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.

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