Remembering Dad

Dad with his pal, Beetle Bailey

Since it’s Father’s Day, I want to begin with a shout-out to all the dads out there — a happy day to you. I hope you enjoy it well.

We lost my Dad to a several-year battle with Alzheimer’s in January of 2020. It’s hard to believe it’s been a year-and-a-half — but time has had a strange elasticity since then. The following is from the eulogy I gave at his funeral — which is an adaptation of a blog post I initially wrote ten years ago:

When a friend suggested I be sure to let my Dad know how much of an influence he’s had on me. My immediate reaction was one of, “Well, duh!” But then I realized this was not something I did nearly often enough.  My Dad was not the sort of guy who was particularly comfortable with the expression of emotions — especially not the mushy sort.  I, in turn, had gotten in the habit of not expressing them to him.  And it’s kind of a shame.  Because my Dad truly was one of the best men I’ve known. 

He didn’t necessarily have what I’d refer to as an easy childhood, (though if I had brought that up to him, he’d likely have dismissed it.) Still, he did well in school, and followed up college with law school. This, in turn, was followed by a two-year stint in the Army.  The summer of 1956 was a busy one for him as he graduated from law school, took the bar exam, married my Mom, and headed off to basic training, all within a very short span. He steadfastly supported my Mom and our family ever since. 

The memories I have of my Dad from my childhood are of a man who made up silly rhymes and songs and sang them to me. (“Susie Moore-sy, by the door-sy.) Who made a point to lift me up off my feet whenever we stepped over a curb. Who happily put my stuffed skunk (“Skunkie” — go figure) on the steering wheel of his car and let him “drive”.  Who took me with him to put up campaign signs for various political candidates, and instilled in me early on a keen interest in all things political.

Later, as I became a snotty teenager, our relationship became a bit strained. I know I was no peach to live with, and Dad, I think, always felt at a bit of a loss as to how to interact with me once I was no longer a little girl who giggled at his silliness. Still, he endured my adolescence without throttling me, and even had me come work for him in his law office the summer I was 15.  You might think that is what inspired my later decision to become a lawyer myself, but mostly, I answered the phones and read romance novels that summer, so I can’t rightly say that it was.

There’s no denying, however, that his career choice influenced my own. I don’t know that I consciously thought of it that way when I chose to follow in his footsteps.  But I do know that within me has always been the desire to make him proud.  I know that I am certainly proud of him. He worked hard all his life. He was a good husband to my Mom. He was a die-hard Tiger fan and alum. He was always active in politics and, though our philosophies diverged in recent years, I greatly respect his dedication to his beliefs.  He not only attended the same church for almost 60 years, he gave countless hours of his time to it, serving in multiple capacities. When I initially wrote this, he was just a month shy of 78 and still going out for a 3 mile jog (or, as he referred to it, “chog”) on a regular basis.

One thing that meant so much to me over the years is how very many times when I encountered someone who knew my Dad, the first thing they would say is, “He is the nicest man.”  It’s true. My Dad was nice.  He was kind.  He was a gentle man and a gentleman. And though he may not have verbalized it well or often, I have no doubt that he loved me.  He was always there for me, whether it was sending me a quick note or cartoon while I was away at school, helping me find a job, or picking up my daughter on short notice, or helping me wrestle a lawnmower or unwieldy tree branch.  I’m sure that there were times he didn’t quite know what to make of me, but he never wavered in his support of me.  And I am so very lucky to have had him as a father. 

An added benefit of having written this previously is that I got to share it with my Dad – or, my Mom did. And, knowing my Dad, his reaction likely was his standard “Psshhht!” But I know he appreciated it and I hope he took my praise to heart because he was certainly more than worthy of it. 

The day he passed, I needed something to keep me busy, so I started leafing through Mom & Dad’s old photo albums, snapping pictures of the many photos they’ve taken – and my Mom has painstakingly organized – over the years. It was bittersweet but a wonderful way to revisit my Dad’s life and all of the many places he’s been and people he’s known and loved. When I got a bit ambitious yesterday morning and decided to try and set the slideshow of the collected images to music, I wasn’t quite certain if it was appropriate to go with the theme music from Forrest Gump. But then I thought about it and realized there were actually some similarities – in so many of the photos, my Dad was sporting his khakis and tennies and baseball cap. He lived a very full life and met all sorts of interesting people along the way – including several presidents. He may not have run across the country and back and he was certainly no speed demon, but Dad loved his “chogs.” He was gentle and sweet and loyal – a friend to most anyone he met. And…there’s a scene from the movie I’ve always loved in particular – near the end, when Forrest meets his son, Little Forrest, for the first time, he goes and sits next to him to watch something on TV and they both tilt their heads to the side the same way – there are several photos of my Dad where he’s next to one of us – my siblings, my nephew Andrew – and we’re posed the same way – a similar head tilt, or arm set a certain way. To me, that’s a fitting and beautiful demonstration of the lasting imprint he’s had on us all and for which we will always be thankful. 

Love you, Dad.