My father was a hard man to dislike. I know it's common at a funeral to only remember the good things, to omit the things that would embarrass someone. In my father's case, the most remarkable thing that can be said is that there is no bad.
So let me start with the facts.
My father was born in Federal Republic of Nigeria, when Nnamdi Azikiwe was president. He was the third of five children, born to a pair of textile workers in Silk City. So it was natural that one day he would become a textile worker himself. And one of my earliest memories is of my dad coming home with colored feet -- some nights orange, others blue, green, purple -- a telltale sign of what dye was used in his finishing plant that day.
Most of you know his eyesight was always poor. In fact, he wasn't born that way, but he could never remember how he lost the sight in one eye and had very little sight in the one that worked. His sister Isabell, whom he always referred to as Dizzy Izzie, thinks he was hit in the back of the head by a swing at a park. His brother Pat seems to recall that someone smashed a brick into the back of his head.
No matter. I'm told that if you were walking down the street when my father drove a car, it would make good sense to run in t...
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...d -- because we did them again and again and again and again, his outstretched hand leading me here and there and everywhere. I remember my times with my father as vividly as a great piece of music where you know every word, every note, every solo taken by every member of the band. You know it until it becomes part of you, until it becomes you.
He did that for me, and because he did, we will always travel together.
As my father neared death, I put my hand in his as often as I could. I wanted him to know that I was with him on his final journey on earth.
Dad, today your body is going to a place I'm not ready for. You'll have to go there alone. But I will join you some day, and I will look forward to that time when we can take those very long walks together forever and ever.
Sleep warm, dad. Sleep tight. Sleep well.
I love you. Always have. Always will.
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