A couple of weeks ago, after a long battle with cancer, my dad died. He outlived his initial expected survival timeframe by about 3 years, and fortunately only the final month or so was really bad (not that he didn’t suffer a lot during those 3 years, though). I’ve wanted to say something about it here, but wasn’t really sure what, so I’ll simply share what I wrote for dad’s funeral. I didn’t have the strength to stand up and read it myself, so uncle Eddie read it for me.
The older I get, the more I realize how similar I am to my dad. One of the similarities is being introverted, and being a man of few words, which dad surely was. I couldn’t give a public speech to save my life, and since I can’t remember a single time that dad ever gave any kind of speech, I’m pretty sure I can blame this one squarely on him. But I do want to share a few thoughts.
Dad’s defining characteristic was how hard-working he was. It’s not an exaggeration to say that he was the most hard-working person I’ve ever known. When we were little, all of us boys looked forward to the day when we’d be old enough to go work for him -- until we actually did it, at which point we wondered what the heck we were thinking.
Roofing is a hard job, and maybe that’s part of why dad was such a hard man. He certainly was not a touchy-feely kind of dad. I never doubted that my dad loved me, but I think he viewed his role as mainly that of a provider and protector, not so much an emotional supporter. That’s mom’s department.
Another thing I never doubted was dad’s willingness and ability to help me with any kind of project I was working on -- as long as it didn’t involve the computer. Dad had a seemingly-infinite well of knowledge of all things related to construction -- not to mention a seemingly-infinite tool collection -- and was always eager to share it. I didn’t have many deep conversations with dad, but I came to realize that the way to engage him was through carpentry and building; and all the time I spent with him working on those kinds of projects means the world to me.
Even without being a big talker, dad taught me things about life, most of which I didn’t really appreciate until I got older. As a kid, it drove me crazy when dad would constantly yell at me for leaving the light on after leaving a room. Now it drives me crazy to see a light left on. As I got a little older, I noticed that dad would yell at politicians on the TV, regardless of what party they were from. We didn’t talk much politics in our house, and I didn’t know what party (if any) dad belonged to, but when I asked him why he was mad at both parties, he said: "They ALL talk out of both sides of their mouths." Ain’t that the truth.
When dad got the cancer diagnosis three years ago, it was shocking and scary. I think it scared dad too, and that’s saying something. But dad was a stubborn man, and he sure stretched his few-month life expectancy into a few years instead. I know these three years have been hard for him, but though I certainly wish dad had never gotten cancer, I can’t help but feel that these three years have been a blessing in disguise. The cancer forced him to stop working, it humbled him, and I think it definitely softened his personality a bit. As a result, we all got to see him a little bit more, and we got a lot more hugs and I-love-yous.
I don’t know whether dad was ultimately satisfied with his life, whether he thought it was all worthwhile. We just didn’t have the kind of relationship where we talked much about those kinds of things. But to me, the answer is obvious, and other than wishing we’d spent more time together, there isn’t a lot I would change about my dad. And you need look no further than all his kids, who love him and miss him, to know that dad’s life was a successful one.