Grampy Tribute

Previously... on 4.0 Denny sings 'lonesome' a Grampy tribute.

Oren's Drawing

Oren's Drawing of 'Birches'

 (click image to enlarge)

Grampy one-liners

Hello.  I’m Maureen, the oldest of Al and Maureen’s children.  Together with my brother Simon, I’ll share some reflections on our father’s life. I will start by speaking for all eleven of us and thanking God for his boundless grace and generosity in giving us the Greatest Dad in All the World to be our father, and then extending him the blessing of a very long life to spend with us.

Dad did not expect to reach the age of 90 ~ he even wondered aloud if he would see me graduate from high school.  No one in his whole family had ever made it to 90 until now.  But when he expressed such fears it was also to encourage us to live every day, experience every moment to its fullest.   He certainly did.  He understood the “gift of the present moment” that Father Powers discussed a few minutes ago.

Whenever we professed boredom as a way of seeking permission to watch TV, a highly restricted activity in our family, Dad would respond with, “If you are bored when you are 10, what will you do when you are 45?  Find something to do!”   If we asked, “what is there to do?”  He would say something like, “I am sure you can figure that out for yourself.”  In this way, he helped each of us to find our own paths.  When you are thinking of my Dad, remember this advice! 

Dad’s journey took him along many paths.  From his boyhood he was drawn to the mountains, especially his beloved Katahdin, where by listening very, very carefully, he learned to converse in the languages of animals and birds.  As children we knew our Dad was special – who else’s Dad could talk with birds or answer a squirrel’s call?  Even as a boy he was a great listener and that skill became important in his career as a doctor.  He was a listener and a thinker.

Dad loved his work and was devoted to the patients he served and the colleagues with whom he worked. He developed deep friendships.  His stamina carried him along the career path for a long time and he only retired at 78 years old.

Dad’s final path took him into the jungle with the ominous name of Alzheimer’s.  One can hardly think in terms of it as a blessing, but for us it means that our memories are not from last month or a year ago for the most part – though we cherish the time spent with him at Sunrise where he received loving care – rather we recall our Dad as he was when we were younger.  We feel his spirit among us during these recent days.  His illness seemed to take him away from us, even though he was physically present.  He was lost.  Now, as his battle with Alzheimer’s is over and his path has taken him to a better place, his spirit is whole again. 

Hello everyone, I’m Simon – the youngest! 

Maury talked about many of Dad’s interests and passions.  I’m going to focus on one of Dad’s passions: books.  And specifically, I’m going to focus on one book:  Moby Dick, by Herman Melville.

As most of the family knows, Dad and I read Moby Dick together.  We read it aloud to each other.  We used to call this ‘switching paragraphs.’  My dad loved this book.  He loved ships, the sea, adventure, and the past.  His link to the past was strong – and he identified with Melville’s time.  A time of hand-made work and adventure everywhere.

Dad loved the characters in the book.  Queequeeg, the harpooner.  Tattooed from head to foot.  He slept with his harpoon.  ‘Aye, my wife’s me harpoon.’  My dad loved that quote.  My Dad and I had a little joke.  When a sister or sister-in-law was expecting a child, some would discuss names, some wouldn’t.  We have some great grandchildren names:  Jules and Hanna, Briannan, Maraied, Alexander, Keara, Thomas, Michael.  But when discussing names, Dad would always think for a minute and say: “Have you considered Queequeeg?”  To this day, people tell me: “Dashiell is an interesting name for a boy” and I say: “Yeah.  It was supposed to be Queequeeg!”

Whether you’ve read Moby Dick or not, we all know Captain Ahab, with is wild stare and his peg leg.  I’m not sure how my Dad identified with Ahab.  But I identified with one aspect of Ahab in Dad.  Whether you lived at 39 Park Way, 567 Main Street or you were a deck hand on the Pequod.  You knew there was only one captain.  Some of us challenged this idea, all who did failed.

And Ishmael, the protagonist and narrator.  Ishmael was a man of faith and an adventurer.  His faith was challenged, maybe more than anyone in this room.  He saw incredible things.  He stood on top of the mast of the Pequod, with only the boat and the sea below him.  He chased a whale in a row boat no bigger than half of one of these church pews.  But Ishmael saw his friends die.  And he wondered why.  I think my dad loved Ishmael.  He identified with both the good stuff and the hard stuff Ishmael faced.  And the last line of Moby Dick quoted the Bible.  I think Dad liked this.

We started Moby Dick when I was 8.  It took us 3 ½ years.  Trust me.  I was never bored.  If you get a chance to read this book, do it.  My dad inspired me to read it then, now I read it every few years.

At one point in the book, the Pequod has launched her whale-hunting boats to chase a spouter.  Queequeeg throws his harpoon at the whale and he hits the mark!  But the whale dives.  Now this is a very tense moment.  The sea is now calm.  The wind is silent.  The harpoon lines pay out.  But with the lines attached, if whale doesn’t resurface, all the boats will sink.  I read this and I am terrified.  I finish my paragraph and look up to dad…

My dad is like this:  ZZZZZZZZZZ.  Asleep in his comfortable chair in the keeping room corner, a copy of Moby Dick open on his lap.

Although you’re laughing, understand that dad just came back from a 14 hour shift.  He probably did half the day at 1 Salem, then the rest at Melrose-Wakefield hospital.  This didn’t make him miss some ‘paragraph switching’ with me.  Like Maureen says, he lived life to the fullest.  Work hard.  Play hard.  And when you’re done, read 10 pages of Moby Dick with your son.  That’s how Dad lived life.  Maureen mentioned what a great listener he was.  Imagine the patience he needed to listen to an 8-year-old boy struggle with Melvillian phrasing. 

My dad loved books.  He loved reading.  He loved what was hand-made and old.  And he loved a good argument too.  Much later in life, after he and I had a pretty bad argument, he joked with me: “I have always fancied myself an Ishmael, but I’m pretty sure you think of me as Captain Ahab.”  I stole that line.

So today we ask for your prayers, but if I may be so bold, I would also ask you, if you have the time today, or maybe later this week, try reading a book out loud with someone you love.

Dad would be happy to know that some people, in celebrating his life, read a book out loud together.

Maureen and I thank you for listening to us today.  And one logistical point: friends and family are welcome to join us at Centre Farm.  There is parking at the town hall next door.