An early eulogy for Dad on Father
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In fitful slumber, my father’s birdlike legs shook with Parkinson’s incrementally tugging down his white hospital sheets.
Young Jonathan gazed silently upon Grandpa through sky blue eyes that are the exact same shade as my father’s.
“Well Boy,” I croaked, “I think we need to kiss ‘Far Far’ goodbye now.”
What I didn’t have the courage to add was, “probably for the last time.”
But then Dad’s eyes startled open. He frantically scanned back and forth till he met my gaze.
“Jon?” he queried, through a thick Norwegian accent.
In a snapshot from the early 1940s, Dad squints near long grass. By then Papa had already seen far too much dead soldiers in the local creek, the deaths of two siblings and gaunt prisoners marched past each day by German guards.
Fourteen winters passed, and dreams of America took hold.
The next image shows my father at age 20. He grins beneath his Air Force cap. Citizenship. Soon he’d meet Mom the great granddaughter of passionate Irish immigrants.
Love. Marriage. Three children.
After bouncing around the western United States, Papa moved our family to Washington. He instantly became a rabid Seahawks and Mariners supporter, occasionally bellowing “Hey, hey, hey!” at trick plays involving portly kicker Efren Herrera, or springtime Bruce Bochte home runs.
Thirty two more years slipped by.
The next shot is of him and me a selfie at Safeco. The day? Felix Hernandez perfecto.
As we, upon arrival, descended the stairs to seats behind the visitor’s dugout, Pa didn’t notice how my hands gently gripped his forest green backpack to keep him from falling. Dad’s straw hat covered a litany of faint skin cancer scars.
After each Rays out, we exchanged awkward high fives. Following Hernandez’s final pitch, while the hurler’s body contorted in skyward exultation, the crowd erupted so mightily that I had to lean in to hear Dad.
“I never thought I’d see (a no hitter),” he whispered, before trailing off.
And I knew he meant, ” before I die.”
Twenty nine months later. More strokes. More cancer. More Parkinson’s symptoms. But Super Bowl Sunday awaited.
Four year old daughter Sarah requested face “deck o way shuns (decorations)” and her older sister, Abby baked, Seahawks cupcakes. My boys sat next to their grandpa on the couch.
After the victory everyone left the room but Dad and me. We watched each highlight together. We didn want the evening to end.
The man my kids call “Far Far” smiled wistfully. Warped TV images played across the lenses of his large glasses, like so many powerful scenes from his life a journey from Rognan, Norway, to Gig Harbor, Washington.
Recently and unexpectedly, Dad rallied back from the health crises that left him institutionalized. In April he returned home. Since then, on most Friday afternoons my kids and I make a special trip to see him and Mom. Even then, the Hawks and M’s are present.
During those visits, Dad sometimes struggles to keep his train of thought. Spaces between words hang awkwardly. Without fail, he and I fill those gaps with updates on Seattle’s teams. It keeps us from crying.
Though neither of us admits it, each wonders which Friday visit, or shared TV sports contest, will be his last.
When the date of his memorial service arrives, I’ll most likely give the eulogy. I’ll have many things to talk about, because to me, Dad represents the American Dream.
It’s likely my elementary sons will wear their cherished Russell Wilson jerseys, an unintended homage to Far Far.