16 August 2006

Requiem for Superman

An obituary can only say so much. It lists the little details that aren't really so little; birth dates, the names of those left behind, a glimpse into the work that interrupted life on a day to day basis, and sometimes an idea of the cause of why that person left this earth. If you read between the lines you can get an idea of someone, but you can't really know them.

You could read about the life of Tom, who died today at 72 years of age, survived by his wife, their two adult children, and 4 grandkids. And you could read that he served his country honorably for over 20 years, including time in Vietnam. That he retired from the military and worked in pest control, where he was so good at his job that he was sought after and wooed away from one company to be a key player in bringing another incredible success. And you'd find out where his funeral was to be held, and when. You might think he had a good life, and you'd be right.

But none of that would tell you much about Tom himself. You wouldn't get the honor of knowing the man that so many people loved deeply.

There's not enough space in an obit to tell you that he had his first heart attack at age 36, and the landscape of his life was painted with lowlight brushstrokes of heart disease and diabetes; there's not enough space to tell you that he did everything right: he watched his diet, he managed his blood sugar, he exercised. There wouldn't be enough space to tell you that he kept on doing all the right things, through quintuple bypass surgeries and stints placed to open his arteries. That he was a tough SOB with wonderfully soft edges.

There's not enough space to tell you he had an abudance of friends, yet not nearly as many as he deserved.

There's not enough space to tell you how deeply he loved his family, and how each and every one of them didn't have to be told, because they knew. How he loved his grandkids and lived for them almost as much as he did for his wife. How his grandchildren have the gift of a life filled with knowing him, and how when the sting of his being gone lessens just a little, thoughts of him will be wrapped in the smiles and laughter of treasured memories.

There's not enough space to tell you that he was an example of what a man really is, that he raised his son to be a good man, a kind man, someone who isn't afraid to show or to give love. That he blessed his son with knowing that compassion is the measure of a man, and that being tough doesn't mean being distant.

There's not enough space to tell you that his kodachrome image of a real man gave his daughter the ideal to look for, and a knowing that she would never settle for anything less. That his granddaughters have him as a way to measure the worth of the men that will come into their lives. That his grandsons will always have him, alongside their fathers, as an Ideal. There's not enough space to tell you that he showed his son and his grandsons, with quiet dignity, that real men stay, real men uphold their commitments, and real men honor those to whom they pledge themselves.

There's not enough space to tell you how he made the people to whom his children wed feel so loved and respected that in their hearts he was never just a father-in-law.

There's not enough space to tell you about the woman he loved and who loved him back, about how they were so much a part of each other that even as days slide into weeks, into years, and into decades, they will be inextricably part of one another. That he cherished her as much as she adored him, and how worthy of each other they were.

There's just not enough space to tell you everything about this man who will so deeply missed, and by so many people.

There needs to be enough space, though.

I need there to be enough space.

I need there to be enough space to tell you about him. I need better words, more clarity, a stronger voice... I need to be able to tell you about a man who was not the little details that compose an obituary, about a man who was so much more. I need to have the right words to tell you about a man who would drive 50 miles to make sure his eldest grandson had rent money or to see his grandchildren in a ball game, who showed up to just sit there when his daughter-in-law had surgery, who would go to hell and back just to be there for the people who needed him.

I need you to know my father-in-law and love him as much as I do. And I know that can't happen now, and I don't have the words to do him justice.

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