Check out this glowing from page story at the Herald earlier this week:
I have to speak at the funeral tomorrow. This is what I have pulled together. It is rough, but you, gentle blog-reader, get the sneak preview.
*EDIT* I opted for the story about how my father broke down the birds and the bees and my vomiting afterwards over the racetrack "Get the hell off the track" story.
It is amazing all of the outpouring of positive talk about my father. I know that at funerals you are supposed to talk about how good a person is, and in my father's case, it will be rather easy.
He had a lot of interesting ways about him. There was a lesson to be learned in everything...even if he didn't overtly tell you that you were learning a lesson, it was there nonetheless. A thing about the guy was that he was always paying attention and marvelling.
About 20 years ago we had a long discussion about what it was to sleepwalk through life. How some people sleepwalk through their lives and never wake up to some sort of consciousness. We talked about people who choose to sleepwalk rather then face their realities. Yes, the man was religious, and yes he lived by a solid moral code, but I would posit that the greatest sin that my father could see in practice was the one where people don't take the moment of life and squeeze all truth out of it. He constantly pondered the slightest interactions with people in an attempt to grasp every last piece of truth for the moment.
It is easy to talk about someone who you work with, or an acquaintance. But to attempt to encapsulate a man who really became a force in almost all aspects of my life? I could stand here all day and tell you stories and experiences and it wouldn't come close.
I have a few stories that I would like to put to you, as a sort of summation of this guy, this man who taught me so much that I couldn't begin to record a sizable fraction of it:
He was always one or two steps ahead of me on anything that remotely interested him. We lived in an apartment complex in Canada while he was working for the Edmonton Report. My understanding is that anyone who worked for "the company" got room and board (there was a store room stocked for meals) and received one dollar a day. If you needed to go somewhere, you checked out a car (at that time it was a fleet of Vegas to choose from). The point that I am making is that all of the parents worked with each other at the Edmonton Report, and all of their offspring hung out in the backyard of this Apartment complex on 149th street in Edmonton.
One morning, I was out with several kids and we found the remains of a roman candle. We asked around for the origin of this thing. Who had fired it off? What was it doing out there? I was in second grade at the time. That night I told my father about this thing before bedtime. "Oh that thing? Me and so and so shot it off last night!"
This was the first of many experiences that I had with him where he had already tread the ground that I was trying to figure out.
When I was probably about 9 or 10 in Canada, he suggested that we race down a path. We were camping and he had time to entertain such little things as footracing. I put everything that had into that run. I passed the finish line and beat him. For months afterward, I told everyone that I could outrun my father. Perhaps it was the next year at the same spot, we raced again, and this time he tore me up. Left me in the dust.
I had given it my all and I couldn't touch him. I learned multiple lessons from that exchange. It wasn't necessary for him to brag about his beating me. Perhaps he had let me win the first time? Perhaps he had underestimated me? I will never know, but I knew later th at he had re-thunk his opponent and applied some skills to take me out. Perhaps some late-night running session? I dunno, but he took me out.I remember telling people within earshot of him that I could outrun him and he never contested me. He never said anything to downplay his loss.I learned that when I throw down with my kids in levels of competition (most lately video games) that I have to throw down hard and not be beaten. When they take it from me, it is fair and square...they earned it, but I will be back.
Another story that I remember about him was that one time in Canada he took us all to the racetrack. It was some sort of fundraiser and all of the local guys from local stores and magazines were going to do the driving of the cars. For some reason, the thing never got off of the ground. My father was supposed to be a driver in a stock car but he wasn't able to drive for some reason. No one was. The whole event was a wash for some reason. One car did in fact leave the pit stop and start tearing around the track at top speed. As it made its first lap, a guy jumped out into the speedway waving a black flag.
"Do you know what a black flag means?" He asked me."No." I replied."It means get the hell off of the track." He said.
In the 60s and 70s, my father sported longer hair. The pictures show that it was well over the collar. Casson and I both grew our hair out in the late 80s through the 90s. We came up with some impressive "length" as we called it. We talked about hair constantly. We always noted people with long hair. We would be driving with my father and point out people on the side of the road and say "That guy has length!" At one point, my father asked us what this whole thing was about. I pointed out that he was a longhair at one time. He said that indeed he was, but he didn't sit around talking about "length" all the time. It took awhile, but as you can see, his message did ultimately sink in.
An example of his wit:
My father taught me how to drive. He had this 1963 Volvo (which he later gave to me and I didn't have the patience that he had with it). Anyways, he taught me how to drive at the cemetery by Dennis the Menace Park in Monterey. As I ground the gears and swerved about and shuddered that poor classic clutch, he told me that it didn't matter, there were a lot of people in the immediate area and no one was going to complain.
