Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Gave Me the Simple Life


Most fathers don't see the war within the daughter, her struggles with conflicting images of the idealized and flawed father, her temptation both to retreat to Daddy's lap and protection and to push out of his embrace to that of beau and the world beyond home.   ~~ Victoria Secunda


Another August 26, Dad's second birthday since he died in July 2009.  Still miss him, still realizing all the deep ways in which he very quietly and confidently imprinted me.  As the oldest and a girl, I wasn't always quite sure of my way for this was a time in which the role of women was starting to change.  Pre-Title 9.  He encouraged education and involvement for me and all my sibs, but there is that strange push me-pull me between dads and daughters as the quote suggests.

My dad loved me.  Of that I have no doubt.  What a gift.  The only thing I could think of as a thank-you was to give a brief eulogy during his service.  He was a master speaker in business and foremost fan of every speech I practiced for Student Council or sophomore speech classes.  Here is my eulogy; focusing on this helped to get me through your loss - thanks again Dad.


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On behalf of the family, thank you for joining us today as we remember our dad. They say that anyone can be a father, but it takes a special person to be a dad. We were the fortunate ones to have a dad.


Ecclesiastes
Chapter 3
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die;


A life’s season leaves a legacy and continues through the generations.
So, when we remember Dad, we are thankful that our grandparents Henry and Lois Vosti provided the fertile soil in which Dad grew and flourished. Dad was a bright child, and childhood life was grounded through them in a belief in the value of hard work, a quest for excellence, an appreciation for learning, the beauty of the simple things in life, and a love of family girded by a firm moral compass. My grandparents also provided him with two younger brothers, Kenneth and Gordon, equally bright, who no doubt contributed to his love of competition, his humor and his character. When our generation speaks collectively of this trio, we call them “the brothers” or “the boys.” We are thankful that they are here with us to celebrate Dad’s life today.


To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;


From his roots in the great valley, through his days at the winery and his career in food technology, Dad was an instinctive gardener. He understood if he invested his time and labor in cultivating seeds, good things would follow. He also understood that the most important investment of his time was in nurturing a family.


Mom, a transplant from Manhattan, met this California valley boy at a dance in Berkeley. Dad’s persistence in courting her in the following months won out, and finally, as Mom puts it, she gave the shoes to her other suitors. They married and Dad and Mom started investing in children.


Dad’s intellect was formidable, but he had a heart big enough to carefully tend to a large family of six children. Our memories of Dad are both collective and individual, for he made the time to nurture a special relationship with each of us. For the earlybirds, there were breakfast memories, sharing cereal and the newspaper at the table. Dad always started with the sports page. He taught us words and expressions that became part of the family shorthand - cattywampus, fromage, supine, on the fritz, where’s the flashlight. He held court at a crowded dinner table, often breaking out the puns. The expected appreciative reaction from us was a loud groan. We watched the Kentucky Derby together or disked down snow-covered backyard hills on a track Dad created. We ate pies that he made from wild rhubarb he’d noticed by the side of the road. He listened to our speeches, helped us with our homework, and encouraged our dreams. A great delight was to make Dad laugh – his laugh was hearty and I miss that. I learned the jitterbug in our living room – Dad was light on his feet, and he knew how to gently guide you around the room to the strains of his big band favorites. He gave me music and dance and that will last for my life.


But mostly, Dad was our rock. He was rock solid and we could count on that. Always. He led quietly by example. He listened carefully, and thought before he would finally speak. Dad had a subtle and understated way of teaching by example and a gentle nature that understood how to provide those life lessons to help us through hard times.


When I was about 7 and growing up in San Mateo, I once had an outburst of drama at night and announced I was leaving home. I packed my small suitcase and still dressed in my pajamas got as far as the driveway before I realized how dark and large the world outside my home was. I sat on my suitcase, feeling confused, but stubbornly refusing to go inside. Dad watched me leave with my suitcase, and said nothing, allowing me to sit there in the driveway in the dark. After a suitable time, he came outside and simply said why don’t we go inside. I felt a huge relief hearing Dad’s voice. Nothing more was said – lesson learned.

When I was in 8th grade, we were broadsided in a car accident that totaled the car. Dad was home with Vince who was an infant, and I can’t imagine how he handled the call that Mom and four of his children were being transported to the hospital. We were released in stages and I have a memory of Dad putting us in the new car and going for a drive. He drove us first by the yard where the totaled car was sitting and without saying much, let us absorb the miracle that we survived at all. He next drove us to the location of the accident. As we approached the intersection, I felt anxiety and fear rising, and I held my breath. Dad carefully slowed and without saying a word he successfully negotiated the crossing. In that instant, he released me from fear and trauma. I don’t know how he thought to do that or understood it might be important. Nothing was said – lesson learned. I love to drive.


To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;


Today, we shall weep and mourn as we remember Dad and the loss we are feeling today. But we shall also laugh and perhaps even dance. Dad is still leading the way, still teaching the lessons. We take comfort in knowing that in our memories Dad will always live and that there will still be one final great family reunion for us. We love you Dad.


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I burned a disk of his favorite Big Band era and jazz favorites which I madly duplicated, labeled with his picture and had for the reception.  A real rush job.  Later when I would listen to it, I realized that the June Christy tune "Give Me the Simple Life" encapsulated my brilliant dad's most basic nature - that which endures as my model despite my rather complicated psyche - his was basic and true.  He gave me the simple life and it was good.


Earworm for today:  June Christy, vocalist with jazz legend Stan Kenton and personal fav of Dad:  Give Me the Simple Life.

3 comments:

  1. Lovely, lovely, tribute to your dad, who I can tell made a tremendous imprint on you.

    Is it coincidental that I was just thinking about my own this morning? Unlike yours, my father was difficult and I didn't understand him till my own middle age. It's also when I began to appreciate many of his finer qualities amidst the 'not so fine', having done what he did in an environment that played on personal integrity and choices. He was so much like the men in the 'Mad Men' series of the early 1960's, having done similar things in similar circles while working his way up the ruthless corporate ladder of a huge automotive industry. Like the 'Mad Men' my father had a 'showcase' house and 'showcase' wife. His children were made to behave and be graciously silent at the various functions that were often catered at the 'showcase' house. Yuck!
    Unlike the 'Mad Men' my father, though a social climber, was not self-absorbed, nor lying, cheater or philandering. I think these qualities - those of personal integrity - I so much admirer in him, and they were also the very same qualities that eventually did him in in such a manipulative and unnurturing work environment.

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  2. Just beautiful. Thanks for sharing these warm memories and intimate moments from the service. Be well.

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  3. Truly beautiful lines. Each line made me so warm that I was in tears.
    Vince also kindly sent me a nice pic of Dan with Joan. It was the best memory for me to have a fortunate to meet Dan even though it was a short time and I never ever forget he gave me a big smile. Thank you again. Ayumi

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