eulogy for my father

I just took this photo for him in the window of a law firm
in Hampden because he had everything.  It became a
challenge to shop for him, so we started making sleep
shirts with pictures of the kids on them.  They were his
favorite gifts ever—and he wore them all the time. 

 My dad could fall asleep anywhere.

What is important to remember about my dad is the taste of grilled crustless bologna sandwiches.  He cooked few things, but he was a whiz with an aluminum pie and sandwich cooker.
It is important to remember playing cards with him—Pitch was our favorite.  He coined the term “card off!”  If he accidentally threw the wrong card from his hand, a timely “card off!” would allow him to correct his mistake. I still say card off when I need a do-over.  I say it now, for the last year of our lives.  Card off.

It was important to know my father.  He was a connector; he knew everybody.  I first learned of this when I was eight, and he almost  got our family on the set of The Courtship of Eddie’s Father.  And then again when, at eleven, he almost got me a lunch date with David Cassidy because he knew the teen idol’s manager.  He knew a record promoter and brought me home a stack of New Wave albums—The Cars, Blondie, Patti Smith, and Elvis Costello—before there was even a new wave.  I remember he thought Elvis would have less-than-zero longevity, like Elton John.

Here’s generosity for you: a family cruise to Bermuda,
everything paid, including kids’ face painting and
off-ship meals and a few souvenirs.

If you needed a back doctor, knowing him could get you a faster appointment.  He could get you a last-minute reservation or a special deal on a car or just some extra nice treatment somewhere.  There’s a waiter at the Prime Rib who used to fawn all over my husband Marty when we came to the restaurant.  It took me years to figure out that it wasn’t Marty who was so special; it was my father.  The waiter had assumed Marty, also Mr. Miller, was his son, so when he asked, “How’s your dad?” I said, “I’M Harvey’s daughter.”  He sucked up to me from then on.

When Beth and I were kids, Dad’s sales jobs often took him on the road, but even when he wasn’t away, he worked all the time.  To make up for it, he gave us lots of stuff—TVs and telephones and stereos in our bedrooms, crazy bowling-ball shaped radios, radios you wore on your wrist, fancy souvenirs from his travels, and even a new car when I got my license.  I thought we were rich.
Even in the hospital, my dad would work, though
each successive hospital visit would make that less possible.

When he became successful in his business, he became more generous.  You couldn’t go anywhere without him saying, “You want it? I’ll buy it.”  If you would so much as touch the fabric of a pair of $300 jeans, he’d say it.  “You want it I’ll buy it.”  But who needed a pair of $300 jeans?  There’s a shop owner in Rehoboth who loves him but hates his crazy ass family.

My dad was, at times, too generous, insisting, when I was pregnant, on replacing my paid-off Honda Civic with a Nissan Pathfinder, so his grandchild could travel in the manner befitting a grandchild of his.  I said no a lot, but the arguments would wear me down. 
In fact, I spent a therapy session learning to cope with my father’s generosity. How come I couldn’t figure out on my own what my therapist said in an instant: This is how your dad gives love.  And every time you say no, you reject it.  So shut up, and get some new clothes.”  From then on, I touched fabric more discriminately—and only that of sensible things or stuff I really needed.
Panic:  How is it that the most recent
photo I have of myself with my father
was taken 18 years ago at my wedding?

So I think of sandwiches and games and generosity when I think of my dad.  And I think of love.  He loved fiercely and loyally.  And if something was wrong, he wanted to fix it for you.  He hated seeing the people he loved struggle or suffer for a moment without something they needed or wanted. 

The people he loved became members of his family, and they included the people we loved: my sister’s, my mother’s, and my best friends, who came on vacation with us, out to dinner for our birthdays and sometimes even for theirs.  They included my husband long before he was my husband, when he was just the naked boyfriend passing him in the hallway after midnight on the way to the bathroom.  He adopted Steve, one of his employees.  He adopted André, the guy who delivered his home oxygen and detailed his car.  He and his business partner, Tom, adopted each other. 

It was so easy to love my dad because he loved so easily.  And the best benefit of losing someone like that is that you never have to wonder if you loved enough or well.  You did.

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