Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Eulogy I Wrote For My Dad...

My father passed away on Saturday July 14, 2012 after a long, tough battle with Parkinson's Disease. This is the eulogy that I wrote and read at his funeral mass...


My dad was born on October 20, 1929...the exact same day that the stock market crashed and the Great Depression began. I don't know how that fits into my eulogy, but I always thought that was pretty interesting, so there you go.

So I spent days trying to think of exactly what to say and how to commerarte my dad's life. I did a lot of googling "how to write a eulogy". I was struggling with the theme of this speech... And then in speaking to lots of friends & family at the wake yesterday, I heard one sentence over and over and over.

"Your dad was such a gentleman."

Gentleman derived from the Latin word for gentle which is gignere and from the Proto-Germanic word for man.

The dictionary defines a gentleman as...

--A well-mannered and considerate man with high standards of proper behavior.

--A man regarded as having qualities of refinement associated with a good family

--A man who is cultured, courteous, and well-educated

I think that fits my dad to a tee. He might have resisted it sometimes, he might have wanted to be seen as a tough guy sometimes, but deep down he was a gentleman. He couldn't help it. It was in his DNA.

My dad was a gentleman through and through. And it infiltrated every aspect of his life, including his life as a teacher. And through his teaching he touched many lives along the way.

As a HS English teacher he gave out trophies for academic excellence so the nerds would feel as cool as the jocks.

As a principal, he was the first to have graduation ceremonies at Lincoln Center. I googled it and last year alone 12,000 students had HS & College graduation ceremonies there but his students were the first.

Nothing made him happier than when he'd run into an old student who had fond memories of him.

And we all know he taught in NYC Public Schools in Harlem. And we all remember lots of funny stories from there. But the man loved to teach. The politics and the bureaucratic stuff, not so much. But he loved to teach. When he retired from the NYC schools, he continued teaching for another 15 years and touched even more lives.

He taught a little college, he taught HS equivalncey courses to prisoners, heck I had an old HS friend tell me that he taught her CCD religion courses here at this church! I don't remember that at all!

And he did it all with a great sense of humor and humility. He was a gentleman.

And as a father, he was the same way. He was always very supportive and proud of everything my sister and I did, big or small. And he adored his grandson Kyle. When Kyle was younger my dad was content to watch him nap. Dad would pull up a chair and watch him sleep for hours. And during dad's time in the nursing home, a visit from Kyle would always add a HUGE sparkle to his eyes.

Now that I'm older there's so many of dad's personality traits that I wish I had more of, if that's grammatically correct. Some of the same things that I resisted or would make fun of when I was kid, I'm envious of now....

I'm envious of how personable he was. He was always comfortable talking to anybody in any situation about any topic. He'd make friends with the waiter or the patrons at another table within seconds of sitting down at a restaurant. He'd invite the Javohas Witnesses in to see a picture of his grandson.

I'm envious of how good a public speaker he was. If he was doing this eulogy I'm sure he wouldn't be as nervous as I am now. And if he was doing this eulogy he'd be speaking without a script, or with a few notes written on 3x5 index cards.

I'm envious of his sense of style. I never thought I'd say that, but it's true. Looking at lots of pictures over the past few days I realized how much of a player my dad was when he was younger. Did you see those old pictures yesterday? The man had swagger. If it wasn't for my wife dressing me I wouldn't look nearly this good.

Basically I'm envious of how much of a gentleman he was. How he was always a gracious host. And as my mom could tell you, he didn't always want to be hosting a party or a holiday at his house and there might be a bit of a battle right up until the guests arrived. But once you were in his house, heck once you were in his presence, he was always trying to make everyone feel comfortable.

And when the Parkinson's really slowed him over the past few years, and he would have good days and bad days and happy days and angry days, his gentlemanly ways would still shine through. One of his first requests when he got to the nursing home was for us to buy folding chairs so that all his guests would have chairs. And in his last few months when his speech wasn't great, my mom would bring him coffee & Stella Dora biscotti and without saying a word, he'd motion to us like "where's yours? I'm not going to eat alone."

