I’m thinking about my Dad today. He died 4 years ago of lung cancer. He wasn’t a rich or successful by the usual definitions but he was a successful human being to me and I admired him. I wish we’d been closer.
This is the eulogy I wrote for him.
When Dad was ill I decided I wanted to write this tribute for him.He had a tough life and I don’t think he ever saw himself as successful. He had bipolar disorder and was misdiagnosed for a long time. He struggled with alcoholism because I think he was self medicating his bipolar issues like so many people do. But he also was a good writer and worked for
Associated Press and United Press International back in the day when journalist’s wore starched white shirts and ties and smoked at their desks. I can still remember the smell of ink from the presses when he’d bring me up to the Herald so that he could finish some piece before deadline. I’d plunk away at the nearest typewriter and he’d work. It was great. Anyway Dad this is for you.
This world does not take it easy on gentle people.
That’s what my Dad was, a gentle person. I would like the world to know that for me, my Dad was a successful human being because he made it all the way to the finish line with his humanity intact.
That’s no small feat, since this life, as you know, regularly hands out many “humility opportunities”. Since I’ve become an adult and had my adult struggles, I’ve often felt the urge to return unkindness directed at me with more of the same. And I haven’t always been my highest self in those moments.
kindness and humanity go as a sort of self defense.
My Dad never did that. He did withdraw, but I never saw him
go out of his way to say a cutting or hurtful thing about anyone.
He wasn’t much for gossip.
He didn’t judge people very often in my presence.
He tried to see the good things in people and sort
of took them on face value.
Even though it doesn’t really work, I think people let their
My Dad had lots of humble jobs. And some of them only paid minimally, but were actually very important. One time I remember my Dad telling me about how he was working at a half-way house for guys just getting out of prison who were also in the early stages of recovery. These were tough men and as you know my Dad looked a little like Dennis the Menace’s Dad or that guy in the Where’s Waldo cartoons. Not too intimidating. Dad had to tell these guys their curfew and to clean out their ashtrays. I worried about him at that job but I think maybe because of who my Dad was, these guys didn’t feel threatened by him.
Once in awhile my Dad would attend AA meetings in a tougher part of downtown. When I asked him why he did that, he said there were people there who needed to see someone who had more than 6 weeks sobriety. In some of those meetings that’s all there was.
He said they needed to see that it could be done.
My Mom told me that she was raised in an angry, alcoholic, conservative home. She told me that early in their marriage Dad helped her have a better world view. That he opened her mind up to the idea that maybe people did things not because they were lazy and stupid, but because they had problems. Maybe they were doing the best they could.
Mary told me that Dad was the first man in her life that ever really appreciated her for her abilities. He complimented her on her quilting or gardening or a dozen other things that’s she’s good at. No man had ever done that for her. He thanked her for the things she did for him. She said they had great talks and that she’d never really had that in a relationship before. (Dad was darn lucky to have you Mary and he knew it.)
I know others of you have your own version of my Dad, but this was mine. He wasn’t a perfect guy. He had lots of flaws. But my Dad was the first person to introduce me to the idea of music, books and art. He taught me to judge people less. He went through all that stuff in his life and yet he kept his dignity. Wasn’t that amazing? Plus I credit Dad with teaching me that addiction is not necessarily fate for me or for my kids or their kids or their kids…. He stopped the Irish curse right at my doorstep.
How lucky I was!
So anyway, I know he loved you all a lot. Thank you for making his life better by being in it.