My father recently passed away and I've asked to speak at his memorial service tomorrow.
I still haven't completely decided what to say but writing it in my blog seems to help me focus (similar to my putting my struggle with writing my marriage vows here.)
The trouble is that I'm not going to be able to get a sentance out without breaking down in tears but I have to remember that's completely ok. It's a small service with family and another family who are very close friends.
It feels a little strange to be talking about myself, but it's a lead in and it occurred to me as I was spreading his ashes, so it seems pretty essential.
Two weeks ago I summitted Mount Whitney. My father would have been so proud.
Climbing to the top of mountains was never really his thing, he more liked to go into the mountains to decompress and relax by a nice lake. He would climb over mountain passes like Kearsarge in the Sierras, but it was more with a destination in mind.
However, he knew that I and a neighbor before me, liked climbing and he was always supportive. He also knew of my struggles with trying to deal with altitude sickness, and what makes today in particular really hard is that I want to tell him: I figured it out. Here is how you do it. I want to tell him every part of it, and he would ask me detailed questions and we would talk about it for hours.
In short, my being able to climb Mt. Whitney was a problem to solve, and he and I both have that in common. We love to solve problems.
Mt. Whitney was never his thing because it's a popular trail and he claimed that he liked to get away from people. That is the biggest lie and I do regret never calling him out on it, because it's a conversation he would have loved. He would claim this wanting to get away from people, all the while talking to every single person we met on the trail. He loved talking to people, and quite honestly he would have loved talking to all the people who are drawn to Mt. Whitney as they come from all over. He wouldn't have even had to have gone on the trail, but could have just hung out at the cafe and store (after he got over the idea of a store in the edge of the wilderness) and talked with the very knowledgeable proprietor Doug Sr. and his wife Earlene and anyone else who stopped in. I always go by the store and say hello to Doug and Earlene and I know it's a habit I got from Dad even if he would have claimed otherwise.
To spread Dad's ashes Terri and I drove up from the town of Independence on highway 395 to the Onion Valley which is a trailhead for going up Kearsarge Pass which is a trip that he took all the kids on. We walked about quarter to a half mile up the trail to find a really beautiful spot and all I could think about was: How the heck did he convince his kids to put backpacks on and climb over a mountain pass. And this is in the 70's where blisters and pain where a guaranteed part of the experience. Not only that, we wanted to go. What charisma he had. And what a great attitude. On a separate trip his boots fell apart (the soles had come off) which is a very, very serious problem. He managed to find a pair of tennis shoes on a mule train and they wouldn't even let him pay for them and he walked out of the mountains in Keds, and never complained. I sure would have been, but he was like that.
Terri and I would travel with Mom and Dad on trips to Canada and I took him to Scotland once. Every so often Dad would turn up missing and I'd have to go find him. If someone goes missing it can be quite stressful, but after a few times of this I realized how easy he was to find. All I had to do was stop and listen for the laughter. I would eventually find him talking to one or more people from somewhere and having a grand time. People loved him. I learned so much by seeming him through other people's eyes. As his kid, I tend to see him as smart and grouchy, and kind of an overbearing pain sometimes, but seeing the real joy that he spread was such a gift to me. I've lot count of the number of people who have gone out of their way to tell me "I really like your Dad." And that is my take away: People loved him and I do too. I miss you so much Dad.