Everyone is sharing their feelings about their fathers, or fatherhood, today. It makes sense. It’s Father’s Day, at least where I am.
My dad has been gone for almost 8 years as of this writing. It’s weird. It feels like a lot longer. I live somewhere I never thought I’d be, working a job that’s far different from the one that I had, and recognizing the idiosyncrasies he instilled into his sons.
It’s thanks to him that I love Peanut Butter and Mayonnaise sandwiches. He’s the reason I cry during 1978’s Superman. He was an imperfect man, but he was a stunning intellect and fiercely loving.
No one – and I mean no one – would dare mess with his family. There was an intense security in his love. He was insanely loyal and fearlessly devoted to the idea of the right and true. You might get him to go along with something, but he’d make darn sure he let you know what he thought about it.
I’ve shied away in recent years from sharing personal family memories on this blog, and even scrubbed some of them, for two reasons. One is that I acquired a stalker, and was tired of the harassment. The other was an incident years ago where people on social media were going through this site in hopes of finding things to damage me and the people I love.
That’s why I don’t share those special stories anymore, though many of my friends and acquaintances enjoyed them. I enjoyed sharing them, too, but the metaphorical scars remain. Maybe someday in the future I’ll get back to that.
After all, it can’t all be about how I think Solo: A Star Wars Story didn’t get a fair shake from critics or fans. There will be plenty of time to lambaste people for that, but at some point I’ll have to mix it up.
My dad would have loved this movie. So should you.
However, in the spirit of the holiday and, given the fact that it was brought back out of the “hidden” category after I scrubbed some personal pictures, I present to you the eulogy I wrote for my dad.
None of us know how long we have in this life. Hopefully you’ve been loved by someone as deeply as my dad loved his family.
My father was a man of contradictions. Beautiful, masterful contradictions.
He was not overly expressive all the time, but he was a passionate man. He definitely passed that on to his sons.
He was a compassionate man capable of deep forgiveness and overwhelming generosity, but he was also a man who believed – deeply – in the importance of following the rules. He may have left the Marines but they remained in his very marrow.
He believed in discipline though often had a hard time being disciplined himself. How many times we told him to go to the doctor, just for a check up. “OK, OK,” he’d say. And that was the end of it, until next time we’d bug him. But trust me, if he wasn’t going to listen to our mom about that, he wasn’t going to listen to us.
He was lost without her in many ways, and though he rebuilt his life I know he never went a day without thinking of her. He once said to me after her death, “I went 19 years without her, and I’ll go 19 after.” He believed he had a time limit defined by these eras of his life – a trilogy of existence. His final act seems to have been cut short, but he did manage to continue a full life here in Florida.
There are shades of my father indelibly marked on my brother and me. Our childlike enthusiasm for the small things stems in no small part from his passion for model trains. My brother still loves comic books and my well-established love of all things Star Wars stems from him. They are our model trains.
Our love for the escapism of movies is unavoidably “Dad” to me. He thrilled to movies and enjoyed classic adventures. And every year he watched every version of A Christmas Carol he could find. Once he had them all, Christmas shopping for him became inordinately more difficult.
He was unafraid to be seen as child–like, sometimes to the shock of us and our mother. I could spend days recounting funny stories of him; we will spend our lives recounting them between ourselves. I hope we can all share those happy moments with each other in the coming years.
He seems to have given these memories to people even we didn’t know about. We know that they’re grateful for him, and we were loved by him in his own way. He tailored that love to each person. It was his way. But my brother and I had the unique experience of Dad without a filter; and we are the happier for it.
My father was not perfect and he understood that he wasn’t. There is nothing to gain from recounting whatever small shortcomings he had. But they were few and they are not worth remembering here.
He was humble to a fault. I like to believe that he knew his gifts but remembered that pride was a sin. He was grateful for what he had and what he had done. This man had worked from the baseline and went all the way to the executive level at Ma Bell…later C&P…later Verizon.
He instilled in our family through example the cardinal lesson that “book smarts” and “wisdom” are two uniquely different things. He was no man for an ivory tower, though he could have built them himself. He was intensely smart, and I’d throw my dad against any Ph.D. Any day of the week, he’d teach them something. And if there was something he didn’t know – he’d learn it. This is what consumed him and why my brother and I still obsessively buy books – he showed us without saying a word that we had to learn outside the confines of academia.
Heavenly Father, we commend your son Thomas Henry – Tommy, Tom, Dad, Father, Pop, and a host of other nicknames – to your eternal care. Let him know Your love and that ours will be forever with him.
I wrote that back in 2012. As I look around at the world since, a thought possesses me. As much as I miss the man, as much as I wish for just one more of his incredible, comforting, reassuring hugs…I’m glad he gets to watch this all happen from somewhere else. He deserved better than the way we all treat each other now.