Eulogy for My Father
Length: 1352 words (3.9 double-spaced pages)
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I am honoured to be here.
I am honoured to be here to speak to you all.
I am honoured to be here to speak to you about my father.
Each of you here had your own relationship with my Dad, each of you has your own set of memories and your own word picture that describes this man. I don’t presume to know the man that you knew. But I hope that, in this eulogy that I offer, you will recognise some part of the man that we all knew, the man that is no longer amongst us, the man who will never be gone until all of us here have passed.
My father was raised in the in-between generation, born in the years immediately before the end of World War Two, what they call the “silent generation”. A generation with one foot firmly planted in the 1940′s with the other placed unsteadily in the 1960′s. He was blessed, or some would say cursed, with an independent wife, one with the expectation of working and not content to be kept at home. His children were raised in the sixties and seventies, challenging times for parents with the traps of drug use and pre-marital sex, neither of which I believe Dad had been prepared for in the lesson plan his father had given him.
At times my Dad would be presented with the need to cope with a behaviour from my brother or I that he didn’t have an pre-made answer for, one that he would just have to cope with on the spot.
When my Dad was in this situation he always fell back on the core values that he had learned and tried to impress on us boys the importance of doing the right thing. My Dad didn’t read books about child-rearing, he relied on common sense values. My Dad didn’t know who Dr Spock was and would have thought he was an ass if he did.
One school vacation I recall my father pulling me out of bed early one morning after I had been at a party at my brother’s flat at Okareka. He asked me if I had been drinking and driving.
Of course I denied this. He dragged me outside and pointed out the punga fronds jammed in my windscreen wipers, collected during my not-quite-straightforward trip home through the “Blue Lake Windies” a few hours before. He looked me fair in the eye and said “Don’t be a bloody idiot Geof”. That was the end of it, that’s how my Dad believed kids should be raised. Straight to the point, no buggering around, we always knew what the standard was that he expected.
I use the word values here a lot because I think it’s a word that has real meaning when you try to describe my father.
My father can be defined in part I think by his sense of honour, by his understanding of right and wrong. He was a fiercely loyal man, loyal to his family, loyal to his friends and loyal to the values that he learned from his parents. My father has always striven to be fair above all, sometimes he was, sometimes he wasn’t, always he tried. These same character traits are ones that both my brother and I have, learned or inherited it doesn’t matter, what he was, so have we become.
My father had a quick temper, a temper that flared, ran hot and died just as quickly. That could be thought a flaw if it were not combined with another part of his character, his difficulty in holding a grudge. He and I talked about this one day, it came up because he knew that I had struggled at times with that same temper. The way he put it was “call the man a bastard at 4 o’clock, drink his beer at 6″. This pair of traits my brother and I have, learned or inherited it doesn’t matter, what he was, so have we become.
My father was never, in my experience, an overtly religious man, although there were a number of times in my life that I heard him refer to Jesus Christ. One time was the day I caused his hand to be pinched between an engine and a gearbox in a car he was working on in the driveway. Another time was when I absentmindedly dropped the bonnet of a VW on his head as he was welding the hinge. And of course he witnessed vigourously the day I caused him to weld his wristwatch to his arm.
I remember the bonnet incident well because immediately after he had called on Jesus there was a pause and then he said ‘Geof?”. Of course I said nothing. He said “are you still there” as if he half expected Jesus to have whipped me away for my own safety. I said yes, I was still there. He said “would you mind holding onto the bonnet a little tighter mate?”. My father forgave me often.
My father provided for us an example of the strength of a man who truly loves his wife. My fathers example to us was that a man could strive to have a relationship with a woman based on love and mutual respect, not on an imbalance of power. I think it is telling that of all my friends at school I have been, for the past 25 years, the only one whose parents remained married.
My father and my mother gave us both an example of an honest and faithful relationship where one could use the odd Anglo-Saxon word without it foretelling the end of anything. My father, my parents, gave both of us boys a hope that we also could form such a relationship. My Dad showed us that we could be strong men without resorting to the misogynism of the classic Kiwi bloke. What he was, so have we become.
My father was, is, will always be the most capable and creative man I ever met. I cannot recall him ever botching anything he turned his hand to. He understood materials and engineering innately without the need for a formal education in them. In fact he had the typical Kiwi disdain for the educated man who could not “do”. Unfortunately I cannot claim to have gained this talent from him, nails are doomed to buckle under my hammer. But I learned enough from him to respect, without reservation, men who can “do”.
My father feared nothing. In all my recollection of my Dad I cannot recall him ever being afraid of anything (even the oncoming headlights of a forest ranger). My brother gained his creative skills, I scored the lack of fear thing.
My father was many more things than this I know, you know it too. Some of you will recall his generosity, I will always remember his sense of humour. My father never smirked or smiled, he laughed, all of him, from his belly to his eyebrows. His hands would lift off the table, his head would tip back and he would just laugh.
My Dad told the best hunting stories. I have tried to read the odd hunting book over the years, I always threw them to one side because they just didn’t have the sense of being there that my Dad’s “boof-whack” stories always did.
My father was an interested and interesting man.
And finally most of all my father gave us boys an example of a man whose imperfections provided the colour in his character while his strengths gave his character its wonderful shape.
My only brother and I are who we are because of who this man was. We will always miss him.
Good-bye Dad, may the wind always be in your favour and the deer be numerous & curious where-ever you are now. Kia Kaha Mum.