What do you write about the man you knew as Dad?
For starters, he was a constant, strong, positive, and generous presence. Even though he wasn't always right here, wasn't always even always in the same country, he was never more than a phone call away, and it always felt as though he was right along side us.
We each have our own memories of him, and he was a little different for each of us. My father was all of the things people have and will mention today, and more, many that I'll never even have a clue about.
Every one in this room can help us appreciate the depth of this man's compassion, the scope of his mind, the size of his heart. We can put the pieces together to form a better understanding of how what he was to us was part of a much bigger whole.
I hope we can always hold and cherish these memories. I will never forget one of my first memories with him: being lifted high into the air to throw a ball through the basket. I will always remember how proud he was as I slammed home a dunk for him on his birthday. I'll remember with guilt the time I swore at him, but value as an important lesson the patience with which he accepted this as part of my growing up.
He was a generous man. Just the other day, I realized how much of what I have he gave to me. I was riding down the street on the bike he bought me for graduation from junior high. I still drive the old Buick he bought and we worked together on so many times. Half my wardrobe comes from Suzanne and him. But his generosity was engendered in so much more than his material gifts.
He worked so hard to be the provider for our family, and he suceeded well. We never knew a moment of want, never had to experience the feeling of not getting something we really needed. But even this, does not capture the nature of his biggest gift.
As I find my way through new career steps, I always hold in my mind the vision of my father, confident in the game of business, boldly tackling new assignments, going to new companies, new countries, balancing family life while building a successful career. He left large footsteps to follow. Even though his feet were only size twelve, my sixteens will never fill them! But his confidence and ability to look forward on the bright side of things, when called to mind, help me forward. Always beside me is the image of a tall man, dressed in a nice suit from Sears, carrying his old leather briefcase, walking with confidence off to work, and then home again with a brightness in his eye to see his kids. His image helps me along.
So this is close to what I'd like most to remember about my father, what I hope everyone can remember, no matter their individual experiences with him, the confident, generous, man helping inspire and facilitate others to do well.
But what I'd like to remember is more than just an image, it is the lessons he taught, not pedantically, but through example and through aid in times of need. Witness the respect with which he engaged all people-business associates, friends, family; how he never spoke ill of another, and never even hinted that he might have cause to; how he always, without fail, encouraged others to look on the bright side; and how he always was available to console in rough times. He did this with more than a happy smile and words, but by helping us form plans, to think through our problems and see a way through.
Remember his magic tricks-the dime in the dish, the cork out of the wine bottle, the disappearing glass (or ice cream cone), the one sided coin, countless card tricks, and numerous ropes and iron rings... He certainly loved these for the mechanical ingenuity they expressed. But beyond this, they were a way to connect with people, a way to reach out to others and bring them closer. This was the real magic he worked, and he infused those around him with his positive energy in such circumstances. This is the energy I plan to hold on to. This is the magic I hope everyone who knew this man keeps alive.
In a similar way, he worked some magic in my early years. When I was going through some early growth spurts, and my legs ached seemingly unbearably, I'd crawl into bed with my father and tell him I couldn't sleep for the splitting pain. He comfortingly rub my leg, whichever one hurt the most. Magically, the pain would dissipate, and I'd start to fall asleep. But then so would he, and he'd stop his magic rubbing, letting the pain come back. So I'd nudge him in the ribs, and he's start again. My pain would leave, I'd fall asleep, and finally, I'd let him sleep too.
I gave him a hug last Thursday. He rubbed my back, with the same methodical, restorative touch. I'll always remember those hugs.
So that tall man in a Sears business suit-even if it still has a tag hanging off the back-will forever be with us, encouraging us, helping us look on the positive side, helping us plan and see our way through tough times. We have to say goodbye to his physical presence, but we don't have to loose his continuing positive influence on our lives. We can hold forever these lessons he taught us.