In 1985, we hit a dog. To be more precise, a dog hit us.
During a family vacation to
My mother shrieked. My, then, 8 year old sister freaked out. I was mortified. The dog? It got up and ran back into the high grass. A terrible memory was poised to scrawl itself into our minds and taint the vacation.
I know this is a strange way to start a eulogy. Most all of you know me and might have expected something else. A poem maybe? Some soaring imagery or heartfelt, tear-jerking words. And it’s true. I’m a sensitive guy and my father and I were extremely close. My father’s death has changed my world in ways I can’t even begin to imagine now. Hell, I cry at everything. Cell phone commercials... Oscar speeches... folk songs... rap songs... really really good pizza...
But I can’t. Not right now. Not yet. Why? Because we hit that dog.
See while me, my sister and my mother were stunned and horrified by what had just happened... my father was driving that car. He assessed the situation and our reactions. He knew that our family vacation and our memories hinged on what happened next. And as saddened as I’m sure he was at hitting that dog... he did the most amazing thing.
That man launched into a hilarious 10 minute rant about what had just happened. He imagined that the dog was sent out regularly to snatch cars from the highway and bring them back to his owner. He talked about how mad the dog’s owner would have been if he’d brought us back in his jaws.
”Not Celebrity! Cel – I – ca! I wanted a celica – not a celebrity! Do I have to get the flashcards again?!”
Soon we were all flopping about the car with laughter, joining in. He turned this moment around into one of the greatest, most memorable moments of my life. Something we still laugh about to this day.
That’s why today, I can’t come up here and share my personal pain. We all know it’s there. We’re all sharing it. We lost this man and we are feeling the pangs because my father had a gift. He knew how to make a moment sparkle.
Whether it was taking the drive to see my dying grandmother 4 hours away and talking about the Native Americans who used to hunt the vast herds of CLAMS that used to run free on the prairie – chasing them and driving them off cliffs to their death. Or singing the Indiana Jones theme as my wife hurried out of her house in her wedding dress on the way to the church. Or how, upon losing a hand of cards to my grandmother, threw down his cards and called her a “back-stabbing half breed”. By the way, he is the ONLY man outside of a John Wayne movie to ever actually utter that phrase in real life.
My father made every moment better. Like the sprinkles on an ice cream cone or the forgotten $10 you find at the bottom of the dryer. Listening to people talk yesterday – he was their friendly chat over coffee. The unassuming, non-demanding cherry that pushed a good day into greatness.
And he’s doing it again. Right now, in this place. Life has run out of the high grass and hit the side of my car. And there’s my father – glittering in my mind. Making me laugh. Bringing me peace. Taking the worst day of my life and making it not so bad.
The world needs more like him. The world should be more like him. And I am proud to give this man to the starlight.