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Friday, July 1

Eulogy

This is the eulogy I’m delivering at my Grandfather’s funeral this morning.

In the early eighties, Grandma and Grandpa were hosting the entire family up at Clear Lake on one of their many fishing trips. On each of these trips, they would usually pick one night to get dressed up and treat us to a big night out. This particular trip, they took us to the Holiday Lounge to watch a lounge singer. After the performance, Larry, Chris & Robin put me up to asking the lounge singer for his autograph. They used to tempt me into minor mischief frequently, as older cousins tend to do. Of course, I asked the lounge singer for his autograph, as younger cousins tend to be tempted into mischief quite easily.

The singer was a good sport and signed a cocktail napkin, asking where we were from. It wasn’t long until we somehow figured out that grandpa had once sold him a home. He went over and shook my grandfather’s hand, telling him how thankful he was for some favor grandpa had done that allowed him to buy a home.

Grandpa didn’t really remember him much.

As a child, I remember being impressed that Grandpa had touched so many lives, helped so many people, that he wasn’t able to even remember all of them.

As a young man, I continued to be impressed by him, his life and his character.

I spent several summers working for grandpa as his handyman. He’d take me to rental properties, and we’d do things like work on their plumbing while trying to avoid flooding their apartments. He taught me many valuable lessons during those summers, far beyond simple plumbing.

I remember once, we were driving to a duplex to clear some debris from a fallen tree. When we got to the address, I pointed out that the tree actually was growing from the neighbor’s lawn, the same neighbors who had called to complain about the debris. I didn’t think it was our responsibility to clean up someone else’s tree.

Grandpa told me: ‘Sometimes it’s easier to do something then explain why you shouldn’t have to do it.’

Another time, we were painting a tenet’s shed. The tenet had offered to do it himself a year previously, and grandpa had told him to do it whenever he had the time. The tenet had never gotten around to it.

Grandpa told me: ‘If you want to stop something from happening, tell someone to do it whenever they’ve got the time. No one ever has the time.’

We, however, spent a fair amount of time hauling things around in the pick up truck, often people would ask us to haul something for them, and Grandpa would just about always agree to do so.

Grandpa told me: ‘If you ever need friends, buy a pick up truck. When you have a truck, everybody will be your friend.’

He said that for my benefit, though. Grandpa didn’t need a pick up truck for friends; everywhere we went, grandpa had plenty of friends. Everywhere we went, people were glad for his company. He told stories. He gave council. He solved problems.

Grandpa liked to say: ‘You can pick my brain, just don’t pick my pocket.’

He said that even though he was generous with people on a constant basis.

And he could tell a joke. I tried to learn from him. Listening to his set up, his pacing, his timing for a pause. Do you know the one about the guy who goes into a restaurant and all the waiters have spoons in their breast pocket and strings hanging from their flies? If you don’t, you probably never waited on my grandfather, it seemed like he told that joke to darn near every waitresses from here to Sanibel Island. I’ll admit I cringed every time I heard the set up for that one.

But now, it’s my fall back joke. It’s been so heavily road tested, I know everything that can go wrong and everything that can go right in telling that joke. Though I still don’t tell it as well as he did.

Grandpa got into his share of mischief, too. I’ll keep some secrets safe, but on the trips back from the farm, sometimes he’d work with me on perfecting bootlegger turns.

There were other–simpler–lessons too: the best way to cut cardboard, how to back up with a boat hitch, how to tell if someone’s switched off the wrong circuit breaker and left you with a live wire when installing an exhaust fan.

Other lessons he taught by example: He taught me that the entire farm was a urinal. He taught me how to smile while biting my tongue in a way that somehow conveyed a relaxed wisdom. Or rather, he tried to teach me. I think he might be the only person to ever pull that one off convincingly.

Now, as an adult, I continue to be impressed by his ethos.

I’m in a position now where I have the opportunity to share some of my grandfather’s sensible, ethical approaches to problems. A few months ago, one of my interns was teasing me. She said, ‘you know, if your grandfather was here in person, we could just cut out the middleman.’

She was right, and yet she was wrong. I’m not–we are not–simply middlemen. We are the heirs to a legacy of his wisdom, his wit, his acumen, his prudence, his unflappable charm.

And I’ll spend the rest of my life trying to live up to that legacy.

5 Comments:

7/01/2005
Blogger fizzy a.k.a. fifi writes:

Simply beautiful.

I hope the day went as well as it could for you and your family.

fifi

 


7/02/2005
Anonymous Anonymous writes:

Erik's eulogy was perfection, from the writing to the presentation. Grandpa was a wonderful man who loved everyone, black, white, gay, straight, rich , poor...everyone.
Erik did him justice, grandpa would be proud. (but he's probably saying...yeah, I knew Erik could do that!)...Erik's dad

 


7/04/2005
Anonymous Jay writes:

Eric I have been reading your blog for sometime now (Your dad told me about it) I did not know your grandfater but I certinly knew who he was. A real presence in our community. I use the following when my mother passed.

Thomas Wolfe wrote the following:
Something has spoken to me in the night, burning the tapers of thw waning year: something has spoken in the night, and told me I shall die. I know not where.

Saying:
"To lose the earth you know, for greater knowing:
to lose the life you have, for greater life:
to leave the friends you loved for greater loving:
to find a land more kind than home, more large than earth --

" -- Whereon the pillars of this earth are founded, toward which the conscience of the world is tending - a wind is rising athe the rivers flow.""

I don't know what your spirituality is but in Christian Science we are taught that there is no death. I believe that when we pass we continue on until at last we find our oneness with God. (Yes I know I could probably be a Buddhist)

With your grandfather's passing this last week I hope the above will give you some comfort. I know that I never say that I "lost" my mother because a part of her is always with me.

A friend of your father's from Ames

 


7/05/2005
Blogger Big Daddy M writes:

that was fantastic. made me cry, just when i needed too. thank you.

 


7/17/2005
Anonymous emzeetaco writes:

A beautiful eulogy.

I would like to hear the waiter spoon joke.

 


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