This month marks the 4th anniversary of my father’s death.
While he was alive, like most people we love, I took his life for granted. It was dad. I just assumed he would be around so long not only would we be able to take advantage of handicapped parking but grab ourselves some senior priced breakfasts at our local diner.
That obviously wasn’t the case. He died much too young, taking with him a vigor for life few have and whose name I have tried to honor.
Every day since his death, he has been in my thoughts and memories.
What comes next is my eulogy given four years ago at his funeral. I can still remember writing it at the dining room table on Endlich Avenue. I wrote it the night before and had Alicia listen to it through my tears. With it, I tried to gather up all I felt and put it down for the rest of his friends and our family to hear so they would have some idea what my father meant to me.
Dad loved to get his hands dirty. Armed with a pack of Salems and a roll of silver duct tape, there was not much he wasn’t willing to attempt at least once. Duct tape was his tool of choice. At an early age I was schooled on the various uses of duct tape. Taught of the universal adherence to any substance on earth (Dad knew because he had tried most them). That was my dad.
He could have been fishing at Antietam Lake with Christa or meddling with our house fuse box (even when it wasn’t broken). He rescued bunny rabbits in our backyard and made basketball rims by cutting the bottoms off of my mom’s washbaskets. He was always smiling and he was always making us laugh. He was always watching out for us, teaching us, and always loving us.
I remember watching him clear a set of overgrown arborvitaes from a standstill to get to me when I had fallen and ripped up my leg. When he got to me and picked me up my tears dried up and the pain vanished. He picked stones out of my leg after a nasty bike accident. He layed next to me when I was sick.
I think about what he did for me and what he meant to me and I only hope I have the same impact on my children as he had on me.
Maybe I should have told him more often? Showed my love more? In the end, it didn’t matter. In the end I knew by his actions and the look in his eye, he adored Christa and me no matter what we did or didn’t say to him.
As the years went on, dad came face to face with a battle over alcohol. Thirty years had taken its toll on him and on us. With us by his side and a world famous stubbornness, he fought and he won the battle. I like to believe after all of his giving and sacrificing for us, we, in some small way, were able to give back to him the strength to help him through the fight. He had stayed sober until his death, 9 years.
Three years ago he again was up against another battle. Lung cancer, among a long list of ailments, threatened to take him from us. In some ways, Dad would have been content with letting the cancer run its deadly course. Yet the love, for us and our love of him pushed Dad to fight again. He fought for 3 years. Every time he beat what was in front of him, something else came up.
“Dad is in the hospital” was unfortunately a common conversation piece on the phone.
After 3 years, and all of his fighting, Dad was done fighting. He was tired. He had given for so long; it was time for us to give to him again. Time to give him peace.
He wasn’t himself. He couldn’t do the things he had been used to doing and loved to do. His body failed him. He no longer was taking Sunday drives through Reading. We weren’t dissecting squirrels, playing tennis, digging ponds in the backyard for our newly caught catfish. He couldn’t do much of anything. Despite his physical deterioration, his wit, humor, and love remained.
He will never be forgotten. All he taught us. All the headaches he gave my mom. All the love he gave us. I’m going to miss his early morning drive byes in his Magnum with a McDonald’s coffee and cigarette in hand. I’m going to miss his questionable fashion sense. I am going to miss my Daddy.
When I remember him I will laugh. Smile. Think. And cry. I am going to miss my hero.
He wasn’t perfect (far from it at times) but he was a man with great passion for life and love. My hero didn’t wear a cape and cowl. My hero wore sweatpants and flannel. He was known to have a beer and smoke a cigarette. He was also the greatest father a boy could have ever hoped for.
Somewhere I know he is smiling.
I love you Dad. I will miss you.-