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Because of the timing of things, I was getting ready for my dad’s
funeral as the Columbia news was coming to light. Somehow, I find
myself not following it at all, whereas I followed the Challenger
obsessively. Its not that I’m not concerned or sad for them, but I’m
not really interested, if that makes any sense. This time, it doesn’t
seem any more significant than any other seven people dying.

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Our neighborhood is having a social gathering today. We had committed
to going and bringing food some time back. It would have been
reasonable enough to cancel, but we decided that we’d rather attend. I
want to do something that doesn’t revolve around having a dead parent for a
while. I had agreed to cook deviled eggs, which I will immodestly
state that I make very well. I’m writing this stuff up as I’m boiling
3 dozen eggs. I understand why food is a big part of funerals now. I
didn’t do any cooking over the last few days, but it is comforting to
have the routine, the list of rote things to do. Boil the eggs, slice
the eggs, mix the filling, stuff the eggs.

My wife hates deviled eggs and the first time we took them to a
function she was convinced that no one would eat any. I smugly pointed
it out when they were the very first dish to disappear. They are a
near-perfect party foodstuff. They need no utensils, can be eaten in a
bite or two (mine frequently don’t make it onto a plate, just going
straight into the mouth) and are just damn tasty. Years ago when I
decided this was My Thing (and if I take something to a party that I
make, it is this) I fooled around with the recipe and decided that it
tastes better and tangier if you use red wine vinegar, so that’s always
what I do. I also sprinkle paprika across the top when I’m done. My
wife always chides me for the sloppy and ugly way that I stuff them,
not bothering to round or smooth them in any way. I always respond
with “If they last long enough for anyone to notice that, it means I
didn’t make them good enough.”

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At the reception, several people mentioned to my brother and me that
they were impressed with our courage to stand up and speak in front of
everyone. What I was too polite to tell any of them was that I found
it much easier to do that than to talk to them one on one. I could
have gone on for hours about him, good, bad, funny, witty, whatever. I
also found the older guys much easier to deal with, presumably because
they are more practiced in funerals. My father’s boss told me a funny
story, about how my dad had a sneaky way of insulting people. The
boss’ wife is the secretary of the store they worked at, and the boss
occasionally messed up the paperwork. My dad was very particular about
these sorts of things, and while he was straightening up something,
told my boss’ wife “You know, I think you are a classic case of
under-marrying.” That is my dad to a tee. I use one of his statements
all the time “I’ve enjoyed about all of this I can stand.”

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Here is, as close as I can make it, the eulogy I gave for my dad. My
brother had made notes and then discarded them. I never made notes or
said any of this aloud before the service, but I had thought over and
over about what I wanted to say.

My father was a beautiful man, the funniest guy I know
(and I know a lot of really funny guys), and – when he wanted to be –
the most exasperating fool that walked the earth. I’ve never known
someone that argued so hard when they were so wrong, and the wronger
he was the harder he would argue. He had a charming, easy way with
people that I didn’t get – I wish I had it. (I also didn’t get his
height, I got screwed on that deal.) Here are some memories I have of
my father. He had a beautiful singing voice, but he’d never sing. The
only time I ever heard it was him singing along with the radio on
these long western Kansas car trips. This past Christmas we thought
about buying him a karaoke machine, mainly because I just wanted to
hear him sing again.

When I was a child he was a party DJ on the
weekends, and during the week the equipment stayed in our house. He
used to play that stereo so loud – it wasn’t a stereo, it was a public
address system – so loud that it would make our house shake and the
big bay window would rattle in its frame and bow outward with the
beat. He gave me rock and roll lessons, playing me music and telling
me why it was good or special or unique. It was important to him that
I could tell the difference between Elvis and Carl Perkins, that I
could pick out Duane Eddy from Dick Dale from Les Paul by the
differences in their style. I still remember all those lessons.

He and
I had problems, just like he did with his father and every father has
with every son since Adam had to clean up that mess with Cain and
Abel. His dream was to be a professional bowler, and he certainly was
good enough to have given it a shot. He didn’t, mainly because his
father didn’t think that was a reasonable thing for a man with a
family to pursue. He never tried for his own dream, but he took what
he recieved from his father and gave better to his sons. He never did
that to us, never discouraged us from trying for what we
wanted. That’s not to say he wouldn’t tell you if he thought you were
making a lousy decision, he wasn’t shy about that. But he believed and
he told us that we were capable of anything we set our minds
to. That’s not to say that we would or should do anything, but that we
could. That’s all you can ask for from your father, that he let you
know that you are loved and that he thinks you can do anything. That’s
what he did for us.