So the last couple of days we've been celebrating my dad. And my dad would've loved it. Richie said yesterday at the wake "who's gonna make me laugh at wakes now?" because my dad would always be in the corner of a wake bending someone's ear with some funny story like the time he almost got arrested in Puerto Rico for "accidentally" driving on an airport runway. And between the afternoon & evening wake sessions we had some people over my house for dinner and as Aunt Jo said my dad would've been in his glory with all his family around, especially when the conversation was about Italian dialects.

So let me wrap it up by saying let's continue to celebrate the man, the gentleman, and remember him with everything we do.

Thank you.

17 comments:

  1. This was absolutely beautiful, and brought tears to my eyes. Your father sounds like an amazing man, and I know that he'll live on in your heart.

    My deepest sympathies for the loss of your dad.

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  2. Tallula NickenbockerJuly 17, 2012 at 3:41 PM

    Thank you for sharing this with us...I must be a emtional crybaby..because im crying over it...we all love you ! Again, thank you for touching our lives everyday...as we live with Autism in some form....you make it better for us...your dad would be proud of you for that...
    Tallula Nickenbocker ( your facebook fan and friend)

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  3. Beautiful, painted a wonderful picture of your Dad. Thoughts and prayers. X

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  4. That was funny. My dad said that people often mistook his dad for a lawyer becaus ehis nails were always neat and clean and he wore a hat. Grandpa was a Maintance Man in a Mental Hospital.

    A guy that can fool you into thinking he is Something greater than what he really is, is also a Gentleman.

    Grandpa was born January 2, 1917. He was about nintey-two when he died.

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  5. That's beautiful, just perfect. My thoughts and prayers are with you during this time.

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  6. wonderfully written, the love, admiration and respect you have/had for your Dad shines through!!

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  7. That was good AD. Brought tears to my eyes too. I also envy your father and hope to someday be remembered as a gentleman like him.

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  8. That was beautiful and he would have been very proud of you! My dad was born in October 1929 also and was also crazy about his grandson. You speak very well from the heart in a very honest way, that's what makes your blog so refreshing.

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  9. What a beautiful tribute. I would have enjoyed meeting your dad.

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  10. So beautiful...your dad had a beautiful soul and wasn't afraid to spread his love around. My condolences to you during this part of your journey...may you find peace!

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  11. It is an honor to us that you shared your father's life story. He raised a good son and got to see and know his grandson..I love that he was content to sit and watch Kyle sleep..that moved me deeply. May you find comfort and peace of heart and mind.

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  12. So sorry for your loss, this gave me chills. Your father sounds like a wonderful person that lived a full life.

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  13. So sorry for your loss and thank you so much for sharing your memories of your dad. Peace to your family in this time.

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  14. You and your family have been in my thoughts and prayers since your blog last week. What a wonderful eulogy. Keep your memories close; may they offer you peace. Mary

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  15. From thr heart and beautifully put into words, my Sympathy to you and your family at this sad time.xxx

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  16. Your dad was only four months younger than my mother was when she died in early April.My autism has always been too severe for me to live on my own.I was very lucky,that a few months before she died,that I was able to find a cause for my problems,folate related,and treat them.It kept me out of a group home.

    Folate metatoblism,cerebral folate deficiency,and folate autoimmunity is just one emerging genetic and familial model of autism.Family history of Parkinson's and Alzheimer's is another.

    I know how difficult,and lonely it can be.It has been five months,and the hurt is just starting to heal.It is still very lonely.But maybe the best way to honor your father's memory,get some real for Kyle,and help other families,is to get in touch with people who are doing research about the connection between Autism,and Parkinson's.One of the best is very close to you.He is Eric Hollander Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx.I think he would be very interested in hearing from you.

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  17. Remembering your Dad with you today. He sounds like someone I would have loved to work for as a teacher.

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