One arena that my father and I saw each other SQUARE IN THE EYE was with cinema. He took us to see Star Wars in 1977 and that was the beginning of a lifetime of film with a man who had a knowledge base in regards to film that staggered me until the very end. Blockbuster films became a thing for him and "the boys" which would be Casson and myself. It was a clique that involved all of the family members, but he really pushed it with Casson and I. We went to go see Battlestar Galactica in sensurround. We went to go see the Creature from the Black Lagoon and It Came from Outer Space in 3-d. He took us to see Raiders of the Lost Ark. He took us to see Close Encounters. He took us to see Ghostbusters. If it was interesting and on the big screen, he took us there. One of my fondest memories of this whole exchange happened several years ago when I took him to go see Memento for his birthday. He got into my Van afterward and looked me in and said that was one of the best movies he had seen in his life. This meant an awful lot to me. When able, I brought my kids into this same mix. I would pull them out of school for the day so that we could see the new Star Wars movies. Once, Luther and I spent the night at Mom and Dad's place and got up at the crack of dawn to get to the theatre to beat all of the people in line and get a good seat.
He took the family to Disneyland more times than I can count. Part of this had to do with being a member of the press and getting those 4 free press tickets.
He took Casson and I to the other parks in the LA area on what seemed to be a bi-monthly basis. He loved his roller coasters and we rode them all. Magic Mountain, Knotts Berry Farm, and later after we moved up here, Great America and The Boardwalk.
Another thing that I must reference is my father's tremendous faith. I might live in the house not paying much rent, but I HAD to go to church every Sunday with him. This was the deal. There was no excuse, no late night, no possible reason to miss church on Sunday. This was something that he was serious about and the seriousness that he had on the subject also fueled the way he lived his principled life.
One thing that I would like to stress is that I really feel about as good as I can about this situation. I ran my old man hard at times. I pushed the limits of his patience. That being said, at times he pushed mine. Years ago, when driving back to California from Texas and my Granny's funeral, my father and I had a serious heart to heart. It was about 4 in the morning and everyone else in the car was asleep. He was in a new space in life and so was I. We both basically committed to working through all of our issues and keeping the air clear between us. We both cried together as we spoke of old hurts and new hope. He told me that he was proud of me as I told him that I was proud of him.
He was smart. God he was smart. I can't tell you how many times I have told others that I wished I had just a quarter of his brainpower. That brain was a weapon, a juggernaut and your greatest ally if you needed some resource material. The amount of information in that obscene databank must have tripled with the onset of the Internet. It was rare that you could bring something to him that he knew nothing about. And if he knew nothing about it, the next time you would meet him, he would know more about it than you ever did. Knowledge bred and multiplied in his brain. How had he read so many books? How did he know so many people? How had he packed as much life experience into that frame of his? I am still in awe. I am no slouch. I have put in my time on this planet, but when I reach his age will my life be comparable to his?
Yes, he brought me into this world. Yes he was my father. Yes he taught me an incredible amount of things. But the fact of the matter is that he was a good friend. The kind of guy who wanted the best for you. The guy who played fair. The guy who would sacrifice his time to help you out. The guy who reached into his wallet and threw down his last dollar for your cause. He was a great friend. I am going to miss my father, but I am also going to miss my buddy. I loved him. I also know that he loved me, and it is a wonderful way to end this chapter of my life.
To say that I am going to miss him would be an understatement. The wisdom that he imparted to me and attempted to impart will be considered and studied by me for the rest of my life. I have been blessed beyond what I can calculate by being able to able to point this guy out and say, "See that guy? He is my father."
Yes, I am sad because of the loss. But I am also happy, because as far as a father/son relationship is supposed to go, I personally feel that ours was right, sorted and balanced.
Friday, October 12, 2007
Here is a pic of my Dad last year at Veronica's wedding rehearsal. This is more how I remember him of late. Sincere but distracted. Sharp yet wounded. Tired and determined. All of these things. Most recently, it has been a situation where the ailments have gotten between our communications of the world and the spirits within it. The conversations have been more of a hard-sell on whether he was going to eat his lunch or not. They have also been the research into whether he's already had his meds for the day or not. He would ask me about my job, and I would explain that I was on satanical. He would laugh. Then he would ask me about my job again.
Yeah, I have been scarce of late.
Lots of things on the go.
So...My father died 2 days ago after a bitter year-long, all-out war with cancer.
We all saw it coming. I had been spending a lot of time with him and monitoring his slippage down the mountain called survival.
The family is starting to strike an orbit around Marina California and there are a lot of duties. My cellphone is blowing up nonstop. There are also babies who need to be consoled in regards to the loss of Grandpa. There are siblings who are processing this whole thing. Then there is Mom, who has been so damn tough through this whole thing.
We all miss him.
If ever there was a magnificent bastard, he was my old man.
I'll be back around.