My intended eulogy:
I am grateful.
I am grateful that my father was in my life:
-I am grateful because without him, and despite unwanted circumstances, here I am.
-I am grateful because he taught me to live life honestly, with integrity--and without artifice, dissembling or BS. With Richard H. Stanley, what you saw is what you got.
-I am grateful because, on Sunday drives, he taught me how to identify cars (by year, make and model), cows (by breed) and deer (buck, doe or fawn). I am still doing show-and-tell, albeit for a living, now.
-I am grateful because of scorching arguments between my mother and father, I knew from age four, that I was on my own--which was an essential gift in my self-formation and my own independent nature.
-I am grateful because I had to EARN his respect and love--against steep odds. I learned from him that, sometimes in life, love is not entitled, nor is anything.
-I am grateful because he took the training wheels off my 20-inch bike, so that I could take one more step from boyhood toward manhood.
-I am grateful because he bought me my first-and-only 26-inch “big” bike, an English Hercules three-speed, which he assembled in the Brobst Street basement for Christmas 1962. I still own this bike, and it just ran out of warranty after 50 years!
-I am grateful because he introduced me to the mysteries of cars by teaching me car maintenance and repair on my first car--even though it was a Chevy.
-I am grateful because, despite his prickly exterior, he was deeply sentimental and wounded. As Grandmother told me, as an aside non-sequitur, “He never grew up.” I loved him anyway. (There is something endearing to me about a puer aeternus, no matter how frustrating they can be.)
-I am grateful because we both loved cars, trains, geography, geology--and Gettysburg.
-I am grateful because he shared a ribald sense of humor: once, at the Hershey Swap Meet, he asked me to find a bigger steering wheel for the pickup, so that he could get more leverage pulling the truck into the Brobst Street garage. I knew the vendor who might have such a wheel--and indeed he did. I decided to buy the wheel for my father's birthday. I handed him the wheel and proceeded to pay the vendor, who was across the display table. As I was completing the transaction, a petite, Ellie Mae-type blonde woman in her 40s came up to my left. She was a dish: very pulled-together, with papered-on jeans, a red gingham blouse tied up under her bosom and a straw cowboy hat with the brim sides rolled up diploma-tight. “You've got a big one! You've got a big one!,” she burbled to my father, “I want a little one! I want a little one!” My father, who was on my right side and who was surveying her keenly, looked her straight in the eye and, without missing a beat, replied dryly, “Well you're the first woman who ever said THAT to me.” Non-plussed, she fumed. Before her hat blew off, the vendor and I finished, I grabbed my father with the “big” wheel and we headed to neutral turf.
-I am grateful because early one foggy October morning in 1992, as I left, alone, to drive the '54 Chrysler on its cross-continent journey to Los Angeles, we hugged each other--tearfully.
-I am grateful because, in my adulthood, he sought my counsel.
-I am grateful because he loved me as I am, even though he never understood.
-I am grateful that he was able to live independently almost to the end--he lived his life his way.
-I am grateful because the last time I saw him, I told him “I love you”, and he replied to me, “I love you.”
-I am grateful my father was in my life--because, all-in-all, we hit the jackpot together.