My relationship with my dad could be summed up as fun, contentious at times, but aways honest. He was an alcoholic who fell apart after my mom died, so I had a lot of resentment towards him once I became a parent. But our relationship grew and changed as did I. Our bond might have been complicated, but it was ours and I was ok with it.
Eulogizing my dad actually came quite easily. In remembering the good parts of him (because let’s be honest, no one wants to hear about the bad), I was able to realize the impact he really had on who I was in positive ways. I sent him off the best way that I knew how to, with sarcasm and sass. Just as he would have wanted.
Being the youngest Fletcher daughter, it’s only fitting that I should speak last. Hi, I’m Sheri and I survived my childhood as one of Hank’s children. The three of us girls may have different memories of our dad, but I’m sure that we can all agree that growing up with Hank as our father was more like growing up with Hank as a younger brother.
Not many people can say that the life skills they have learned from their father include giving a good wet willie and crossing their eyes. On vacation one year we got into a huge prank war where toilet seats were covered in Saran Wrap and you had to be careful turning a fan on in a room for fear of what would come flying off of it. The man taught me how to TP the neighbors house and was the king of mooning us kids out the front window as we rode by on our bikes. To say that Hank was an unconventional father would be an understatement.
My childhood consisted of learning to walk, talk and water ski. There was nothing that my dad loved more than being on the water with his girls. When I was a teenager he bought a Boston Whaler, taught me how to sand the bottom, seal and paint it and then set me free in Mt Sinai Harbor. Life was always an adventure and he honestly showed me that anything is possible. And even though he REALLY wanted a son (especially because I’m daughter #3) he never made me feel because I am female that there were any limits to what I could do.
There were days when I would tagalong with him at the shop and he would set me up to sharpen chainsaw or circular saw blades. When I was in college I did a whole report on welding and he was happy to give me the helmet and torch and show me how to make a smooth bead.
He also begrudgingly sat through years of dance recitals (I think mostly to watch the women dance around in tight costumes) and school plays. He was heavily involved in the drama club at my high school and was a little horriffied when I landed the part of the ‘temptress’ in the school play as a freshman. There was one night we were at the school working on the sets and I had to practice grabbing this senior guys backside, with my dad standing 2 feet away, armed with power tools. Definitely made up for all the wet Willie’s he gave to me that night or the amount of times he goosed me as a kid. He would always say, paybacks a….female dog.
I’ve heard that as a girl you seek to marry someone just like your father. The day that my husband Parker and my dad met, things just clicked. I remember Parker getting involved in a brotherly squabble between my dad and my Uncle. Anyone willing to jump into a Fletcher disagreement at a first meeting is a definite keeper!
Parker and my dad bonded over all things mechanical and would spend hours in his shop during visits futzing around. Their common interests lead us to buy our family boat and be able to share his love of the water with our children.
My dad lived life large and by his own rules. My childhood consisted of tickle wars, random backside grabs and water fights. He taught me not to take life too seriously and to enjoy all the moments. Even when you’re knee deep in baby poop, everything can still be shits and giggles. He taught me about the type of parent that I wanted to be for my children, relentless, embarrassing, inappropriate, but above all fun!
Because my kids are so young, I will have to try my damnedest to make sure that we are able to keep my dad’s memory alive. Most people would do that by sharing stories and man are there some doziies. I can mention how he tried to vacuum toilet water with his mom’s Electrolux Vacuum to see if it would work (it does) or the countless times he dressed in drag, of which there is ample photographic evidence. But what they need to know the most is how my dad loved with all of his heart. He loved his family more than anything, maybe even more than the latest crude joke. He stood by my mom and took care of her when she was sick and he supported Sharon through her treatments. He may not have been the perfect person, but his capacity for love and how he showed it were real. Every time I spoke to him on the phone, the conversation would start with hey girl and end with I love you.
Thank you everyone so much for being here today to say good bye to Hank, the man, the myth, the legend. In his own words, were off like a prom dress.
Love you Dad.
One thought on “Complicated Grief – My Dad’s Eulogy”
We all love our fathers, they may not be perfect but no one is. But their love for their family esp. their kids will always be perfect. Sometimes even the most cruel father one can have will have that deep spot etched in his children’s heart…Thanks for this wonderful writing.