May 14, 2003
will not speak this day of the circumstances of my father's passing, about which
probably heard by now. Instead, I wish to focus on my father's life, and give you an idea
what he was about. Please bear with me.
My father was a thoughtful, humble man of practical virtue. He
expressed it early and often, by sharing the care of all his children
from infancy, which was a necessity with my mother also working, but
it was never something I can recall ever being debated or agonized
over, nor, for the most part, did anything seem to be lacking in this
arrangement. It helped get us our house, which he built.
When my son was born, My father did the same thing, including endless efforts
at getting his first grandchild to sleep, and soothing him when he was colicky.
Years later, when my sister was in her last illness, he helped care for her much
the same way, because she had become nearly as helpless as a baby.
My father helped us with our homework, took us on vacations without the assistance
of my mother, fixed our cars, hollered and criticized when it was necessary, but also shared our
hugs, confidences and jokes, which was ALSO necessary. He even cared for a series of our cats,
which was NOT necessary, but once we took over the unpleasant chores, he came to enjoy their
companionship, especially our last two. His distinctive whistle and cat call to summon us children
and felines home could be heard up and down the street.
We became more like friends with my father as we
became adults, and even then, he gave advice, and even went after a
man who was harassing one of his daughters, as he had also intimidated the
neighborhood bully during our childhood. An act which, by the way,
was endorsed by that bully's parents.
My father's sense of responsibility even extended to his company's employees
he was in management; when a woman complained that she was being harassed by a
supervisor, my father settled it, in her favor.
He allowed those of us who had left home to return whenever there were
problems, and supported the one who didn't leave but complicated
everyone's life--- that was me. He did a great deal for his
sisters--- was their mainstay, especially for the one who could not be here today.
That he could not reach out and save my late sister and
brother from their ultimate fates was the worst thing that ever
happened this very protective man, until his own illness made him an
object of futile protection. Even so, he never really admitted to
hopelessness--- even with all his discomforts, he was grateful for the
time he'd gained, and for the prospect of a future.
He was sometimes hard on himself, even apologized for mis-happenstances that
were not his fault. He knew that smoking had caused his plight, but had,
after he quit, had over a decade of decent health in the meantime, and
little reason to expect such an end.
My father did have his lighter side, and people liked him, wherever he
went. He was a thrifty guy, but looked forward to an occasional visit
to either of those twin beacons of Native American enterprise, Mohegan Sun
and Foxwoods. I was even recently informed that he and my uncle had enjoyed
a "lost weekend" golf adventure in Hilton Head.
He was modest and sensible; I remember that when we were little, he told us
not to use the word "stupid" because it was "cartoon talk." In time,
of course, this rule faded away, but I was in my 30's before
accidentally uttering a vulgarity in his presence without twinges of
guilt. Even so, he got some vicarious pleasure out of reading spy novels.
I like to imagine that, after the family reunion in Heaven, he will eventually
hang out with Robert Ludlum.
Though my father was personally conservative, he used to like liberal-tinged
TV fare such as "Hill Street Blues", and "the West Wing".
The invention of the Walkman was a great milestone for him; to relieve the
drudgery of yard work, he could listen to the beloved music from his youth---
and often sang along with Frank, Tony, Dean, Patsy, etc., as he twirled the tractor around
the "back forty." And after I went out for dinner, a rare occurrence in the last few years,
he loved to pump me for every detail of the meal, eating vicariously as well.
He would reminisce about growing up in Bridgeport in the 30's and
40's, and his army experiences. Growing up in a lower-middle-class
area and dropping out of high school, he was something of a mischief-maker.
He told a story once of how he and his friends crouched on the roof of a large
mausoleum, snatching off, then replacing, the fedora of a visitor to the
tomb, scaring the daylights out of the unhappy fellow.
He enlisted in the Army around the time of the Korean War. A series of
him from being shipped overseas, and, perhaps, saved his life.
Instead, he stayed in Washington, where he was one of the "Old Guard",
honor guard for the President, guard at the tomb of the unknown
soldier, and one of a cast of "thousands" when his unit appeared in
"The Day the Earth Stood still." When we were younger, and got a VCR,
My youngest sister would record and freeze frame the crowd shots of the alien
ship landing, in hopes of recognizing him. No such luck--- it seemed
that ALL the soldiers back then looked alike from a distance.
There WERE dark moments in this relatively benign duty--- having to be
present at traumatic wartime funerals, assassination fears for President Truman,
and having to assist in cleaning up after a plane crash in the Potomac---
coincidentally, almost the exact site of another horrible crash, I think about 25
After his discharge, he persevered for many years, juggling work and
family responsibility to earn, first, his GED, then a bachelor's degree.
With this, he was able to rise from the factory floor to management, but when he lost
this position, he held a physically rigorous job in the Post office until retirement.
His other feats in later life included re-roofing our house and restoring his late uncle's house.
All in all, my father was an example of what many men these days
don't even aspire to; though I believe that, especially in the company
that mourns him today, the mold that he and many of his generation
fell from certainly hasn't been broken.
Still, as long as our memories last, he will live on. And he lives in all the
have written, as the embodiment of the best sort of masculine
behavior, and one of the best types of father anyone could have.
Much of his life truly exemplified the message of First Corinthians,
Chapter 13, which teaches that any gift, no matter how positive, is
worth little if not illuminated by love. Not romantic love, or casual
fondness, but the selfless, giving essence of love, which in older
versions of Scripture was called "charity". I think the message here
stands alone, and is accessible to all, whatever their belief system--- or lack
thereof. This was culled from 3 different Bibles to find the best translation. You could
call it the Lorraine version:
"Though I may speak with all the voices of men and angels, if I have
not love, I would sound like brass or a cymbal. Though I may have the
gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and knowledge, and have
all faith that I could move mountains, if I have not love, I am
nothing. And though I may bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and
make other great sacrifices, if I have not love, it profits me
"Love suffers long, and is kind; love is not envious or jealous, is
not boastful nor proud; Loves does not behave badly, seeks nothing for
itself, is not easily provoked, and thinks no evil. Love rejoices not
in deceptions, injustice and immorality, but rejoices in the truth.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures
all things. Love never fails; but prophecies shall fail; voices
shall cease; knowledge shall vanish away. For we know things only in
part, and we prophesy only in part.
"But when that which is perfect and whole has come, then that which is
only partial shall vanish. When I was a child, I spoke as a child and
understood as a child; but when I became an adult I put away childish
things. For now, we see through a mirror, darkly, but after, we will
see face to face. Right now, I only know in part, but then, I shall
know even as I am known.
"There will always be present, these three great gifts: faith, hope
and love, but the greatest of these is love."
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