Like Father, Like Son

My aunt died last night. As I referenced yesterday, there is no doubt in my mind she is dancing with my uncle in heaven as we speak.

But I couldn’t help but think there was some snickering going on as well.

After hearing the news, the first thing that came to my mind was a story my aunt told me about my dad — one that was corroborated by him as well. It seems they were at a funeral. I don’t know if it was in the church or at the funeral home, but in the middle of the quiet, dad started a muffled snicker. My aunt, sitting next to him, looked at dad and asked what so funny. He whispered whatever had triggered his amusement, which cause my aunt to start quietly giggling. And before you knew it, there were smiles all around these two characters.

I share the tale because I, too, have been known to smile at less than appropriate times — and I had the bruised ribs to show for it. I trace this levity back to my dad’s genes. He wasn’t a jokester or the life of the party, but was well grounded in the art of seeing the humor and life in life. It’s a trait I proudly wear.

But it wasn’t always so. In fact, as the smartest 18 year old in the world, I vowed I would never be like my dad.

In many ways, we weren’t. He was super organized. I’m not. He planned everything and didn’t like surprises. I tend to wing it and treat each new day as a new adventure. He was always neat with everything in its place. Me? Well, not so much. I don’t mind a little dust, at least it gives me a place to write notes to myself. He was never emotional, to the point I can count the number of times he said “I love you” on less than half the fingers on one hand. I remember him telling me and my family he didn’t expect tears at mom’s funeral. I tend to be emotional, to say “I love you“ and have been known to shed a tear or two, albeit mostly when I’m alone. He lived in one area all his life until his fall. I’ve lived in six states. He would put a couple thousand miles on his car a year. It was just for transportation. The year before he died {2012} I put on 46,000 miles and last year I logged over 32,000 … trends started from my first days behind the wheel. Driving is my therapy, my sanctuary.

But over the years — and especially over the past few years — I realized we are so very much the same. I discovered our mannerisms are almost identical. Our temperament. Our sense of family. Our outlook on life. Our values.

We share the same dry, unexpected sense of humor. Over the years, he would blurt something out of the blue that lit up the room or start a muffled laugh during a serious moment.

As an  example, one day, he blurted out, “I just don’t understand it.” Dutifully I responded, “Don’t understand what?”

“What happens,” he said.

“What happens about what?” I asked completely lost and not knowing where this conversation was going.

“You know, when I die.”

It caught me off guard. I told him I didn’t know, but figured this could be a “faith” moment to discuss ethereal things like heaven and relationships with Jesus. So I started, “Well, you have a deep relationship with God so …”

He cut me off mid-sentence. “I’m okay with God,” he said. “I mean, how am I going to get back to New Jersey?” {He was in a nursing home in New York}

Now, we had been over this about 100 times already, and it was just one of about 100 more. But I pressed on. “The nursing home will let me know. I’ll let the funeral director know. He’ll pick you up, get you ready and drive you to New Jersey. We’ll have the funeral there and you’ll be buried by mom.”

He thought for a minute. “The undertaker will drive me there?” he asked.

“Yes,” I responded.

He had a glazed look on his face, so I asked him what was wrong.

“Nothing,” he said. “I just thought you were taking me down in your truck.”

The spring before he died, I was complaining about gas prices. A couple of days later, he asked if prices were still rising. I said yes and he shot back, “Is that going to make a difference for my funeral.” I didn’t understand where he was going so I asked him what he meant. He said, “You said everything was paid for. Do you have enough to get me back to Paterson?” In one of my flippant moments, all I could say was, “No, we just have enough to get you to the Delaware Water Gap.”

Dad was the epitome of commitment. He wouldn’t quit and he wouldn’t let me quit. He was hard working and the embodiment of blue collar America. He wasn’t a “religious” man but had a deep faith. And he did things quietly. He relished being in the background with the spotlight on others. He passed those values on to me.

As a cautionary tale to my sons, this is your heredity … and your future. I see so many of these traits in you already, although, thankfully, you have a host of mom genes as well. We can argue which ones are better.

As I relayed the information about my aunt’s death to my cousins on my mother’s side, it also struck me there was another trait I shared with dad. Somehow I became the focal point for sharing relative news to family and friends. Dad did it by phone. I use Messenger and Facebook. And he made it a point to contact his brothers and brothers- and sisters-in-law regularly. I try to do the same with my family, cousins and friends. Like dad, I didn’t want to be known as the purveyor of only bad news.

I hope my boys — and girls — continue the tradition of staying in touch with those who have impacted their lives. And, while I’m not adverse to a few tears at my funeral, I sure hope one of you will start a giggling wave — right in the middle of the eulogy.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: God promises, God fulfills, but He works on His own timetable — not yours or mine. He is not in a hurry like we are. He is willing to work with His design for our lives (in ways we cannot see) until He has produced that which is perfect in His sight. Slow down … wait … pray … Rushing can be hazardous to your health. — June Masters Bacher

About wisdomfromafather

I'm just an ordinary guy walking along the journey of life.
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