Sunday, May 24, 2015

My Tribute to My Dad

Yesterday our friends and families gathered to say goodbye to my dad.  I had many requests for me to send them my tribute to my dad, so that they could read it in more quiet moments.  Many people mentioned that as I spoke about who my father was to me, they were moved to tears and laughter as they shared many similar memories.  Thank you all for being a part of this crazy journey.  

First off, my brothers, my aunts and uncle, and my Omi want to sincerely thank you for your efforts in being here, not only today but  during this entire journey. You have filled our hearts with laughter, memories and friendship. 

It is an odd thing, speaking at the funeral of the man that has served as the narrator of your life. In the hours and days since his death, I feel as if I’ve lost my words. I suppose it is because he was the person that provided me with so many of them. Listening to stories it seems as though he's provided many of you with some gems.  So many times over the past few days, as we’ve struggled or hurt or hoped I’ve thought, I should call Dad. He’d help me see this all the right way.
He was good at that. Helping me see things right side up. When I was seven, he took me to The movie "my Girl". After the heartbreaking scene with the bees, my dad wrapped his arms around his "Turkey" and explained that death is a natural part of life. When I was 12, we sat on the floor of this office in Amherstview and he consoled an incredibly awkward me while I cried because I wasn’t that boy's "type", explaining that there was somebody out there that would be my perfect fit. Just six years ago, as I neared the end of a long first pregnancy, he laid his head on my enormous belly and apprised that I would soon realize what it felt like to have your my own heart beating on the outside. He held my first baby and rocked back and forth in our glider while I rocked back and forth through baby blues. He held Kingston with his eyes shut tight and in that deep softness his voice got when he truly meant something, he said, “Don’t worry, sugar. This baby boy is going to show you the world. Yes, you have a best buddy right here. Don’t worry, sweetheart. I am right here. You can do this.” It took months for me to understand what he was saying, but as I waded through the murkiness of sadness I held on to the sight of him rocking in my house with his eyes closed.

My Dad always closed his eyes when he spoke about the truths that meant the most to him. I used to think he closed his eyes to keep the tears in. Anyone who knows my dad, knows the man could cry over paint drying just right. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve changed my mind. If keeping tears in was the reason he shut his eyes, they would hardly have ever been open. No, rather, I think he closed his eyes when he spoke so that he could see more clearly. At the dinner table when he cleared his throat and squinted his eyes shut, we always knew it was time to put the forks down and listen. My dad had a way of gathering the beautiful aspects of mortality and immortality and holding them up for all of us to see.

My dad... For me.... He is sunglasses and baseball hats. He is water skiing on the river. He is funny nicknames and bear hugs. He is whistling and singing on long drives. He's blueberry cheesecake and Harvey's burgers. He is opi to my babies. He is a well loved denim shirt. He is bruder, mon kuchin, and mutti schatz. He is a cold glass of Richards red and an island coffee. The giver of big squeezes and pokes in the arm . He is a trip to Lake Placid, where I learned about exploding cigarettes and that time can stop long enough for you to breathe in the moments we have been given with one another. He is not enough days and so much blessing it hurts. He is a clothesline full of clothes and tiny footprints in the sand.  He is long meandering drives and beautiful sunsets. He is a heart bursting with love.  He is “wish sandwiches” and a fast moving boat. He is whiskers and encouragement and Christmas all shined up bright. He is the man that first taught me to stop leading and just dance.

How fitting!  As I danced with my uncle last night I was reminded how my dad loved to dance. He would drag me onto the dance floor and would say "Nat, stop leading.  Just follow me". While our family braced to battle this illness, he took another approach. He danced with it. In his final moments this past Sunday, with my uncle Jeff and I by his side, listening to the Boss, he lead!  He chose his moment. 
I am so flippin' proud of him for that. 

What a blessing. 

Yes, it is a blessing and that is all well and good, my heart says. But what about now? How do we survive until the reunion. What about about today? It is a good question and one I expect to ask and answer by the day, by the hour and sometimes, like right now, by the minute.

What about today?

Well, today, following the example of Larry Latiok, I will close my eyes so that I can see more clearly. And there in that place, absent from distraction and dismay, I know what I will find. There is a daddy whose body has been taken, but whose heart is near. There is love and the blessing of time given and time taken. There is hope and faith. There is the brush of something greater than you and me, something that carries the smell of stars and the impression of truths strait and gleaming and multi-dimensioned.

And there is the quiet assurance of a Father’s voice, rocking back and forth against my heart, “Don’t worry, sweetheart. I am right here. You all can do this.” 
So today, with my heart and hopes, kicking and crying and protesting against this early farewell, I am learning from my dad. This parting is not forever.

I love you period Do you love me question mark