Sunday, May 13, 2012

Remembering Dad on Mother's Day

Last night, while I was looking for pictures of my mother to post on Facebook for Mother’s Day, I ran across the eulogy that I wrote for my dad’s memorial service. This past week was his birthday—he would have been 92—and he’s been on my mind a lot. But he always is; I think of him every time I saw a piece of wood (he could fix or build almost anything) or climb a ladder (he once fell off one and broke his back). For most of my life, he seemed to know everything, until he began showing signs of Alzheimer’s seven or eight years before his death. In the end, he didn’t know me or anyone else, and he couldn’t remember any of the houses we’d lived in or the Cessna airplane he flew or any of the cars he'd owned, except maybe the last one, which we had to take away from him. I delivered this short eulogy on a sunny day in Los Gatos in front of family and friends, and I wanted to remember back past the Alzheimer’s, back to who he really was, or who I remembered him to be.

June 9, 2007

I want to thank Dad for being a good dad, not complicated or ambiguous or demanding. I thank him for being so solidly good—a good man. He was simple in some ways, without an agenda or ulterior motives; he was almost childlike in that way. He valued learning and wonder, and he didn’t seem to care what people thought. He went crazy over handwriting analysis, astrology, self-hypnosis, biorhythms, waterbeds—anything to make life better and more interesting. We kids thought he was kind of a kook; we were embarrassed of him, like most kids are embarrassed of their parents. It took time and maturity for us to understand what a treasure he was.

Dad wasn’t rich, and didn’t seem to care that he wasn’t. His wealth was in experience, in stories, in places he loved and things he’d built. He never talked much about religion, but my guess is that for him, the underpinnings of the universe were a tidy garage, a smooth landing in a small plane, and a sympathy for old radios. He hated television, distrusted politics, and didn’t quite understand art. But he could fix your water heater, and he’d drive out to some godforsaken highway in the middle of the night to replace your power steering hose after it caught on fire again. He’d do whatever it took to get you back to living, so you could get on with your art or politics or whatever it was you liked to do, all things being pretty much equal with him as long as the belts were tight and the lines were bled and the wiring was wrapped and safe, so he could go home, knowing he’d done it right.

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