Tuesday, November 8, 2011

My Tribute at the Viewing

I really wanted to be able to give a tribute at the funeral. Mom was resistant but agreed that it could be done at the end of the viewing. I know that its hard to speak at a parent's funeral, but I do public speaking for a living and I like it (yes weird) This is my unedited speech written as such so that I could remember how to phrase things. Ignore the typos and grammar errors.

You may wonder why it is that I was asked to give the tribute to our dad. I’m not the oldest or the youngest or the only boy. Well it turns out that apparently, I’m the biggest loudmouth or the “mouthpiece” of the family as I was so bluntly called last week.
From his premature birth until his death at a relatively young age, our dad had a lot of health problems. But he didn’t let that stop him. His determination, will to live and sense of humor kept him going. He rallied back so many times we used to say he must be a cat and have nine lives. We also called him the Energizer Bunny since he kept going and going.
In our family, nick names are a way of showing affection. Many of the names have a story to go along with them. In addition to the Energizer Bunny, we called our dad- dad, dadio, pops, pappa, pa steve, Father, Deacon Steve, Deacon Mel and Docen Stove to name a few. We got this renaming from dad since he called my brother George, my husband- Smith, McKenzie- MacBeth and my sons were at times called Osama and Al (for Al Quida) after they acted like little terrors on our trip to Oregon. With all the pet names being used, we always knew that if he used our whole name it was bad. Hearing Mary Margaret instead of Meg being yelled from upstairs was enough to make us all a bit fearful. But the name we will remember the most fondly is that of his dog Baxter. He loved Baxter more than anything (on some days or maybe most he loved Baxter more than us) and by the time Baxter died he was referred to as Baxter Dexter Walter George Lloyd Floyd Harry Sam. And yes, many times, dad spit that whole name out when he called the dog.
Just like all teens do, we all had our years when dad was a bit embarrassing. He said things in front of boys that made us turn bright red then run away and hide, he would turn the porch light on and off, on and off as a signal that it was time for a boyfriend or girlfriend to say goodnight and go home, but most embarrassing for our teenage souls was when we would go camping and he would wear his dress socks with tevas and shorts. As if that wasn’t bad enough, he used to walk around with a mag flashlight and shine it in other camp sites. When we would tell him to stop he would innocently say- just checking things out. And inevitably, he would break out the Vienna sausages and walk around camp offering them to everyone. Dad stayed the same, but we all matured and continued to camp with him not worrying about the socks, the light or the Vienna sausages. And to this day, even though none of us like them, we always include a can of sausages when we buy food for camping regardless of whether dad would be there or not.
People always told us that dad was so compassionate and caring. But for us, he was the guy who would get mad when our friends would call after 9 PM. The phone would ring and he would say “who’s calling so late? Its quiet time around here.“ or “lets keep down to a dull roar.” At home, his affection came with a bit of sarcasm or teasing. He would often times walk up to one of us and lightly slug the unsuspecting child on the arm. Of course we yelled “hey!” and he would reply, “just giving you a love tap” When the grand babies would cry he would sympathetically say, “you sure are ugly when you cry.“ And many a time I was told that “It must be hard to soar like an eagle when I was stuck living with such turkeys.“ When we did something great he would say “ you know, all those rotten things people say about you just aren’t true” And recently when we took him to Wendover, I won three hundred dollars on the way out the door. He was in his car and I was in the other car so he didn’t know about it until mom said something on the way back to the freeway. He called me up first thing the next morning and said, “I understand that I need to punch you in the face.” But really, he was excited for me. He was never overly demonstrative with us, but when we really needed him, he was there with a hug and a kind word and then left us with this question “in 100 years, will it really matter?”
Dad loved the grand babies. When Kate was born, he was in my hospital room at about 7:30 AM snapping pictures like crazy. And he never got over the fact that my father in law had gotten there first. He always said that Kelly had an unfair advantage since he works there and had to be in for rounds at 6 AM. He followed this trend with the rest of the grand babies. Em and Ray got home from California with Marcus very late at night. Dad waited as long as he could but finally called at 9:30 AM and said he would bring breakfast if he could come over. He loved to see the grand kids develop their talents. Several of us remember when Kate got her first lead as Ariel in the Little Mermaid. He had thought that the songs were a track and that the kids were lip syncing but part way through her solo he realized it was really Kate singing. His eyes welled up with tears and he said “is that Smith? It is, that’s Smith, Smith can sing” From that day forward he was proud of her musical accomplishments. He didn’t have the energy to be a grandpa out playing with the grand kids in the yard or to take them places but he was there for the them at their t-ball and soccer games, ice skating competitions, music concerts and plays.
