I found it particularly difficult to write this eulogy. I stared at a blank computer screen for what felt like hours. I paced. I drank coffee. When that didn’t work, I drank wine. Nothing seemed to help. And it wasn’t because I didn’t have enough to say about Dad. It was because I had too much, and I didn’t know how to begin.
I thought about words to describe Dad. Happy. Generous. Strong. Big-hearted. Smart. Funny. Mischievous. Creative. Charming. Flirtatious. Stubborn. Talented. Smiling. Always smiling right up until the very end. The list of adjectives goes on.
Dad loved talking in strange accents. He loved leaving totally incomprehensible phone messages. When something was odd or strange, he didn’t just call it weird. He called it “Weird weird WEIRD!”
Dad was a sculptor, a painter, and a writer. I had the honor of writing three children’s books with him and several screenplays. We had heated discussions about plot and structure and character development…and spelling. Dad was a self-proclaimed horrible speller, and practically rejoiced at the invention of spellcheck, although he often joked that his spelling was so bad, even spellcheck couldn’t figure out the word he was trying to write.
I remember evenings in high school when I spent the night at his condo in Eastbluff, watching Dynasty while eating dessert: pecans and dates we popped into our mouths with reckless abandon, while commenting on the absurd antics of Blake and Crystal Carrington.
I remember him holding my hand when the doctor stitched up my chin after I fell off my bike and popped it open.
I remember his resounding, earth-shattering snore, and his complete and utter denial that he snored in the first place.
I remember singing with Dad, always singing—he had a great voice, and I remember writing a song with him on one of our beloved houseboat trips. Country western, of course.
I remember each and every heart-stopping ride I took with him in his Escalade. I’m pretty sure Dad still holds the land-speed record from here to Las Vegas.
I remember Dad sitting by my side during my junior high school awards banquet. I didn’t win anything except a small pin for being on the honor roll. And I apologized to him for having wasted his evening. And he squeezed my hand and said, “Don’t worry, honey. Your time will come.” And years later, at my high school awards ceremony, he sat beside me again. I received a lot of awards that night, and when it was over, I said to him, “Dad, you were right.” And he said, “Of course I was, honey. I’m always right.”
I’d like to share two stories, two of the most important lessons Dad taught me, that I’ve carried through my lifetime. When I was nine years old, I was chosen to play Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz at my elementary school. Dorothy. Wow, the lead. I guess I got kind of a big head, and possibly that caused me to be a little snooty toward the other people in the play who were not the lead. Dad witnessed my behavior, and pulled me aside, right there backstage. He said, “Honey, God has given you many gifts. But that doesn’t make you better than anyone else. It makes you blessed. Be thankful for your blessings and remember, your gifts don’t belong to you, they belong to God. Share the gifts you’ve been given and treat everyone with kindness and respect.”
The second story took place my sophomore year of college. I got into a car accident, and it was my fault all the way. I remember being terrified of calling Dad. I didn’t want to tell him that I’d crashed the car he gave me, that the insurance he was still paying was going to go up. But I had to tell him. And so I did. I told him about the accident, and he didn’t hesitate with his response. Immediately, he asked, “Are you all right?” Yes. “The other car, is everyone in the other car all right?” Yes. “Nobody’s hurt?” No, Dad. But the car isn’t all right. “Honey,” he said. “It’s just a car. You’re all right. That’s what matters.”
One of my favorite songs of Dad’s captures who he was: Hello there neighbor, why look so sad? If you start out the day that way, it’s gonna turn bad! Put a smile on your face, for the whole human race, ’cause it’s a wonderful day.
Today doesn’t feel like a wonderful day. It feels like a sad say. Even though I know Dad is no longer suffering, even though I know he’s with God and Grandma and Grandpa and the many loved ones who’ve passed before, it’s hard to put a smile on my face.
But I will smile. Perhaps not for the whole human race. But for you, Dad. Every time I think of you or see a picture of your face, or remember your jokes, your voices, your passion, your love of life. I will smile. Because that’s who you were, and that’s who I am because of you.
I love you, Dad.