Sunday, August 24, 2008

A Tribute to My Father

As we were planning the service for my Dad, my sisters and I debated on whether or not we should speak about the type of father he was. We wanted so badly to do it. But could we really get through it? We decided that it was only right that we speak...we were the ones he loved most. My sisters and I sat down and shared are fondest memories of Dad and before we knew it we had written a tribute to our Dad that only cracks the surface of the type of Father we were blessed with.

For those of you who couldn't come to the service - here is our tribute to Dad.


Family was our father’s religion. And, boy, was he a fanatic. He and my mother worked very hard to create a strong family network that would bind all of us together for years. There were family dinners every Sunday (that were NOT to be missed). Celebrations for everyone’s accomplishments. Loads of laughter. Heavy duty doses of sarcasm that taught all of us to not take life too seriously and to learn to laugh at ourselves. Dad was the heart of the humor in our family.

Growing up, Dad instilled in us a great sense of humor. Our family loved to laugh. As kids, instead of traditional lullabies, Dad taught us the words to “Frankie and Johnnie” and “I’m Writing A Letter From a Foxhole.” As we grew a bit older, he threw in a old poem that began “There Once Was A Caveman Named Dave.” While Mom was mortified that three little girls would know the words to that particular poem, Dad almost beamed with pride as we recited it.

Dad was big on traditions. We spent Thanksgiving each year for decades in downtown Indianapolis enjoying the treelighting on Monument Circle. Dad wanted Christmas Day at his house each year. We spent one day each year at the State Fair each summer as a family. While he loved the traditions, he was not big on the organizing. He would call one of us and say, “I want us all to go to the Fair. Call everyone and pick a night for next week. Let me know by tomorrow what night it will be.” We would always respond with the same sarcasm he teased us with. “Your phone broken, Dad?” He would respond “ Just set it up.”

Dad and Mom were best buddies and had been since they dated as teenagers. During the evening hours at Something Old, Something New, Dad could often be found waiting for my mom to close up shop. They were often found at MCL, Benihanas and Panera Bread. Most evenings ended with a shopping trip to find that “perfect item” for one of the grandkids. Dad even went with mom to the Nail Salon so often that he eventually just started getting pedicures so he could join her. Trust me, we appreciated the attention to his toes.


As kids, he convinced Deb to give him foot rubs for packs of grape bubble gum, which is why she loves grape Bubble Yum to this day. He was fond of Chocolate Necco Wafers, and could often be seen sitting in his chair with a can of Pringles and a miniature glass bottle of Coke. We all loved Dad’s special recipe for Cereal Mix, that only he could make. He would prepare a double batch at Christmas, then scold us when he caught us digging in the bottom for extra peanuts. “Quit that…there won’t be peanuts for anyone else,” he would say. We would grab more when he wasn’t looking.

Dad was known for his quick wit and unique phrases. If you were about to make a decision that he did not approve of, he would simply say “Well, You Gotta Do What You Gotta Do.” The phrase meant “this is your decision, but I disagree. And, if it turns out bad, it is all in your lap.” We hated the phrase, but it was Dad’s way of letting us know he thought we could make a better decision, even if we insisted on doing it another way.

One year, I contemplated not attending Symmes Family Christmas Party and thought I might go to the Colts game in Tennessee instead. After I told Dad about my dilemma, he simply replied “Well Kris,You Gotta Do What You Gotta Do.” That year the Colts beat the Tennessee Titans–However, I was at Symmes Family Christmas Party.

Mom always told us that Dad never said a word about not having a son. He joked that he never had a chance in our house – it was four women against one man. Even our dog was a girl. When we each got married, Dad was pleased to welcome men into the family. Each of our husbands grew weary of us calling Dad to get his opinion and advice, but realized it was a losing battle. If Dad said it was ok, we were content.

Dad was a history buff. He read biographies from everyone from Benjamin Harrison to Tim Russert. He loved knowing tidbits from history that no else would know. Each year at Christmas, we would play Trivial Pursuit as a family. It was men versus the women. Dad would clean up in the History category, but never knew a Pop Culture question. He had no idea who Angelina Jolie was, but he knew the barber’s name who used to cut Benjamin Franklin’s hair.


He was an amazing father and taught us all a lot about parenting. As a child, particularly a teenager, I thought he was a bit over-protective. He would scold us for wearing jeans with rips in the knee, and was out looking for us if we missed curfew by five minutes. He repeated his mantra “Nothing Good Happens After Midnight.” When Michelle got caught in a lie, he told a friend who called the house that she…quote…"didn’t live here anymore.” As an adult and a parent myself, I realized he was much smarter than I thought. Dad was a big proponent of education – formal and informal. When I told Dad I really did not want to go to college, he responded “Well, that really isn’t an option. So, pick one.” He encouraged each of us to set goals and reach for them, always pushing us to the next one, even in recent years. He enjoyed hearing the stories of our projects from work and was familiar with the names of our co-workers.

The only role my Dad played better than “Father” was the one of “Papa Mike.” Starting with the birth of the first grandchild, my Dad proved he was going to be a fanatic about grandchildren. He packed a cooler full of snacks – little cokes, cheese, crackers, sandwiches – to have in the waiting room while each of us was in labor. While he was excited to be a grandfather, he had no intention of eating hospital cafeteria food either. When Olivia was born, the nurse offered to notify our family. She asked Michelle to describe what they looked like. Michelle responded “they are the only group tailgating in the waiting room.” That was my Dad. He made every family function a celebration.

He was our father, but served the role of father to many of our close friends, who also called him Dad. We have been overwhelmed by the stories of how Dad touched so many lives. Last night, it was evident we were not the only people grateful to have known him. We loved him more than words can say, and will never forget how he lived his life. We thank Dad for showing us that close families don’t just happen, they are fostered, and we will honor Dad by passing it on.

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