When I sat down to write this, I Intended to go into some detail about my father and me, but after some effort, I realized how difficult it is to sum up a 53 year relationship with one’s father in the amount of time we have here today, so I will keep it brief.
Being his son was not easy. He was not a hugger or a warm and fuzzy guy, and by the time I came along, he had little patience for kids. He made a sincere effort at times, but you could tell that he was not comfortable in the role of dad.
And to add to the strain, he held his children up to the same impossible standards he held himself up to. With such lofty standards, failure and disappointment were inevitable for him and for us. So our relationship during my childhood and young adulthood was like many a father and son – Polite but strained on the surface, with an undercurrent of hurt, resentment and disappointment on both sides.
At the same time, he provided a wonderful home for us and many priceless childhood experiences and memories, and for these I will always be grateful.
Again, like many sons, I disagreed with many of the decisions he made in regards to family matters, but as I grew into adulthood and had to make tough decisions of my own, I gained a greater appreciation for the difficulties he faced, and was able to let go of and forgive many, and finally all of the resentments I held for his choices and shortcomings as a father. More importantly, I came to recognize my own shortcomings and challenges, which made me a more compassionate person.
At the same time, he was mellowing with age and was able to put aside his judgments about my choices and shortcomings, so we were able to find some common ground and forge a closer relationship as we grew older. In the end, I was able to communicate everything I needed to communicate with him, and felt complete when I heard the news of his death.
Now about the man himself – He was the full manifestation of a human being it all its extremes – from the highest talents and ideals to the most common failings, and everything in between. He was all of us, only bigger than life and with the courage of his convictions whether he was in the right or wrong, which made him a difficult person at times, but always a fascinating case study in humanity.
He went for it in life, and you always want to pull for someone like that and celebrate his successes, but it hurts all the more when they come up short – both for the person and for those who love him.
My dad was a lover – While he had difficulty expressing his love for others, his love came pouring out in other ways – In his striving for integrity and high ethical standards; In his passion for his work and a job done well; In his devotion to the institutions that he loved. Ironically, I feel that his love maybe showed itself most vividly in his drinking – He desperately wanted to feel things and connect with people, but it was just too difficult for him when he was sober, so he drank … and drank … and drank.
In the end I know 1 thing about my dad – He loved me the best way he knew how and he did the best he could by me in this life.
I love you dad – Anchors Aweigh and Bon Voyage.