To all those dads out there...
I know that I promised Deena (see her at Can I Be Pretty in Pink?) that I would be part of her Tour for a Cure and post gardening pictures today...but that was before I realized that it would be Fathers Day. Deena, you're such a sweetie and I want to do all I can to promote free mamograms and early detection of breast cancer...and pictures are coming tomorrow...but today, a tribute to a very special man in my life...my father!
My father passed away on August 4, 2004 after a ten year battle with Altzheimer's. My father didn't die quickly or leave without a good bye, but in pieces, and we said good bye many times to many parts of him. His passing left a huge hole in my heart, but I know that one day, we'll all be together again in heaven. For this, I am thankful.
I try to think of ways to pay tribute to a man who helped make me who I am, ways to introduce you to a very special person, but words fail me. Each time, all I have to offer are some precious photograps, the words I spoke at his memorial service and the words of a song that was written by strangers that is so true, they might have read my mind as they wrote it.
Bear with me...happy Father's day to all those special men out there...and come back tomorrow to see the flowers!
Tony, my father. May 11, 1925 - August 4, 2004
My dad and me on my wedding day!
Memorial service for my father, August 15, 2004:
A few weeks ago, I sat with my family and watched the democratic nation convention. I sat and wondered just why John Kerry’s daughters were standing there, telling dumb stories about their father. Oh, I knew that they were there to help him get the nomination, but why the dumb stories? I wondered how they got the courage to tell them to all those people.
Today, I think I have the answer. They wanted us to see their father, not as a war hero, not as a politician, but as a man, a father, a personal hero. That’s why I chose to speak today. No, my father wasn’t a politician, although he fought in the war, he wasn’t a huge hero, but he was man, a father, my hero, and I do have a hamster story. No, he didn’t give it CPR, but he did tear down part of the bathroom wall to rescue one.
Those of you who knew him, even slightly, knew that he was a man of few words. A quiet man. He had so much to say, he was so intelligent, I sometimes wondered if the fact that he had eight sisters had something to do with it.
Even without words, he was a teacher. He taught by example. The most memorable of those lessons came when he was trying to teach me how to parallel park. After ten minutes of trying to instruct me, he ordered me out of the car and directed me to sit on the side of the parking lot and watch him do it over and over. It must have worked, I can parallel park a school bus.
There were other things that we learned just by living with Daddy: Work hard. Act responsibly. Save a few pennies here and there. If you read the news paper first, put it back in order. Family is important. Almost anything can be fixed with enough duct tape, and most of all, help other people when you can.
This is the way most of us will remember him, helping people. I lost track of my cousin, Ed, twenty five years ago. Two years ago, I found an email address for him. I wrote and asked if he remembered me.
“Of course I remember you,” he replied. “Uncle Tony’s daughter.” He then went on to tell me how my father helped him get his first car running. I guess that’s how he remembered me, Uncle Tony who helped get his car on the road’s daughter. Humbling, but still a proud moment. Some of my most cherished memories are of the times I got to tag along while he helped family members.
There were things he did, over and over, that didn’t make sense when I was a teen and knew it all, but later in life, it sunk in...at least some of it. I now know why he checked the water and oil in my car each time I pulled in the driveway. I now understand why he used to drive past my house in Conway on his way home from Ambridge to Baden each night. I now see why he worked all those hours and always tried to put a few dollars away. I can even understand why he spent countless hours of his free time helping his family. I can only hope, in years to come, that we, my brother and I, and our children, can show that we studied under the master and have learned our lessons well.
Of course, like all fathers, he pulled a few fast ones on us. I’m proud to say that I did catch on...eventually. I now know the truth about Christmas and I know that the road doesn’t always go past one of his sister’s houses, no matter where you are going. I still don’t know how he always knew who had fresh cookies and hot coffee ready. Guess I never will.
My father loved his family, and we loved him.
My parents just celebrated their 55th wedding anniversary. By that time, my father didn’t understand the concept, or remember that my mother was his wife. Over the years, huge chunks of his past were lost, he didn’t understand the relationships he had with any of us. He told me that he didn’t remember me living in his house and when I reminded him that he was my father, he asked how old I was. When I told him, he demanded I tell him how old he was. He didn’t believe me.
Undaunted, he forged new relationships with us. He didn’t remember that we were related, but it didn’t matter. He learned to love and enjoy the pack of wacky people who claimed to be his family.
When his memory loss became so severe that he didn’t remember marrying my mother or her name, he gave her the most incredible gift of all...he renamed her Hon and fell in love with her all over again.
It delighted us to watch him reach for her hand and kiss it, to see them share jokes that no one else understood. The last time that he was admitted to the hospital, they sent him for a CAT scan. It made the nurses’ day when they left my mother in the hall and closed the door between them and my father kept calling, “Hon! Hon!” and blowing her kisses.
You know, we have been losing my father, in bits and pieces, for ten years. We’ve been saying good bye to parts of him all along, but the shock of losing him is still profound. He loved us, was loved by us, and will be missed.
When I decided to speak today, I wondered if I would be able to do it. A friend of mine assured me that God would give me the strength to do what I had to do. Although our heavenly father has given me the ability to stand here and speak, I’ll not be greedy, just thankful. I hope now you’ll see that my father was a hero too.
Thank you for coming to honor my father’s memory and for sharing our grief. By sharing it, you have lightened our burden...God bless you.
sung by Barbra Steisand,
M.Leonard & H.Martin
My Pa can light my room at night
By just his being near
And make a fear for dream all right
By grinning ear to ear
My Pa can do most anythingHe sets his mind to do
He'd even move a mountain
If he really wanted to
My Pa can sweeten up a day
That clouds and rain make gray
And tell me funny stories
That will chase the clouds away
My Pa's the only one on EarthI can tell my troubles to
His arms are house and home to me
His face's a pretty poem to me
My Pa's the finest friend I ever knew
I only wish that you
Could know him too...