Yesterday the family gathered back in Aurora for my father’s service, at the church across the street from their old house (that was weird). My sister, mother and I all got up and said a few words about my Dad. Here’s what I wrote:
I spent a lot of time this week going through our family pictures for the viewing, and I was struck by how different and how healthy my Dad looked twenty, or even ten years ago.
A lot of us might think of him as the hunched over guy with the hoses and oxygen machine. For some of us, that’s the only Bill we knew. But it wasn’t always like that.
I hope you were able to look at some of those pictures and remember the guy I do: the tall, V-necked, farmer-tanned Bill, who never ran out of energy and always seemed to be moving.
He was the guy who stuck a camper on the back of a flatbed truck and drove the family across the country during the month of August. You might think this was no big deal, but: This truck was a manual and had no air conditioning. It’s a miracle my Mom stayed married to him.
He was the guy who taught Renie and I how to hang drywall, shingle a roof, pour concrete, chop firewood, grow a garden, and pick locks.
Even though we were the ones sanding, picking up the shingles and throwing them in the truck, mixing the concrete, hauling the firewood, and weeding the garden at 7 in the morning.
He was a generation behind most of my friends’ parents so he wasn’t a hippie. he was kind of a square. I didn’t learn how to relate emotionally from him. If I had a problem with my friends or got my feelings hurt, I talked to my Mom. But I did want to be better at that stuff than he was for my daughter, and that might have been the most valuable lesson he taught me.
As I got older, I started relating to him on a different level. He was surprised, but he rolled with it, to his credit. Old dogs can learn, in their own way, on their own time.
So in your mind, try to replace the guy with the tanks and the stoop with the tall, farmer tanned guy in the floppy yellow hat and beard. Thank you all for coming.