seeing you again someday.