Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A Tribute to My Dad

My dad would have been 86 today.  He died four years ago.  I came across the eulogy I wrote a couple of days ago, and thought I would post it here in his honor.

Eulogy for My Dad

Paul E. Hamilton  9/18/26 – 9/4/08
Services  9/9/08

Thank you all for being here to remember and honor my father.

I want to start by acknowledging some family members who weren’t specifically mentioned in the obituary.  Family is not just blood ties – it is relationships forged by marriage and friendship as well.  With that in mind, I want to acknowledge Archie Parris, my dad’s brother-in-law through his deceased sister, Betty Lou, and my aunt and uncle Betty and Buddy Pace, my mom’s sister and her husband.  I especially want to thank you, Aunt Betty and Uncle Buddy, for being there for my dad before and after my mom died, for all your help and love.

My father was a great man.  His was not the noisy kind of greatness marked by power, popularity or prestige, but the quiet kind of greatness composed of conscientiousness, kindness and compassion.  It was who he was, and how he lived his life.

My earliest memories of my dad are of him in military uniform, khakis or dress blues, standing tall, solid and strong.  He was, and is, my hero.  He always took the time to listen, he was always there when I needed him.  He taught me so many things – how to drive a car, how to put a worm on a hook, how to make oatmeal and southern green beans, how to sing “You Are My Sunshine,” how to hold my tongue and have patience, and how to believe in myself and my abilities.

He showed me the best model possible of what a man, a husband, a father should be, and for that I am eternally grateful.  I chose a husband with many of the same wonderful qualities, and try to instill in his grandson the same.

Those of you who knew Paul from childhood and adolescence know parts of him that I know only from stories told.  I know he loved his family, hunting, his hound dogs.  I have heard a few tales about youthful escapades, and stills in the hills, and working hard at the mills.

His years in the military defined and described so much of who Dad was.  He was so smart and organized, so thorough and conscientious, and these qualities allowed him to succeed and win numerous accolades and promotions.  He loved his assignment working with the color guard attached to Air Force One under Eisenhower, and using his cryptography skills during the Cold War.  Dad was extremely punctual too (a quality I sadly lack, although he would be pleased I was uncharacteristically on time today).  He was so punctual in fact that I remember he and I arrived about 45 minutes early for a party out of town, but happily our host didn’t mind.

Dad was a hard worker, with the kind of work ethic that defines most men of his generation.  When he retired from the Air Force during the recession of the 70’s, I know now that it was a hard time for him, but he never complained.  In fact, he took the opportunity to return to school and pursue one of his talents and passions, horticulture, obtaining an associate’s degree.  Dad was amazing with plants; we had a vegetable garden in our back yard that bore fruit for us and the whole neighborhood. 

In the meantime, he and Mom formed their very successful partnership as antique dealers.  Mom did the schmoozing and wheeling and dealing; Dad characteristically was the quieter behind-the-scenes partner, refinishing furniture, organizing and planning.  They had so much fun together in the business, and I’m happy they had that time together before my Mom got sick.

Dad was also exceptionally devout in his faith, through the years donating his time and money to the Church and related charitable causes.  He was equally devoted as a son, son-in-law, brother, husband and father.

I have never known anyone more committed to the well-being of those he loved, giving of his time and effort, caretaking all those he cared about, lending a hand to anyone who needed help, or an ear to anyone with a worry.  His quiet devotion to my mom through her lengthy illness and disability was amazing, and a constant challenge to me to aspire to my better self.

Of course, Dad would be embarrassed by these words of praise because he was also incredibly modest, understated, and private.  This is, I think, an extension of his deeply embedded sense of right and wrong; not that he was judgmental, but that he just lived by  the Golden Rule, treating others as they would wish to be treated.  Therefore, doing the right thing would not be seen as remarkable or even to be remarked upon.  It was simply expected.

Now, despite all by Dad’s noble qualities, despite the fact that he is, in my eyes, a great man, he was of course a regular guy who loved to laugh, kick back, fish, play poker, and enjoy a brew in younger years.  He had his faults, his foibles, his fears, and goodness knows he had his share of life’s burdens.  But he seldom complained, he never blamed, he accepted what life gave him with equanimity, strength and courage.  He looked for the silver lining in all life’s circumstances, and expected and found the best in those whose lives he touched.

My dad’s legacy will be with me always.  There are very many things he taught me, but he always told me, “Daughter, you are book-smart, but when it comes to common sense, you have to learn things the hard way. “

As in most things, he was right.  I do learn things the hard way.  Here are the things I am learning the hard way, today:

There is never enough time.

It hurts, immeasurably, to say goodbye.

It is impossible for words to do justice to, to sum up, or to take the measure of a man’s life.

So let me end with these words from my heart.  Dad, thank you for being the great man you were.  Thank you for the legacy of your love and kindness that lives on in all of us here.  And thank you for loving me. 

I say goodbye, but always, you are my sunshine, and always, you are with me in my heart.  

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