My dad passed away last week, after a long illness. Below is what I wrote for his memorial service, which was on Wednesday:
It’s hard to know where to begin when writing about my dad – it feels as though anything I write won’t do justice to him. So here are some memories of him that, to me, embody what a great dad and awesome guy he was.
Dad loved to grow lettuce. He also loved to grow crookneck squash, sugar snap peas, and Kentucky wonder beans (and he’d always let the beans grow really big, so that the seeds were kind of mealy, which was just the way he liked them best). But he was most proud of his lettuce, and rightfully so. He’d come in to the kitchen with a big proud grin on his face, a dripping head of fresh lettuce in hand, wet from being hosed off outside. Unfortunately, Dad wasn’t so great at hosing off the lettuce, and it was usually still pretty dirty and gritty, and Mom would kind of roll her eyes in the face of the filthy lettuce and his happy smile and send him back out to wash it better.
One of my favorite memories of Dad, which I think really shows what a great dad he was, is a day when he and I were out in his garden in the far back yard. I loved to tag along and watch him while he gardened, and I was probably only about 7 or 8 years old in this memory. Somehow, this day we managed to stir up an in-ground nest of yellow jackets, and the yellow jackets came swarming out en masse. Dad very calmly told me to run to the house as fast as I could, and I did, thinking that he would be running right behind me. But when I got to the house I saw that Dad had stayed out back with the yellow jackets, taking a ton of nasty stings so that I could get back to the house unscathed.
After Jim and I got married, I would have weekly pancake lunches with Dad. I’d make the pancakes, and we’d sit and talk for a couple of hours about everything under the sun: politics, religion, good books, classes he was taking, and, of course, technology (I always told Dad that he was a techno-junkie, since he was always reading up on and often buying some great new technology item). I really, really miss those pancake lunches with Dad, and it’s going to be hard for me to make pancakes without feeling kinda sad. I was so happy that the staff at Robbins Brook made him pancakes on a regular basis.
Dad was an absolute inspiration to me in how he always pursued learning – he was always taking classes and developing new interests and reading deeply about those interests. His intellectual curiosity was contagious. He was also amazing in his dedication to physical fitness, doggedly working out on his exercise bike twice a day and taking walks through his 90th birthday. Only his heart bypass surgery slowed him down, and even then he got back into his walks around Westvale Meadow as soon as he was able. His last real walk was with me on November 11, 2014, when we walked down the dike at Great Meadows. Though his body was starting to fail him, and though his mind was starting to be a bit foggy, he was determined to walk as far as possible down the dike. We only got half-way, but it was a beautiful day and one of my last best memories of Dad. I’m thankful that Jim, with great prescience, instructed me to take lots of photos that day.
My memories of Dad over the last several months aren’t quite so happy; his last months were tough for me to watch and experience. But up until the end he sustained a deep passion for life, an intense will to live. And, perhaps even more importantly, Dad was an incredibly genial, sweet, appreciative, and wonderful guy up until the end of his life. I was so touched to see how many members of the Robbins Brook staff came to see him in his last few days, tenderly brushing his hair from his forehead and telling him how much they cared about him.
I will always miss my dad: his wisdom, his caring, his passion for learning, his sense of humor. But as I sat on a rock by the Brant Point Lighthouse Monday morning watching the Nantucket ferry arrive with Dad on board, I felt very sad but also comforted. Dad’s last ferry ride was to a place that he loved, and I know that Dad is at peace now, after having lived a long and very good life.
Much love, Dad.