Blog: Tell Your Story

Dad 1936-2012

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

This is not something you’re every ready for.

Two weeks ago today, my dad had a massive heart attack and died.

Three days later, I was at his funeral, standing in front of more than 100 people– friends and family– trying to sum up my dad’s life in a five minute speech.

This is what I said:

 

 

I GREW UP AN ONLY CHILD.

BUT WITH MY DAD AROUND, THAT TERM IS REALLY JUST A TECHNICALITY.

MOST OF YOU HERE HAVE EXPERIENCED HIS ‘JOIE DE VIVRE’ AND HIS SILLY SENSE OF HUMOR.

NOW IMAGINE ME AS A 13 YEAR OLD.  MY FRIENDS WOULD BEG TO COME OVER FOR DINNER…. NOT TO HANG OUT WITH ME… BUT TO GET A FRONT ROW SEAT TO WATCH MY DAD PERFORM.

YOU NEVER KNEW WHAT YOU WERE GOING TO GET.

ONE NIGHT, MY DAD PRETENDED HIS RIGHT LEG WAS ACTUALLY THE PET DOG MY MOM WOULD NEVER LET US HAVE.  THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE MEAL, HE COMMITTED TO THIS PIECE OF ABSURDIST PERFORMANCE ART, MAKING HIS LEG BARK, PETTING IT, FEEDING IT SCRAPS OF MEAT. THE MORE MY MOM BEGGED HIM TO STOP, THE MORE IT EGGED HIM ON. MY FRIEND, WHO WAS OVER THAT NIGHT, IS NOW A GOVERNMENT WORKER IN D-C AND SAYS IT’S STILL THE HARDEST HE’S EVER LAUGHED IN HIS LIFE.

MY BEST FRIEND SINCE COLLEGE LOVES TO TELL THIS STORY ABOUT MY DAD.

BEFORE OUR JUNIOR YEAR, HIS FATHER ARNOLD—WHO I’M SO GLAD IS HERE TODAY WITH HIS WIFE, ALTA—PULLED US ASIDE, PUT HIS ARMS AROUND US AND SAID, ‘BOYS, WORK! WORK! WORK!’

A COUPLE DAYS LATER, MY DAD PULLED US ASIDE, PUT HIS ARMS AROUND US AND SAID, ‘BOYS, FUCK! FUCK! FUCK!’

BUT IT WASN’T ALL FUN AND GAMES.

LIKE FATHERS AND SONS THROUGHOUT THE AGES, WE DIDN’T ALWAYS SEE EYE TO EYE AND THERE WERE TIMES I QUESTIONED WHAT LESSONS I WAS SUPPOSED TO DRAW FROM HIS LIFE.

TRAGICALLY, IN DEATH—THESE LIFE LESSONS NOW SEEM PAINFULLY OBVIOUS.

1)    ALWAYS BE YOUR OWN MAN.  FOR BETTER OR WORSE, MY FATHER WAS A TRUE INDIVIDUAL. HE WAS NOT AFRAID TO SWIM UPSTREAM.

2)    BE A GREAT HUSBAND.  MY DAD WAS COMPLETELY DEVOTED TO MY MOTHER.  5 OR 6 YEARS AGO, MY MOM CAME TO VISIT ME IN CALIFORNIA AND I COULDN’T BELIEVE THAT  EVERY TWO MINUTES HER PHONE WOULD RING & IT WAS MY DAD CHECKING IN ON HER.  NEARLY 47 YEARS OF MARRIAGE AND THEY STILL ACTED LIKE NEWLYWEDS.

3)    AND FINALLY—HE TAUGHT ME TO ALWAYS, ALWAYS KEEP IT LIGHT, HAVE FUN AND TO NEVER LOSE THAT CHILD’S PERSPECTIVE ON THE WORLD.

I DON’T KNOW IF MY DAD HAD SOME SORT OF PREMONITION OR IF IT’S JUST ONE OF THOSE COINCIDENCES.  BUT THE LAST TIME I SAW HIM, SIX WEEKS AGO OVER THE HOLIDAYS, HE DID SOMETHING HE’D NEVER DONE BEFORE.  HE WALKED ME OUT TO MY CAR—HELD ME TIGHT—AND JUST KEPT REPEATING, ‘I LOVE YOU, SON.’ OVER AND OVER AGAIN.         AND I BELIEVED AND I FELT FREE.

AS YOU’VE HEARD, MY DAD LOVES CHESS.

FOR YEARS, WE’VE BEEN PLAYING GAMES ONLINE… E-MAILING MOVES TO EACH OTHER BACK AND FORTH. USUALLY, HE WINS.

WE WERE IN THE MIDDLE OF A CLASSIC BATTLE WHEN HE DIED.

I WAS SURE I WAS GOING TO BEAT HIM THIS TIME.

AFTER MY MOM CALLED AND TOLD ME ABOUT HIS HEART ATTACK, I CHECKED MY E-MAIL… AND THERE IT WAS MY DAD’S FINAL MOVE… PLAYED JUST HALF AN HOUR BEFORE HIS DEATH.  FITTINGLY, HE HAD SEEN SOMETHING I MISSED AND HAD COMPLETELY TURNED THE TABLES ON ME—PUTTING ME IN CHECK.

NOT THE FIRST TIME I HAD UNDERESTIMATED HIS POSITION.

SO TODAY, AS WE GATHER TO REMEMBER HIM….SHED SOME TEARS.  BUT HE WOULD ALSO WANT YOU TO EAT SOME GOOD FOOD, LAUGH… AND LOVE—NOT JUST LIFE, BUT EACH OTHER.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

shannon February 28, 2012 at 2:21 am

<3
beautiful

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Arun Sharma February 29, 2012 at 3:27 am

Immortality — is how I used to view my parents. My Dad passed 2 years ago and I wasn’t ready for it. Are we ever ready to die? My Dad was a rare find and God blessed me with a father that gave a shit about a son. Your Dad, even though I never met him, reminds me of my Dad. I count my blessings and the sweet memories and will pass on his wisdom to my son. Props to your Dad…and mine!

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Andrea February 29, 2012 at 4:19 am

Pretty amazing words Rob. Your dad was a great guy….Like Father, Like Son.

Love you!

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