Monday, May 2, 2011

Dad's gone

My father, Robert Marklin, died on April 18, at the awesome age of 90. Given his poor health, lack of energy, mobility and interest in life, it was a blessing. Now that he has passed on, I am remembering the man who used to be, and missing him. Over the past 5 years or so, I was adjusting to having a relationship with a small echo of the man who was my father, and grieved after each visit for the man I missed. At the same time, my father became more verbally affectionate than he had ever been, and let down some of his defenses to be more emotionally open. I treasure those times when he told me he really missed me when I wasn't there, and that something I had done was fantastic.

My family gathered together this past weekend to celebrate my father's life, and share memories and stories. With 6 children in the family, there are so many different perspectives. I felt strongly that there should be a eulogy, and wrote one. However, public speaking is very anxiety producing for me, so my husband ended up presenting it at the funeral service. I hope that I passed on many of the values my father and mother gave me. Here's the eulogy as I wrote it:

     We all want to be remembered. After 90 years, there is a lot to remember of my father's life. My memory of him is shaped by being his daughter, and the 3rd of 6 children.

     I think my father wanted to be remembered for his efforts to be a good husband, father, Pop Pop, great grandpa, and provider for his wife and children. He was all those things, as well as wise, stoic, smart and funny. As adults, I don't think we ever spent time with Dad without laughing, and also saying “how come you can never give a straight answer?”

     He did, of course, give straight answers when it was needed. My brothers and sisters have been talking about the things he said that stayed with us, and that we hoped our own children would also incorporate into their beings.

     My favorite was "To thine own self be true",  a quote from Shakespeare that was a little mysterious to me when I was young, but which I came to appreciate. It meant to follow my conscience, because I knew what was right if I thought deeply about it. We had learned right and wrong from our parents, our most important role models.

     Dad also used to say that “if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing right.” Those words come back to me every time I buy something that has to be put together with un-decipherable directions!

     Dad also told us “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” Wise words to follow, and sometimes, very difficult. He followed them always – I can’t remember him saying a harsh word about anyone.

     My sister Christine's youngest son, Michael has already told her how he knows "you can't buy back your reputation": your words and actions reflect on who you are. Michael heard those words as we did, and he knows those are important words to live by.

     As an insurance salesman for 35 years, my father knew those were also the words his business, and reputation were built upon. I remember him talking about advocating for his clients. For the people who had been in accidents or had their house burn down, or lost a loved one. Dad would call the Home office and do his best to move things along and help his clients when they really needed it. I suspect there is a saying about insurance salesman similar to the one about lawyers. Nobody likes them until you need them! I’m sure my Dad was “needed” by many people over those 35 years.

A few years ago, my father told me that at one point, his manager had admonished him for selling policies to African Americans. Dad told the manager "their money is as good as anyone's and I'm selling to them". He got that look of angry indignation that he could get when things were just plain wrong. Hearing this story touched me deeply then as is it still does now.

Since my fathers death, I've been thinking back over how much he changed the past few decades. When we were growing up, all he had to say was "Jeannie" in that deep way he could do, and I would snap to it! He commanded our attention and obeyance, just through his voice.
I was telling someone the other day that when we were young, and making a raucous before going to sleep, he would yell up the stairs "if I have to come upstairs I'm going to knock your heads together". You can bet that we'd quiet down!  Although he never came upstairs, we just knew when he had had enough of our antics.

It's hard to imagine Robert at 65 and older, ever being that stern.
     As the provider for the family, he had worked at least 8 hours a day, and gone out again for appointments on so many nights. He needed some peace at night and we didn't! But, like my Mom, he had to be that way to be the best parent for their six children.

     After Dad retired, I remember very vividly that when he visited us,
he wouldn't wear a watch. He'd say he was on retirement time, and he obviously relished the freedom.     Traveling all over the country in their 33' RV, brought him great joy. He especially loved visiting the National Parks, and taking photographs along the way. My parent’s trips to Alaska, Hawaii and Europe were opportunities to absorb the sights, learn about the culture, enjoy the food and know the people.

Dad was very proud of his service in the Air Corp during World War II and loved flying. For his birthday a few years ago, I arranged for him to fly on the same type of bi-plane he had trained on. He said it was as if he went back in time. I could see the joy that flying had brought him whenever he talked about it. If you have watched the video on You- Tube about his first flight, you can see and hear the excitement he felt about flying.

He was so proud of all the family members who have served or who are actively serving. Bob, Peter, Faith, Kyle, Christian and Andrew - you've all carried on the tradition and shown the value of serving our country.

I feel so privileged to have spent five days with Dad before he passed on April 18. Although he was very sick, he remained Robert up to the very end.  Every nurse or technician that came into the room was an opportunity for him to make them laugh. His standard response to "how do you feel, Mr. Marklin?" was "with my hands".   Never a straight answer, but always a funny one! After I had said "I love you Dad” and “You've been such a good Dad", for three days in a row, he said "if you keep saying that I'm going to believe it.".

My Dad said many times that he had lived a good life. We are all a testament to that! We will always miss him, but he lives on in so many ways, and will always be remembered. 
Rest in Peace, Dad.

1 comment:

  1. Oh,Jeanne, I'm so sorry for your loss! Your eulogy is so beautifully written I feel like I knew your Dad! I'm sure he would be very proud! He was such a wonderful man and role model.... I know you will miss him terribly. Thank you for sharing.