July 12, 2011 at 5:35 am my father passed from this world after a battle with cancer. His obituary is listed here, and today I will say my final goodbyes to a man that defies any description.
I was asked to deliver Dad’s eulogy today – and I have scheduled this post to publish around the very time that I will be speaking these words at his funeral service.
Rest in peace, Dad – I love you and miss you so much.
In the year 1959, the states of Hawaii and Alaska became part of the union of the United States of America, a country my father proudly served in the United States Air Force. In the summer of 1959, in a smaller state at the center of his beloved country, at the pool of the Lincoln Air Force Base in Lincoln, Nebraska – a young and very beautiful woman finally worked up the nerve to approach the Lifeguard stand where a young and very handsome man sat a top. With the sun shining bright behind his head, she looked up at him and said, “My, you are very bright.” … to which he replied, “Yep, that’s why my Dad calls me Son.”
With that, somewhat, awkward exchange between two nervous young people, a love of a lifetime was born. A love that has endured 52 years, 49 of which spent in a beautiful marriage.
My father’s love for his wife was a full, romantic and sentimental love, rich with devotion that is rare and a love I feel honored to have witnessed in my lifetime.
In those 49 years of marriage, they shared their love for one another, their love for their children and grandchildren, their love of their country and their love for travel and family history.
Through the years, my father became interested in many things. He was a self-described simple man with simple tastes and enjoyed simple things. He loved to play Golf, although he would admit he was not very good at it, he loved the quiet simplicity of the game. He liked to fish, camp, collect coins, garden and travel with his family, and later in life, with his wife, they had the lofty goal of travelling to every state in the union as they worked together to research their family history and learn about the paths of their ancestral roots and geneology.
They did not make it to every single state in this country, but they came very close.
With his children, he was loving, gentle and always filled with pride and joy with each accomplishment and milestone and made sure he was involved in our activities and interests. As kids, we could always count on seeing his, and Mom’s, face at our events and activities.
Whether at Jan’s softball and volleyball games, Scott’s baseball, football or other sporting events or my own musical and theatrical performances, he was always there, without fail, to support, encourage, applaud and cheer us on. Dad was our biggest fan.
During our failures and struggles, of which there were many, he was quick with a word of advice, encouragement and support. Dad always encouraged and taught me to pick my battles and was fond of saying things to me like … “Is this the hill you want to die on?” … or … “Don’t kill a fly with an AK47“. He tried to teach us the important things in life and tried to guide us away from the trivial. Mostly, he succeeded.
If there was one word to pick to describe my Dad during my lifetime it would be the word: Present. He was always there, always present with warmth, love, pride and joy.
I have never seen Dad more proud than when the years rewarded him with seven beautiful grandchildren: Nico, Eric, Daniel, Kylie, Derek, Ben and Melissa.
He approached grandfatherhood in the same way he approached fatherhood – only this time with the seasoned experience and wisdom that only time can bring.
He was very proud of his grandkids and very much enjoyed being involved in their lives and encouraging them with each of their interests and talents. Dad always made sure to involve himself as much as possible as he could with Nico’s Robotics, Eric’s academic progress and growth, Daniel’s baseball and football, Kylie’s track and softball, Derek’s baseball, Ben’s emerging computer talents and Melissa’s choral and orchestra performances.
He attended to each grandchild with the same warmth and love as he did to his own children’s lives.
Between his love for his wife, children and grandchildren, Dad had precious little time for else in his life – except for the work he did to provide for his family.
In working to help prepare for Dad’s services today, I have talked to many people – neighbors, caregivers and friends and it is clear that Dad was well-liked, respected and well-regarded in his life by both his family and peers.
I am proud of my Dad.
I am proud of the way he loved my mother.
I am proud of the house that he built.
I am proud of the way he loved and cared for his children.
I am proud of the way he loved his grandchildren.
I am proud of the way he served his country.
I am proud of the father and grandfather that he was.
I am proud of the man that he was.
I am proud of the way, by daily example, he taught me the lesson of unconditional love and the importance of family.
That is his legacy. He is, and will be, greatly missed by all.