Almost Down To Sturm and Back

I delivered this eulogy for my father today:

My father was a gentleman,
A gentle man.
A Republican.
He didn’t have a mean bone in his body.
He was a soft touch;
He loaned much but borrowed little.

My father was a noble man,
A nobleman,
An able man.
He wasn’t handy, but he
was persistent!
He persevered much
And gave so freely, he seemed rich.

He leaves behind a family,
He came from what today is called a ‘blended family,’
But during the Great Depression was just a busted home.
He swore that his kids wouldn’t grow up like that
And we did not.

He insisted upon eating the chicken backs
At Sunday chicken dinner
I was grown before I understood that
No one prefers to eat back meat,
Not even him!
He preferred for others to be satisfied
And could absorb more personal misery in pursuit of other’s happiness
Than anyone I’ve known.

My father hated infirmity
and growing older
was hard for him
A bungled surgery left his foot drooping,
and he walked with a cane after that.
He’d walk almost down to Sturm and back
at a turtle’s pace. But he walked.

My father was a working man,
A hard-working man,
Never a hard man.
He held his own convictions,
forgiving others their’s.
He seemed to know someone everywhere he went.

He was a gentle spirit
Who just couldn’t get
Why we couldn’t get along.
He loved songs. Country songs and crooner’s songs
Charlie Pride and Nat King Cole,
And old familiar melodies we’d never heard before
back-lit him like sheet lightening.

He stood up for his kin.
He believed in them,
Even when others’ faith was thin.
He’d shake his head and remember when
They were younger, I guess, and clueless,
And he seemed to understand.

He leaves behind a closet filled with free umbrellas
Blind Native Americans sent
Pleading for his pennies for their programs.
They got their annual check. An obligation he fulfilled
Even though he had no use for those umbrellas.

He read voraciously
When he’d read every book in the house,
and started in reading them twice,
it pained him to give those friends away
He filled those shelves again before he left.

He loved baseball
tolerated football

hated basketball.
He coached but hated competition.
Sportsmanship was more important—
That everyone could play.
Winning or losing meant less to him than how he played the game.

And he played well.
He also played when he wasn’t well.
He had some down days in his life:
Sick sometimes, but never unshaven.
No time off without grooming.
His mornings smelled of Aqua Velva,
after he’d shaved until his face shone with satisfaction.

He had a lead palate
preferring veal cutlet
to any fancier cut.
He despised mayonnaise,
revered anything with gravy,
He let his beans melt his cheese,
and he counted his cholesterol.

This is the part I cannot say
It’s above my pay grade
He and my mother were bound by something
Few have found
I’m not qualified to expound on it other than to say
His dedication drove me crazy
Inspiring me. A rock. A bickering mountain.

He protected her.
More than a care-giver,
It was as if her fate was on his soul,
and he couldn’t let go.
We couldn’t know the depth of this devotion
“This is just a part of the deal,” he disclosed
Heaven might know what he meant by that.
I know I don’t.

I’ve been trying on
different songs,
unseen ways of seeing
But have not yet found the sort of tune
that might replace this being.
“I can’t complain,” he would explain
It’s all part of the deal.
He’d take his cane and his good name
and make it almost down to Sturm and back
at the speed of a screaming turtle.

note: Sturm is the name of a street about two blocksfrommy father’s home.

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