Monday, July 4, 2011


Oh, the things one finds when going through old files. Here is what I wrote for Mother's funeral (with a few edits).

My daughter Emilia never knew Mother as the active, energetic person she was before she was paralyzed. She was a take-charge, hard working woman. When we moved (which was often), she would load the truck, put up the air conditioner, set up the beds . . . whatever needed done. She milked the cows, worked in the field, and cooked a pot of beans every Wednesday. From her example, I never differentiated between women's work and men's work. Mother did both, with little complaint. She just did whatever needed to be done.

She was a tireless worker. After hoeing cotton in the hot field all day long, Rocky and I would be looking forward to that last row when we could finally put down our hoes and go to the house. Mother would say, "Let's do one more row." And, we would do one more row. She then would urge us to do another row. And, sometimes another. Mother's urging us to complete just one more row has served me well in my adult life. Many times when faced with a difficult or never-ending task, I think of Mother getting us to do one more row. And I press on, running just one more mile, completing one more task, taking one more step.

To say the least, Mother was a little obsessive compulsive about her house. We couldn't go to church until the floors were swept. My house is never as clean as Mother's. But I always wish it was.

Mother was paralyzed in November 1985. In the same month, my second child Sarah was born and died. It was a terrible time in our lives. Mother was in the hospital in Lubbock for a year. I went to visit her every day. I crocheted two afghans for her, sitting in her hospital room. They were pink, of course. Emilia, who was only two, learned how to count going up the stairs every day to Mother's room on the second floor. It was a horrible, horrible time for Mother and for me. In spite of the indignities and pain she suffered, she still was able to comfort me in my grief. Together in her room we would cry as I crocheted and Emilia played at the foot of her bed.

Mother always had a garden. Every time I see a zinnia, I think of her. Every dumpy rent house we lived in had a row of colorful zinnias in the front yard. She was into organic gardening long before it became the thing to do. Every spring, I joke that the sap rises in me, and I have to go out and dig in the dirt and plant something. Charlotte has a garden, and I know Rocky likes to garden as do I. I like to think it is a part of Mother in all of us.

Mother's gift to all of us is her strength and can-do attitude. Her last years in a wheelchair should never diminish the strong, able woman who raised all of us into capable, confident, and productive members of the human race. I hope I do as well with my own child.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

C.H. Eulogy

While cleaning out files, I found a copy of what I read at Daddy's funeral. When I reread, it brought tears to my eyes, for a lot of reasons. Daddy was a complicated man, but he was our father, and in spite of the difficulties he brought to our lives, he gave us a lot.

My remarks (edited a bit--see items in italics) from the funeral:

I have been writing these words in my head for years now. I knew when the time came I wanted say something at my father's funeral. But now the time has come, I don't know where to begin.

He was a very difficult man to live with, especially when he was younger. Though I remember hard times, I also remember him as a very handsome man dressed in khaki shirt and denim pants. He was a very good-looking man. When people would tell him that he had a good-looking bunch of kids, he would joke: "They get their looks from their mother; I've still got mine." If he had any vanity, it wasn't about his looks; it was his mind. He prided himself on his intelligence and when we thought we knew more than him, he would tell us, "I've forgot more than you ever learnt!"

Though we grew up chaffing under his critical eye, he was a central and unifying part of both our childhood as well as our adulthood. As children, I remember huddling together over the heater muttering what we were going to do to him when he was on one of his rampages. Actually, we were plotting to kill him as we listened to him beating the crap out of Mother in the next room. We didn't know it then, but he created a bond among us that remains today, a bond that is stronger than any on my mother might have inspired. We were bound by hate. We were bound together as a unit against what we saw as a common enemy. We were bound to show him he was wrong, and that we could do better than he thought we could. Even in death, he still connects us. We all have stories of him that share a remarkable similarity. He didn't have any favorites (unless you count Rocky). He distributed his no-nonsense discipline equally.

He taught us to be tough. I remember many times, especially when I was single, barely making a living on my own and going through hard times, he would tell me to "buck" up, get tough, and say, "You're a Ford." Sometimes that wasn't what I wanted to hear, but as a parent guiding my rather shy child through two cross-country moves, I have repeated those same words to her, "Remember, you are a Ford."

He wasn't a man given to hobbies. We never went camping; family vacations usually were trips to my grandparent's place. He wasn't directly involved in our lives. In fact, I think we preferred to keep him in the background. We had more fun that way. We didn't want to have to deal with him. Mother was much easier. She kept a looser rein on us, while his "No, because I said so" was always final. There was no negotiating.

He and mother fought a lot. But every Valentine's Day, there was the biggest and prettiest box of chocolates for her (which she hid from us kids, only doling out a piece at a time). On her birthday or at Christmas, he would buy her the stylish dress she couldn't afford. As a child, I was impressed with his good taste. But Mother's practicality and her down-to-earth fashion sense usually won out, and she would return it.

He loved family gatherings, lording over them with the heater cranked up high so his feet wouldn't get cold. Though hard on us, I know he loved us. I knew it as a child, though he never expressed it. Like other things, he expected us to know that.

Things I got from my father:
  • When we went to family reunions, everyone know whose child I was. They always remarked how much I looked like my father. I never saw it then.
  • My gift of gab. The "I-never-met-a-stranger" personality. While ordering in a restaurant, I hear myself making those same inane comments to the server. They come out unbidden. There's no stopping my father coming out in me.
  • My skinny feet.
  • Enormous pride in my family.

Things I learned from my father:
  • How to swear
  • How to pack a car trunk to maximize every little inch
  • How to drive a stick shift
  • How to drive aggressively

In Julius Caesar, Shakespeare writes, "The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones." I'm not sure that is always true. Even in death, good things about my father are here. My father left an enormous legacy. They are all here sitting in this chapel.

He is not gone. I see him every morning in the bathroom mirror. I hear myself repeating all those little things he said such as, "I'll slap a dollar in your pocket." Every time we get together,  the talk always gets around to my father. Last night was no exception. We were up till far too late last night swapping tales about Daddy. He is very much with us.

I'm proud to say I am a Ford. And I am proud to say I am Carlos Ford's daughter. He gave me a lot.