I haven’t known what to say.
I talk to some people about it. I don’t talk to others about it.
I don’t cry.
I’m probably not acknowledging that Sunday will come and hit me over the head. I’m hoping for a speedy arrival of Monday.
I know that some are made uncomfortable by others’ grief, and that’s the main reason why I haven’t come here and said anything. But another truth is that I’M uncomfortable with my own grief. It doesn’t fit right. I’m not sure what to do with it. Do I wear it? Carry it in a bag with me? Put it in a drawer to take out and look at every now and then? Or swallow it, and feel it sit in my stomach, cold and hard.
There have been other things I’ve wanted to say here, things that have nothing to do with illness and death and fathers and shitty mornings and waking up at 3 am wondering why I can’t go back to sleep and then Oh, right. That. Happy things. Pretty, shiny things.
Before I can share those things with you, though, I wanted to share something else. I need to post this. To release it. Then I can tell you about the pretties.
When my dad was sick, he told my mom what he wanted for his memorial service. Specifically, the hymns he wanted. He also said no eulogies were to be given. She stopped him and asked him — what if I, his only child, wanted to say something. Fine, he relented. But only her.
I both did and didn’t want to give the eulogy. I wanted to because he allowed it. Because I could tell people what I thought of him and how much I loved him. I didn’t because… well. It was his funeral. I honestly didn’t know if I could physically do it. If I could stand. If I could speak. But I did. Here it is.
I’m not sure where to start this. How to tell you about my dad. Which, honestly, I probably don’t have to do. Each and every one of you knew him. We’ve been struck the past two weeks by learning just how many lives he touched, and how deeply people cared for him. From his very best friends here at church to the receptionist at the condo management office. We knew he was gentle and generous, loving and kind, funny and accepting. What has amazed us is that EVERYONE saw that in him. That’s who he was, inside and out, no matter who you were.
From a very young age I knew my dad was different. That he saw in people something others didn’t. When I was a child, he was a juvenile probation officer, and I called his probationers his babies, because he treated them as he treated his own child, with love and respect and honesty. My mom and I would joke that my dad had no boundaries when it came to getting to know someone. The best example I have of this is from a family vacation when I was 12. We had gone out to dinner and the waiter connected with my dad so much that when his shift was over, he came and sat down with us for the remainder of our meal, just so he could continue talking to my my dad. Over and over, my friends would tell me how much they loved my dad, how instantly at ease they felt with him, how it felt like they had known him forever. He made everyone feel this way. The last time I saw him, he was in the ICU and he had a smile and a joke for every person who came into his room. And when my mom and I would come in each morning, he had the biggest smile for us. Unless he didn’t like his breakfast.
He was stronger than anyone of us could ever hope to be. When he first got sick he wasn’t supposed to live a year. He fought and he survived each battle and he lived eleven more amazing years. Each year left us feeling like we had received a gift. We wanted to be normal about it, not make a big deal about each birthday, but it was hard not to. He’d done it again.
I wish I had to time to tell you everything about him, but I’ll have to settle for some of my favorites. Sitting at the dining room table with him in the morning when I was 5, he with his coffee and me with my milk, singing Gilbert and Sullivan. Having him join me Saturday mornings to watch Looney Tunes cartoons. Having him do the same with his granddaughter. Our date when I was in high school to see the latest Star Trek movie. Making fun of my mom’s choice of music, teasing her about bubblegum pop, and then his introducing me to the extended length version of In a Gadda de Vida. Asking him to please pick the music for my wedding and knowing he would be there to hear it. That his cell phone ring tone was the Harry Potter theme. He was the most brilliant person I have ever known, and as a kid I loved just flipping open a dictionary and asking him to define the weirdest, longest words I could find. And he did. Every time. His absolute love of science fiction, and his joy when I would recommend a book to him. Watching him read to my daughter, her in his lap as I had been so many years before.
It is because of him that I have the sense of humor I have, that I read the way I do, that I listen to the music I do, and that I love the way I do. He taught me that, just as he taught each person he met to love and be loved by him.