Then my Dad passed away last week and I had a moment of clarity. I knew what would be my first post - My eulogy to him. These are the words I spoke during the funeral service. The words that took me two years to write. While he got continuously more sick each time I saw him, I began to look for the good stories to remind me of the Dad I knew. I never expected to be able to share them with everyone at the funeral - I fully expected to be a wreck. I've never been afraid of public speaking, but this was very different. However, I still needed to write the words. And then when it came to the day, I was more calm than I have ever been. I did not cry. My voice barely wavered. I stood up in front of everyone and honored my Dad in the only way I knew how. I could see him, sitting in the crowd, grinning from ear to ear, cheering me on. And I felt at peace.
And while my plans for this blog are to share the funny, irreverent stories of my life as a working, laughing, dictator-like Mommy of two wild boys, this one is a bit different. I hope you enjoy it - maybe it will bring a few tears or a few laughs.
My Dad's Message
I’ve thought a lot about what I would say when this day came. How I would want to honor his life and give just a glimpse of the joy he brought to us. But how do you encapsulate 65 years of life for someone who meant so much to so many? My Dad was an incredible man and trying to sum up his life in just a few short minutes is a daunting task. So I will start with this: Alzheimer’s is an ugly disease. It takes your mind and memories long before your body. Struggling through the last few years I found myself looking for the light in all the shadows. Trying to find sense in what seemed to have none. And in those moments I found memories. Really, really good memories. Memories I want to hold on to, stories I want to share. So I started writing them down so I wouldn’t forget; so I could look at them again when I needed to find that light. These stories could go on for hours, but no one signed up for a 3-day service so I will try to share just a few highlights.
My Dad loved many things – his family, music, fishing and Alabama football, though not necessarily in that order. There are countless fishing stories to tell, and only a few fish to prove it, but teaching my brother to fish and spending time with my Uncle Randy in Defuniak Springs were some of his most cherished memories. The days he had a fishing pole in his hand were some of his favorites.
After teaching Don to fish, he moved on to greater tasks –Driver’s Ed. He actually taught Don to drive HERE in Memorial Gardens joking that he was pretty safe here and no one would jump out in front of the car. His humor was always goofy, always smart-mouthed, and occasionally funny. I am pretty sure all three of his kids inherited at least one of those personality traits. I’ll let you decide which ones. Every time you asked his how he was feeling, his answer, without pause, was “well, with my hands, of course.”
When I came home from New Orleans after witnessing Alabama take home another National Championship in 1992, my Dad knew he had succeeded as a parent when I asked him if we could watch the game again together because there were a few highlights I needed to see one more time. He loved coming to Tuscaloosa when I was in school to go to the games and hang out at the sorority house. Once I took him to a band party at a fraternity house. I gave him strict instructions to “stand here and don’t embarrass me” as I walked to the restroom. Of course when I got back, he was gone. I looked around to find him front and center – and yes, that would be front and center stage WITH the band. I think he might have been singing back-up, but his bond with the frat boys and the band was immediate.
My Dad introduced me to a lot of great music – the Beatles, the Doors, Jimmy Buffett. My sister inherited his musical talents and I inherited his love of live music. But he truly impressed my friends at a Mardi Gras Ball with his serious dance moves and verbatim sing-a-long to the classic, Funky Cold Medina.
In addition to being an excellent dancer, Dad was an amazing chef. He loved anything on the grill and people would magically appear for dinner when he had something good cooking. I think he thought my friend Margaret had some sort of ESP about what day we were eating homemade hamburgers and no matter what, he always had an extra one waiting for her. My granny loved his homemade biscuits and he would deliver some to her house on special occasions. Waking up to the smell of those biscuits baking, bacon cooking and eggs frying made me feel at home.
The beach and water were second homes to my dad and the memories of us in Gulf Shores every summer are some of my favorites – fishing along the banks, sailing for the first time, riding the waves, or Dad building sand castles just so we could jump on top of them – all of those remind me of the blessings we had and how every minute of his life with us was filled with joy, lightheartedness and fun.
When he moved into Carrington, we were worried about how he would adjust. It was a big change with new surroundings, new faces, and not the home he had known for over 30 years. But he quickly became the most popular guy the building – the one who helped the staff reach those high shelves they couldn’t quite get to; the one who would cause ladies to get to dinner 30 minutes early just to secure a seat at his table; the one who would then greet each lady with a kiss on the head welcoming them to dinner. We knew he had found a new home. There are not enough words to say how grateful we are for Gina and the staff there. The love and care he received there until his final breath were amazing and we never doubted for one second he was a loved and cherished part of their family.
All of those stories are just the tip of the iceberg. My Dad was a carefree and gentle soul. He brought light and laughter to our lives for many years. And for this Daddy’s girl, he will always be my greatest advisor, my biggest cheerleader, my first true superhero. From the pint-sized, curly headed know-it-all begging him to swim with me at the beach to the full-grown curly headed know-it-all begging him to dance with me one more time, I always have seen him with stars in my eyes. He will always be my hero and in my heart.
Thank you for being here and for helping us celebrate his life and his memory. You all are a testament to the joy he brought to everyone who knew him. May God Bless you and Roll Tide.