Goodbye to My Father

Today I am talking a break from showing my photography or paintings, jewelry or woodworking. Saturday past was my father’s funeral. I was unable to prepare something or speak then so I am working on this now. I needed to see everyone, walk in my parents home, touch their lives, dig through the pictures and memories with the family; I needed to process.

When mom died, I knew what I felt. We were close, she was my support, my friend, my mother. We had talked about it and worked through it before. After, I couldn’t deal with my family. Mom told me before that she thought I would have that problem and that it was okay. Now dad, how do you respond to his death.

Our family lost my sister first of the immediate family. That hit dad hard. Mom wanted family together but understood in all the strong personalities, different beliefs, and everything else our family was often best in smaller groups. Dad felt all that was part of being a family, family should be together good and bad, loving or fighting, happy or sad. Janet was distant as long as I can remember. Dad hated that. They couldn’t be in the same room together without fighting for long but that wasn’t the point; she is is daughter, his first, the one he worried about every day. I think of the relationship my oldest niece has with her mother, even now that Janet is gone and I think of dad. The same sense of family is family, you love them, you honor them, you want to be with them under any circumstances even when they make you so mad you can’t speak. Allora shows the best of her grandfather.

Next was mom. You can’t say that hit dad hard; it broke him. How could it not? My youngest brother, Paul, said in the service that he didn’t want to make the day about mom but you can’t talk about dad without talking about mom. You hear that and think…they did everything together. But that doesn’t even touch the reality of it. Dad told me that mom was the foundation of him, his life, our family, everything. He honestly felt he was nothing without her. He loved her with every part of himself. He loved all of us kids whole hardheartedly, like his oldest, Janet, his kids were part of himself. But his wife was the core.

I have heard countless people ask each other who they would have married if not their spouse or what would they have done. Asking dad that was pointless. He had no other thought. He made the decision and asked until she agreed. She said no several times. I understand that part, I may have made a mistake earlier but I couldn’t have chosen anyone but my husband. I can’t even picture or seriously consider the thought of life without him. So I understand that dad passed some things on to us.

Jon, my oldest brother said that we are realizing now as we get older how much we learned from dad. He’s right. I always knew my art, my woodworking, my willingness to drop and go when I felt it needed, and my willingness to try anything came from dad. But I see his love, his heart, his strength, and his unbending individuality also. Mom added a whole other dimension to all those with one of the strongest personalities and wills anyone has met. Like dad, I will try to fix anything from a motorcycle or car to a desk, from the wiring of a house to a sick cat, from a strangled office to a friendship. He was willing to try so he was usually successful…at least to a functional point. He could build with intricate amazing art and strength unmatched and then he would turn around and fix mom’s headlight on the Cadillac with a 2 x 6 board.

Friendship was a recurring theme in the service. Dad was a friend for life. It didn’t matter whether he agreed with you. It didn’t matter what anyone thought about you. It didn’t matter what you wanted. Once he was your friend, he was your friend. I many times saw him cry because something happened in a friends life…a friend that hadn’t spoken to him or let him in their life for years. It didn’t matter, they were his friend. He felt for them and wanted to help. Dad always wanted to help. He always did what he felt was right. No-one ever agreed with him. He never fit in. But he did what he felt was right anyway.

He was hard, harsh, loud, brash, stubborn, unbending, but he was passionate, loving, loyal, honest, strong, hardworking, creative, intelligent, and open. Dad never hid anything – not what he owned, what he felt, what he said, what he did. He was honest whatever the cost. I watched them build several companies from nothing. They worked hard and held not just themselves but anyone that worked on their site to a level of integrity and honor that kept many crews off their jobs. But they were so honest, they were hurt when their clients were not. They lost everything to churches that took them and it broke their hearts as much as their lives. We would go back to having nothing but more than that they felt those churches had betrayed everything a church should stand for. Dad worked every day, worked hard, and did his best to make his work result in something that was a part of someones life not just a structure.

I worked on decks with him, I designed decks with him. I worked on metal buildings with him, designed them, drew them, worked on the site with him. I work on churches with him. When mom started cancer treatments I wasn’t in school yet so I went often with dad to work. I learned to draw, to design, to listen, to feel the needs, to understand the function, to work, to carry wood, to stack materials right, to find the people that knew the things you needed. Dad drove across town coffee pot to coffee pot stopping at jobs he had finished years ago, at suppliers, at friends, at engineers, at stores, at print shops. He would talk to anyone, and everyone was treated the same. He expected people to be honest like him even though he would say otherwise. Some of those people remained friends until the end. Dad stopped at the churches especially often.

At the service Mark Thrift said that he understood dad because he tried to understand him. He and my parents were close most of my life and that mutual understanding and trust was the core of that. He was right, you had to want to understand dad, he didn’t come easy. He made no effort to bend to your expectations. He was who he was, take it or leave it. Push him away and he would just pack and go. You couldn’t change him and you couldn’t push him but you could touch his heart and you could earn his loyalty. His heart was always open. Most people heard his loud brash mouth or saw his gruff ways and left it at that. But that meant they never actually saw dad. His passion, artistry, strength, honesty, loyalty, love, intelligence, and family were the parts they should have seen. Ignore his piles of stuff, his hothead reactions, his harsh exterior…just don’t push him.

He left his mark on all of us. We have good traits and bad from both parents and we are proud of that. I see those same traits in my nieces and nephews. They can also be proud of that. I want them to know their grandparents loved them, wanted them to be able to stand tall and proud to do what they felt they should. Dad and mom both would tell them they came from strong blood, passionate blood, creative blood, hardworking blood, with a wanderlust, a core of loyalty, and a heart worth being proud of. Take those strengths, add those from your other families and be who you are. That is what your grandparents wanted. They hoped you would agree with them but they taught us to make our own decisions, to stand solid, to work hard, and to never back down. They taught us to be honest to a fault, loyal through anything, passionate in relationships and life, and creative in whatever you do. Embrace your strengths and know when to ask someone else for information or help. Mom always said it was better to say you would find out than give a wrong answer. Dad always directed them to mom. I hope you all find a partner as loyal as dad and as supportive as mom, as honest as them both, as passionate and as hardworking as them both. Embrace who you are and what you came from. Accept the good with the bad and know that both give you strength. Our family has hurt each other and reacts strongly but we always love each other and we are always there for each other in the end. Dad and mom have left their legacy in all of us and all of you, know that can help you through anything

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