Today I signed up to walk in the Dallas/Fort Worth Area Out of the Darkness Community Walk to benefit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. I have not yet embraced this type of organization mainly because, I guess, I still don’t know how to read my own feelings about my old man’s early departure. The best way I have known to deal with them is to share words about him with those who loved him. Since many of you knew him, I thought perhaps a re-post of the eulogy I read at his funeral would be a suitable memory for all of us five years after…
“The earliest memory in my life is sitting in a lifeguard booth between my Dad and his partner, wearing my Dad’s lifeguard hat. And I think figuratively, I’ve been trying to wear his hat my entire life.
In the 70s, I saw my father as Officer Jim Street from the TV show SWAT. Jumping over fences and chasing bad guys. In the 80s I saw him as Spenser: For Hire, a tough private eye character from books and television. His favorite movie was The Magnificent Seven. These were tough men that I could never be. And because of that, I always saw myself as a disappointment to my father.
Then, about ten years ago, I drove across the country to get away from the old man. Through a bunch of circumstances, I fell into his line of business. And you know what? Ten years later, I’m doing what my Dad does. And I’m as good as him.
Last year, after my sister’s wedding, we were at a bar and Bob ordered up his usual for himself and for me; a shot of Cuervo and a bottle of Heineken. I lifted my shot glass, and I said, “To my hero.” He lifted his and said, “To mine.” That was my defining moment. I knew that I had gained my father’s respect. That’s all I ever wanted.
There were a few people my father considered his heroes:
His first hero was his father Loren Holmes. His father’s special name for him was “Robbie”. After Loren died when Bob was only ten, Bob instructed everyone to call him “Bobby” because the other name died with his father. Most everybody has called me Robbie my entire life. My father always told me that that name was a piece of his father that he saved to give to his first son.
His best friend’s father, Al Ganary, was a father to him until Al’s passing about ten years ago. Besides of course the daily joy Bob had with his loved ones, the last real good time my father had was at a thing called “Bad Boys Weekend”. This was one weekend a year he and his life-long friends Dave Ganary and Roy Bergey set aside to celebrate the life of their father figure Al Ganary and the bond they all had.
His big brothers Ted and Bub were immortal gods to him; men who couldn’t be harmed or die.
The person he admired most was his mother Mildred. All my life, it was his mother he held up as his example of strength. Not to mention, Bob always said that she had the greatest detective mind that he had ever encountered.
My song to my father is a song Bruce Springsteen wrote to his father. Even though he was a grown man, he still looks to his father in order to know how to walk like a man.”
[Dear family friend Rev. Steve Rahter performed this song live in Linwood, NJ at the funeral.’]
Here’s to you, Dad. I’ll see you again.
“Walk Like a Man” by Bruce Springsteen
I remember how rough your hand felt on mine on my wedding day
And the tears cried on my shoulder I couldn’t turn away
Well so much has happened to me that I don’t understand
All I can think of is being five years old following behind you at the beach tracing your footprints in the sand
Trying to walk like a man
By our lady of the roses we lived in the shadow of the elms
I remember ma draggin’ me and my sister up the street to the church whenever she heard those wedding bells
Well would they ever look so happy again the handsome groom and his bride
As they stepped into that long black limousine for their mystery ride
Well tonight you step away from me and alone at the alter I stand
And as I watch my bride coming down the aisle I pray for the strength to walk like a man
Well now the years have gone and I’ve grown from that seed you’ve sown
But I didn’t think there’d be so many steps I’d have to learn on my own
Well I was young and I didn’t know what to do
When I saw your best steps stolen away from you
Now I’ll do what I can
I’ll walk like a man
And I’ll keep on walkin’