Sailor, Storyteller, Vintner, Veteran
January 14, 2017 § 2 Comments
NOTE: This is the eulogy I delivered for my father’s funeral, hence the references to slideshows and sanctuaries and such. I’m posting this for those of you who knew Dad and couldn’t make it to the memorial, and also just to plant this in the Internet’s eternal memory.
To capture my dad’s 90 years of life in a few hundred words is to cram Everest into a walnut shell. It’s an exercise in futility to try to tell you everything Dad was and everything he meant to us.
So I’ll give you a sampling, with the hope that you know he was so much more than this thin tribute can contain.
My dad loved to sail.
He loved boats, loved the sea, and surrounded himself with all kinds of nautical knickknacks. Anyone who visited my mom and dad’s home couldn’t help but notice the set of tall ship plates hanging on the wall. The ship’s clock. The big brass ship’s lantern. The sailboat models and the sailing magazines and little lighthouses and dozens of other decorations that evoked the sea.
He owned a couple of sailboats in his life: a Comet and a Highlander. I don’t remember the Comet—that was before I was born—but I have a boatload of memories about that Highlander. Most of those memories center around summer weekends at Cowan Lake, where Dad belonged to the sailing club and would race in regattas.
He always seemed happy and at peace when he was on the water. My dad had a sailor’s soul, no doubt about it.
Dad loved to take photos.
If you saw the slideshow earlier, most of those are Dad’s. We literally have thousands of slides that Dad took, dating back to the 50s. You can watch my entire family grow up through Dad’s photos. They’re little windows through which you can peer back in time.
Dad loved a good joke.
He loved a bad joke, for that matter. He loved terrible puns, and he passed this trait down to me. One joke was so terrible, my mom banned him from ever telling it again. It became infamous within our family. Nigh legendary.
It was the Waiter Joke, and once I knew of its existence, I had to hear it.
Every time I’d ask, Dad would look surprised and say, “You’ve never heard the Waiter Joke? You have to hear the Waiter Joke.” And my mom would immediately say, “No!”
Years went by before I ever heard it. I would like to share it with you now—but Mom would kill me.
Besides, Dad always told it best.
Dad loved to tell stories, too.
Some of them were even true. Whenever he’d said, “Did I ever tell you about the time…” you knew you were in for a good story.
Dad told stories about his childhood, and his time in the army during World War II. He told stories about being a traveling salesman in the South.
He told tall tales about his time “West of the Pecos,” but I’m pretty sure he made those up.
Dad had an endless supply of stories.
Dad loved wine.
He loved drinking it , and he loved making it. He even had a small grape arbor with a few different varieties of grapes—Concord, Catawba, and others.
Dad liked to experiment my making different types of wine. He even made wine from dandelions.
When they tore down our old house on Kemper, the workers found a couple bottles of Dad’s wine tucked into the crawl space. Dusty, cobwebbed bottles, but that didn’t stop them from trying it.
They said it was pretty good stuff.
Dad loved this church and this congregation.
He met many dear friends here. For as long as I can recall, he was here almost every Sunday, usually serving as an usher.
I remember attending services under Reverend Kalsbeek in the little white chapel—and back then, it was the only sanctuary. There was just the little chapel and Harper Hall, long before you built the second sanctuary, much less this one.
Dad loved coming here every Sunday and seeing all his friends and listening to my mom sing in the choir.
He loved this church.
Most importantly, though, Dad was a family man.
He was a husband for 65 years.
He was a father.
He was a grandfather.
He was even a great grandfather.
Over the past few months, I’ve been thinking about everything my mom and dad did for us. Looking backward through the progressive lenses of adulthood, I realized that my parents were incredible people.
You take a lot for granted as a kid. You never think about how much things cost, or wonder how your parents pay for it all, or realize how hard they work to earn enough to raise five kids.
Money was always tight, growing up.
We never went hungry.
We always had a roof over our heads.
And we always had the little extra joys that turn an existence into a life—toys under the tree at Christmas, cake and ice cream and gifts on our birthdays.
It wasn’t until I became an adult and a homeowner that I realized how much everything costs, and how little time there is for anything.
Honestly, I don’t know how my parents did it all. But they did, and I’m exceedingly grateful for and humbled by that.
My dad wore many hats in his 90 years. He was a sailor, a joker, a storyteller, a vintner, a veteran, an usher, a deacon. A drycleaner, a salesman, a business broker.
But the best thing he was, was my dad.
I miss you, Dad, and I love you.
My dad at the helm.