March 20, 2016

When I sat down to think through what I wanted to say today, I had trouble figuring out how to do justice for a man like my dad. He was a very rare individual, so vibrant, charismatic, supportive, jovial, friendly, and weird. Enthusiastic. At the same time, he was a relentlessly gentle father, deeply caring, highly philosophical, and always patient.

Thank you all for being here today in celebration of his life, my dad was a stranger to no one, the eternal optimist, Mr. Activity. So today I’ll share some memories, some things he said, some things he did, and cap it with how we’re all better people because of him.

I think it’s appropriate that today is such a sunny day, the first day of spring. My dad loved good weather and called himself a sunflower because his face would “follow the sun” as it moved through the sky. He enjoyed the simple pleasures of life and found time to appreciate them every day. He loved dancing, music, and playing his guitar.

His sense of humor was contagious; he could get anyone on the dance floor having a good time. I remember my dad describing Jan and himself watching his favorite live cover band, he said his go-to dance move was like a Native American, and Jan’s was “the washing machine.” He was fearless (even of being politically incorrect).

Some of my favorite memories my dad were our long talks on the porch, long talks at the breakfast bar, long talks via video chat, and while driving in his Cars, Throughout college, we often got to take long car rides together. Even before he was ill, our conversations would turn philosophical. I found some of his insights so helpful and moving that I started, secretly, recording our conversations with a voice recorder just so I could have them later. He had this ability to deliver such a sound piece of advice with such lightness. I treasure these conversations, as I’m sure many of you do too.

He also had an expansive collection of “quotables,” these little turns of phrases and sayings he had a habit of saying… like,

a. “Yaaaaaaay”

b. “Let’s do it til we can’t do it no mo”

c. “Life is long”

d. “Resentment is like drinking poison and hoping the other person dies”

e. “You’re okay Lindz. You’re doin alright”

f. “Everything is gonna be ooooookay”

g. “Your presence is requested, come as you are”

He loved cat folk art, his roses, his pets, us, and MOST OF ALL — LIFE at it’s most ordinary, because it gave him room to make his own fun.

Whether it was a life event or ordinary day, he was super enthusiastic, which many pictures did justice. To my dad, it wasn’t BirthDAY, it was birthday month. Not tuna casserole, tuna EVENT. Not just a handshake, but the “super special” very embarrassing “Secret Wisconsin Handshake.” It wasn’t just a Kia Amanti, but a Kia Amanti with a Rolls Royce hood ornament, He also loved his Miata back in the day, I used to pretend I was him driving it, saying, “weeeee! I’m peter pan driving Minnie mouse slipper!!”

He took every day things and made them very very special. He narrated his life in song, usually made up on the fly, but sometimes good ones got down on paper, the ones about junk food, drunk sailors, loving Jan, and more.

Growing up, he was the best dad anyone could ever have. He was such a gentle, loving, good dad.

Just like In life, he always wanted everyone to have a great time.

When Dana and I were little we had a book full of face painting ideas. Dana and I would pick out the design we wanted and we’d sit at the kitchen table as he painted it for us. But one face was never enough, so my dad would paint little faces on our elbows and knees too, then he’d play the Shell Silverstein poems he’d put to guitar and Dana and I would make our little knees and elbows dance around like little people as we laughed and laughed. Even though we grew out of it, I don’t think he ever really did because anytime there was an opportunity to get a temporary tattoo, like at Summerfest, or Six Flags, he always had to get a smiley face tattooed on his bald spot.

He always played dress up with us. We played pretty pretty princess, and sometimes we would play hairdresser with him too. He’d sit patiently as we doused his head in water, combed, pulled, laughed, and put sponge rollers in his hair.

When Dana and I would get scared at night, we would yell “DAD!” repeatedly from our bed until he came. We would ask, “will you cover me in stuffies?” And he’d cover our whole bodies with all the stuffed animals we had, and just before he placed the last one over our faces, he would kiss us, probably say, “yaaay!” and say goodnight.

