I want to thank everyone for being here. It's been a hard year and we could not have made it through without the help of family and friends, specifically:
Greg, Leah, and Gilda, who helped out every time my mom and dad needed them.
My bosses, Robin & Bill for their support, and so many of my co-workers, especially Gary, Sheron, and Rebekah, who let me lean on them and took care of everything when I needed to be with my mom and dad.
My brother Keith, and sister Lisa and their spouses, Nancy and Peter, for all their help and support.
Uncle Frankie and Aunt Kathy for their advice, help and support.
My husband, Tim, whose love and support made me strong when I didn't think I could be and who more than once had to literally pick my dad up and carry him…and my dad didn't mind!
And of course to my mother, RoseAnn. Her strength was inspiring...she worked tirelessly, day in and day out, to take care of my dad and keep him positive, even if it meant she had to REALLY piss him off to get him to do ‘just 10 more leg lifts!’
All my life, I’ve heard this statement: “Frank was the best neighbor!”
And he was! Need someone to watch your house, call Frank! Need to get an squirrel out of the chimney? Call Frank! Need a light, sprinkler, DVD player, TV or slot machine fixed? Call Frank!
And he loved it.
He collected broken electronics, would spend hours in his garage shop taking them apart to find the problem. He’d pour over schematics, huge map like papers that extended across the whole workbench, with lines and numbers going everywhere, and every once in a while I’d ask him what they were and he’d try to explain it to me … but would pretty much lose me by the end of the first sentence.
This, is the SAME MAN who couldn’t always figure out how to turn OFF the annoying alarm on his iPhone!
If he wasn’t fixing something, he was making something. Wooden boxes, remote control or pen holders made from duct or electrical tape. And if you happened to mention you were going to buy a shelf? Fuggetaboutit, because he’d say ‘No, don’t do that! I'll make one for you!' ..and he’d buy the wood, cut it, sand it and stain it until it was perfect…then he’d install it.
But, I didn’t always appreciate that.
One Christmas when I was, maybe 3 or 4, I wanted one of those kitchen sets, you know the Fisher Price, plastic ones that has a stove and a fridge and fake plastic food?
Well, I asked for one, and when I woke up Christmas morning, I ran to the tree and saw one….and burst into tears….because it didn’t look like what my friends had.
Mine was wood, stained a dark oak. A handmade stove and refrigerator, with black on and off buttons that turned, and ‘burners’ outlined with black electrical tape with an ‘x’ in the middle. When you opened the oven or refrigerator door a light turned on. He even MADE boxes of fake food and took old empty cans, cleaned them out and put fresh new labels on them.
But I cried, and my dad was crushed. I know, I know, you’re thinking…’what a spoiled, ungrateful little child!’
My mom took hand, and said, ‘Michelle, this is better than all the ones your friends have because daddy made it FOR YOU.’
That stuck with me, and the tears dried up. I played with that kitchen set every day….and every time I had a friend over that that looked at it oddly, I said proudly, ‘My daddy didn’t BUY it…he MADE it FOR ME. It’s the ONLY ONE. YOURS IS FROM A STORE!"
11 years later, when I was 15 and we were packing to move to California, I opened the basement storage closet, and there it was, that kitchen set, a little worse for wear, but I was still so proud of it.
That appreciation stayed with me, because when I was in my late 20s living on my own, I had a cat and my dad and I were at the pet store. I saw one of those huge cat trees that cost, like $200 and I mentioned I wanted to buy one. My dad said "Don't you dare...I can make that!"
Sure enough, about a month later, he pulls up to my condo and there it was in the back of the truck. 6 ½ feet tall, 3 levels with a little house at the top complete with a window, the entire thing carpeted to perfection. I loved it, so did the cat!
What I didn't always appreciate was that he had to tell everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, the grocery clerk, doctors, nurses, the server at the restaurant …where I worked, and what I did…I mean sometimes I just wanted to visit or have a night out with him and not answer a million questions about my job…and I’d say ‘Dad, can you PLEASE stop telling people where I work?’ But he just couldn’t.
I realize now that he only did that because he was proud.
He was proud of me, he was proud of my brother and my sister…he was proud of all of us because we all grew up to be good people, and we married good people….and that’s because of how they raised us.
He was so busy being proud of us, that I hope he never forgot to take a moment and look at all he accomplished for himself, you read about it in the program...his service with the Navy and Air Force, his time as a nuclear measurement specialist, analyzing debris from U.S. and Russian atomic detonations, his top secret work at Grumman on the lunar lander, the F-14 and the Stealth Bomber.
I tried to remember if I ever told him, I'm sure I did, but I realized that we take it for granted. We think our loved ones already know we’re proud of them, we forget to thank them for what they do for us because we think they’ll always be there.
So when you leave today, remember NOT to take it for granted…tell them as often as you can, in person, before you can't.
So, daddy, I'm speaking for all of us when I say we are so proud of you. Thank you for everything you did for us…thank you for making us the people we are.
We love you.