Sunday, March 31, 2013

Song for You

When my dad died four years ago, I wrote this "speech" to read at his wake. It turns out that I didn't read it...couldn't get through it.  But here it is, because I miss him...

Dad and I at my wedding in 1995
Dad and I are two very different people. Different world views. Different ways of living our lives.
And, for years, we focused on these differences and it wasn’t good. I never wanted it to be that way, neither did he. But we lived with it.

Then, a wonderful thing happened some years ago. It wasn’t a dramatic decision, it happened slowly, and we both saw it. We started seeing the places where we agreed, seeing places where we overlapped, and seeing the pieces of ourselves that we shared.

Dad and his Grands
To begin with, Dad and I realized that we shared a profound love of learning. What is the smallest particle, the farthest visible object, the newest and still-unnamed species, the history of Nero, of flight, of the pencil? There is hardly a subject that didn't interest us.
There isn’t a thing that Dad and I didn’t enjoy researching. Any subject that caught our fancy, we would research. Ants. Mars. How to best teach Mathematics. Radio Telescopes. King Ludwig II of Bavaria. New Zealand. Sound. Homeschool. Automobiles. Constellations.

I enjoy exploring and learning about everything that I come into contact with and I would often share it with Dad. He was delighted.

The love of learning. A nice gift to share.

Dad in my kitchen
Many, many, many times, Dad and I shared news stories about atomic and sub-atomic level discoveries and light year away discoveries. Genome research and Mars Explorer research. And we would exclaim, It’s a Great Time to Be Alive! And it is!

Sharing our excitement about and loving the process of finding out MORE.

The love of language. 
The English language is a weird, intricate, difficult, and beautiful language to learn. Dad and I loved learning where words and phrases come from and why we use them the way that we do. Why cargo is shipped and shipments move in cars. Where did the word “Chaos” come from (related to chasm, from Greek and Latin for gaping abyss). Idioms that seem, after a second glance, to make no sense!

“A Fine Kettle of Fish”, “Feeling puny”, “Across the Board”, “Hair of the Dog”, “Turning the Tables” and “Getting a Handle on it”. 

Dad about three weeks before he died
As a little girl I often went into his room at night where he would be laying reading by his little bedside light, reading one of his many books on language. He would read them to me or point out excerpts from the book. I loved that. Even as a kid I knew that those moments with him were important and special to me. That is probably one of the reasons that I read to my children each night.  

I enjoy thinking about him, there, on the bed, readying a book by that puny little light.

And then there is Science. Every field of science.  Every period of scientific history. Every scientist.  Dad and I couldn’t get enough of it.

So when Jerry and the kids and I got so heavily into astronomy, Dad and I had a hey day (an expression from 15th century England, meaning “high day”) exploring the website Astronomy Picture of the Day. For days and weeks we shared new discoveries about astronomy with one another. As Dad would say, a body can never get enough of that!

Another thing that I noticed recently about Dad and I is that we just don’t judge others. We notice  differences, maybe try to understand them, and then embrace them. I think that that quality in Dad made him a particularly nice person to talk to about new ideas.

When it came to our family choice to homeschool, Dad did lots of research on it. I shared some websites with him and he shared some with me.  Within a short period of time, he supported it 110%. He even went to far as to send me subscriptions to excellent online resources to share with the kids.  

So, in the end, despite our disagreements, despite the difficulties of the past, and despite our different personalities, we found these small places of agreement, places where we came together.

Dad and his lifelong best friend
And we did that because, as all peacemakers know, that is the way to create true, meaningful, and lasting reconciliation. And we had that. Maybe it took me a little bit longer, but I finally realized that Accepting a person for who and what they are, without the need to change or fit into my idea of them, is the truest form of love. And Dad and I did that in our own quiet way.

As for me, I will miss my dad. And knowing that he loved me, I will move forward. And, you might wonder, will I take these pieces that I shared with Dad and hand them down to my children, Elizabeth and John John?  ...Pr’haps.


Dad and I were "talking" online the night he died.  We were sharing a particular song. I hold on to that often whenever I need to feel close to him. Here it is. I hope you can find someone with whom you can share this song too. It's wonderful.

Dad and his lifelong best friend, Chuckie, and Dad's beloved dog

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing this. Your speech about your dad is a beautiful tribute to him. It says a lot about you both that you found common ground in later years. Surely that renewed closeness will stay with you the rest of your life. What a gift.

    I think many of us have/had relationships with family members that are/were difficult. I think the key is respect and being willing to bend, to let the relationship evolve past the friction--granted that both parties are willing to get passed it. Otherwise, you're left with regret when that person is gone... (that's one of my few regrets in life).

    How truly touching that you shared some special moments with your dad right before he died. That song says it all. Thank you, again, for sharing this.


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