I think both Dana and I would agree one of our favorite parts of my dad’s parenting techniques was that he usually said, “why not!” to things mom probably wouldn’t. He started taking us fishing when we were really little. The quarry was stocked with little bluegills and sunfish that would bite at a hook without any bait. We caught tons and tons of them, sometimes more than 20. One time we asked if we could take them home with us…

“What are you going to do with them?”

“We’re going to swim with them!”

“Why not”

So we took them home in a big purple beach bucket and put them in the blow up swimming pool. On the way home from the quarry though, my dad said we had to make a stop. He bought a chlorinator for the pool, one of those plastic floaty things with chemical pellets inside that looked like candy fun dip sticks. So we had fun, the fish died, we didn’t get sick, and “eeeevvererybody happpyy.”

He accepted.

He was no bullshit. I’ve always kept a journal, which has turned out to be a pretty diligently kept record. I’ll never forget this one time he said I was a sweetie. I wrote, “August 13, 2009 — my dad called me a sweetie today. I’ll never forget this. It gives me pride, something to continue to hold myself up to. He said he’d always be there for me because I’m not some secretive bullshiter. My dad was a good dad today.”

I miss my dad. He loved me, everyone, for exactly who they were, as they are. AND, he was ecstatic about it! No words can describe his enthusiasm for the good happenings in other people’s lives.

He was an amazing friend.

When I put myself in the shoes of Dad’s friends, I picture them saying, “He just appeared, and then we were friends. All he had to do was say hello.” And what they don’t say is, “couldn’t be more thankful, here and now. I needed that positive force more than anything. I didn’t even know how much.” His transparency and candidness was brutally refreshing and often hilarious. He taught us how to laugh at ourselves, and then, how to deal with ourselves.

I can picture him in my mind on the corded phone at his desk, loud as hell; he would come home from an errand or activity and sit down for his call-making ritual. His huge smile, loud laugh, genuine tone as he made the effort to reach out to people, just to say hi, almost every time he walked in the door. I want to be like that.

I got a message from him, I wrote in my journal, “2/26/10 — I woke up to a text from my dad this morning. It said, ‘Just wanted to let you know you’re a great kid with a good heart and love you to pieces.’” I’m so honored.

When I look at my dad, I also sometimes see myself. We have the same expressions, and he used to say, “We’re two peas in a pod, Ginz,” — it is truly amazing to have a father who could just BE. Who could have light in his eyes, need for nothing else in the world. I can only hope to do his legacy justice, and I’m really glad I inherited his love for people, so at least that’s working for me. What an honor to carry the legacy of the BEST MAN I’VE EVER KNOWN.

When you come to know someone like my dad, they become a part of you. To know him was to have a personal pep rally, unconditional love, and an unlimited go-to person to ask to join you in literally any activity, whether he liked it or not. He was by our sides, always. He was a man that listened, laughed, showed how, said yes, said yaaayyy, tried new, learned, shared, encouraged, let you, let go, overcame, and loved. Always.

He’s the type of person you talk about all the time and never realize it. The stories about him captivate. He’s the character in a book you feel like you know. The thing is, even those who didn’t know him, you do. We all have friends and supporters here today that I know feel loss even if they haven’t met him.

That’s because for each of us, my dad is a part of us now, he lives on as Larry and nothing can take that away. We’re better for knowing him, and the warmth travels through to everyone we love, and keeps going forever.

Dad, your guiding hand on my shoulder will remain with me forever. You voice in my heart (and on my voice recorder).

You once shared with me your working theory on what happens when people die, told in metaphors, of course. It was a hard one to listen to in the car that night. But what you said was so beautiful, just the two of us on the empty road on Christmas Eve -–

“Maybe in the end we all return to the place we began. We become whole again. During life we’re just a single drop, and inside the drop is your whole life, your whole experience, everything you know. It’s a beautiful thing being a drop. But in the end, oh boy, think about it. You get to return to the ocean. There’s a lot more going on there. And, if you’re lucky (when the weather’s right) ,you get to do it all again.”

We don’t need anything but our hearts and to close our eyes to know he was the most incredibly happy man — and we will let his happiness, joy, zest for life live on through us. Everyday. And we’ll all have more fun.