My father was known for his positive and motivating adages.
I have dreaded the mere thought of this day for my entire life. I have thought that the day my father’s heart stops beating will be the day that I take my very last breath. I have thought I can not live here on this earth without him. He has been an unrelenting source of love and support, hope and humor, wisdom and kindness for all of my 41 years.
But here we are, because as he has told me many times TIME WAITS FOR NO MAN.
UNCONDITIONAL LOVE… so many never have the chance to know it. I know it. My siblings know it. My mother knows it. His grandchildren know it. His friends know it. Because he chose PEOPLE AND SUBJECTS WORTHY OF HIS TIME. If you were a part of his life, it’s because he loved you. And if he didn’t love you… well, most likely he didn’t like you and you’d know it. My father was a powerhouse filled with insight and foresight… He was intuitive and aware and just recently, while in the hospital, he told me that his keen awareness to detail began when he lost his father at the age of 3. My dad said that when his father died he was left unprotected and vulnerable and, from then on, he needed to stay in tune with everything going on around him… and needed to pay special attention to what people said and did. He said he needed to pay attention to avoid getting hurt.
This is true. He paid a lot of attention to detail. He knew if you spent extra time wrapping a gift for him or if you hand wrote a card with neat script… He appreciated it if you called him early in the day on a holiday or his birthday—and you could do no wrong if you baked him a cake or cookies… He’d be sure to leave you a voicemail – thanking you and telling you how very much he appreciated your thoughtfulness.
Usually, it’s really easy for me to write something—touching and meaningful in any circumstance. Because I can string time and special events together, and I can weave a person’s individual characteristics into a story you’ll never forget. Not this time. I could never capture everything my father was in a single eulogy. I just can’t find enough verbs to truly paint a picture of a man who meant everything to me.
He was the bestest friend you could ever ask for. He was the toughest, bravest, most loyal guy you’ve ever met. He was the most impressive athlete and competitor you’ve ever witnessed. He was a consistent provider. A dedicated husband. And a loving father. A once in a lifetime kind of pal.
He hit home runs over fences and lived for his workouts in the park. He became the number 1 bodybuilder over the age of 50. He won titles and trophies and ribbons and received accolades from the best of them… HE NEVER QUIT. And he’d talk you out of quitting if ever you thought it might be an option. When all you needed was just one person to believe in you, he’d tell you he KNEW YOU COULD DO IT. He was that one person.
When I attended NYU’s Graduate program and I was working towards my master’s degree, he found me in my room one night crying. He asked me what was wrong, and I told him the workload was overwhelming and I didn’t think I could do it. I explained that three students from the undergrad program had been accepted into the grad program (me being one of them) and that two had already dropped out. He asked me what I thought my options were. I told him that I could drop out and finish a master’s degree sometime later in life. Or I could buckle down and do the work. I expressed again that doing the work felt overwhelming to me.
He thought it over and said, “So then quit.”
He wasn’t being mean or antagonistic—because he was never that guy—he was being honest.
He said, “If it’s too overwhelming for you Elizabeth, quit. But next year at this time – when you look back… You won’t really be able to remember how hard it was… or how overwhelming the workload was… What you’ll remember is the opportunity you had to earn an MFA – and what you’ll remember most is the only thing that stood between you, and that degree was your fear….Good night.”
He was right. He was always right. And so I buckled down and did the work… and I graduated with an MFA that spring, and it was one of the proudest days of my life. And one of the proudest days of his life.
A few years ago my brother John gave Dad an iPad as a gift. He loved it. And he started to send me emails. He sent me hundreds. About everything… but mostly stating that he loved me and that he was proud of me and that all I ever needed to do was just be ELIZABETH. He’d always tell me “There is only one you… Go Be Elizabeth.” I understand now that he wrote everything in these emails that he thought I’d need to hear when he was no longer on this earth. I understand now, that after he suffered cardiac arrest last August in Central Park… and survived, that he decided to leave softball and NEW YORK—both the sport and the city that he loved so much—behind for good so he could get my mother out to California and situated before he died. What I know now is that he knew how serious all his illnesses were but never let on because he didn’t want to worry us. What I know now is that he fought those 9/11 related illnesses like a champion and won because really he was in over time… because he went neck to neck with a beast that crept up on him, after years and years of him pursuing a healthy lifestyle. And he fought like a lion to beat it, and he did. He lasted 12 long and hard years and to me that’s winning.
IF IT WERE EASY EVERYONE WOULD DO IT.
None of it was easy for him. But he’d do it all over again if he thought it would make us… his family happy.
Like I said, writing is usually easy for me, but I’d have to write a novel to touch on all that my father was. He was everything to me, and the only way I can really think of going on without him is to know that all that is good inside me is because of him. And all that he taught me, I get to teach my children.
I think Emerson summed it up best in his work titled “SUCCESS.”
To laugh often and much;
To win the respect of intelligent people
and the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of honest critics
and endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child,
a garden patch or a redeemed social condition;
To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded.
My dad superseded SUCCESS…
My great Dad.
You were so Good.
You worked so hard to become even better
and every single one of us thought you were the best.
You absolutely, undeniably have earned the eternal right to REST.
God bless you best friend. Thank you for everything. Until we meet again xox
Never during his 12 year battle with cancer did my dad ever ask “Why me?”
But every single day, I asked God, “Why him?”
Photo Credit: © Elizabeth Regen All Rights Reserved