The thing we want to remember most about dad was his sense of humor. It was subtle and sometimes wicked. We were all Facebook friends. Think what you want about Facebook but the past few years it was one of the best ways to stay connected with him. Numerous times, and as recently as two weeks ago, one or more of us was grounded or set to our room via Facebook for bickering, arguing or teasing over the internet. He also blackmailed us. As with any family, occasionally we get annoyed with one another and feel the need to vent. A few years ago, something was said in a message that all of us kids were copied on. A bit of heckling went on (I will hold all the rest of the details for our protection but to this day I maintain that I was initially innocent) Suddenly we get a message from dad saying that he figured if we each paid him 49.95 per month he could keep that post from getting printed and falling into the wrong hands. I don’t remember what I said, but we were hit with an increase and he was now blackmailing us for 59.95 per month. Not to be outdone, Meg and I arranged to have checks arrive in the mail on the first day of the next month. Immediately after getting his mail, he called and told us we were real smart alecs (and that isn’t the word he used) but he also got a good laugh out of it. And he never cashed the checks. But he did bring it up occasionally always keeping us on our guard.
If he wasn’t disciplining or blackmailing his adult children over Facebook, he was making witty comments on our posts. I have had several friends who never met him comment that they are going to miss my dad on Facebook.
His sense of humor was often times lost on us when we were younger. Poor Jen, being the oldest was the first to attempt to learn to drive. Our only option was a car with a stick shift. Dad offered to take her out for her first drive. Already nervous, she had barely started when he pulled a rosary out his pocket and began rattling the beads. Between negotiating a clutch and the rattling beads, her first drive nearly ended in tears. She made sure to teach me to drive.
On one occasion, Emily parked her car in the driveway and dad needed to get his car out. Since she was busy at the time, she handed him the keys and he went out to move it. He came back in and said, “yo Em! Its not that your music was too loud, its just that I didn’t WANT to Walk Like an Egyptian.” And then made the Steve Martin motions from the music video.
Dad had two health problems that most people didn’t know about. Due to his prematurity, he was blind in his right eye and eventually it was removed and he had a glass eye. One morning after Christine Leneski slept over, she and Patti walked into the kitchen and for some reason, dad’s eye was in wrong so it looked like he was looking in two directions. Patti was horrified and could just say daaaaad! That time was an accident, but then there was the time we were camping and dad had to take his eye out to clean it. Meg regretted saying dad! Gross! Because he then took his eye, reached across the table and said- “Hey Meg, I’ve got my eye on you!”
The other issue he had was his prostate cancer. Despite having a prostatectomy, he still had cancer cells. It was determined that the best way to treat it was to give him a lupron shot every six months. Lupron for anyone who doesn’t know is female hormones used to counteract the testosterone and slow the cancer growth. When he would go in for his shot he always called me from the front lobby to take him up to the clinic. He said I drove a wheelchair better than the messengers. After the shot he would say “well then that wasn’t too bad other than giving me an affinity for doilies and a desire to be in the knitting club.” Then we would go get a cup of coffee together.
Our favorite dadism of all times is what he would say anytime we asked him what he wanted for Christmas, birthday, Father’s day, etc. His response was always, I just want peace and quiet. Being rather astute on one occasion, Bill quickly responded with “I’ll be Peace” one of my much younger and unsuspecting sisters replied with “I’ll be quiet!” Then she realized what she had said. From that day on we would fight over who would be peace and who had to be quiet. We’ve spent many a holiday trying to come up with creative ways to represent peace and quiet in the gifts we gave him.
So in conclusion, this one time only, I’ll ask my five siblings to be peace and I’ll be quiet.

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