Thursday, May 08, 2008

We Love You, Dad

My dad died 10 years ago today. Prior to his passing away, my psychiatrist was asking me about my upbringing, my relations with my parents, etc. My mom was a big influence and I said a lot about her, but, when it came to my dad, I drew a complete blank and mumbled an inconsequential, "He was there." After the appointment, I went "Doggone it!" - I actually used a harsher word - as I thought back to all the things Dad did for and with our family and all the things he did for and with me.

As evidence of that, I submit the following. I think most fathers would kill to be given a glimmer of recognition in public by their teenage children. Dad used to take the train to and from work. Almost every day, for a period of about 5 years during junior and senior high school, I went down to meet him when he came back from work and would walk home with him. The kids in the neighborhood used to play basketball after school; at a quarter to six, I would grab my basketball and head off down to the train station. (Just a platform actually, since the station had been torn down years before.) At the time, I thought nothing of it - I just enjoyed it. Looking back after all these years, though, I'm glad I did it and I imagine it meant as much to him as it would mean to me as a father.

Below is a photograph from 1972 of Dad's train (a Budd RDC) coming into the College Park station. (Baltimore & Ohio line, traveling from Washington, D.C. to Baltimore, MD.) Being a teenager, I was less than talkative, so, unfortunately, I didn't get to know the names of the two men waiting to board the train. The man on the left I saw all the time and I liked him a lot; the other man I saw less frequently, but he was also very nice. The big employer nearby at that time was Litton, so I always figured they worked there.

From his eulogy:

Dad's feelings for his [four] sons were best expressed in George Eliot's Silas Marner. Squire Cass, speaking to his son, Godfrey, says,
"There's my grandfather had his stables full o' horses, and kept a good house, too, and in worse times, by what I can make out; and so might I, if I hadn't four good-for-nothing fellows to hang on me like horse-leeches. I've been too good a father to you all - that's what it is. But I shall pull up, sir."
In truth, Dad was a wonderful father. When Mom was in the nursing home, she used to say, "I may not have done much, but I gave you all a good father - he's a prince among men." I always wanted to answer, "Yes, and he's a tough act to follow."

(The Silas Marner quote was supposed to be funny - it reminded me of my brothers and me when I first read it - but it was a little too convoluted for people to pick up on easily at the funeral service.) Lastly, from the eulogy:

In George Eliot's Daniel Deronda, she says,
"[I]n each of our lives harvest and spring-time are continually one, until Death himself gathers us and sows us anew in his invisible fields."
When my wife's grandmother, Mimi, died, my father-in-law expressed a similar sentiment, remarking how, as God takes one person, Mimi, He sends another, our niece, who was to be born shortly. Dad's long life and his wise and loving presence were God's gift to us. I am sure that, somewhere, a child is being born who will confer a like blessing on another family. We are grateful we had our turn.
We love you, Dad.

We truly do, Dad. And we sorely miss both you and Mom.


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