The Outbreak: Eulogy

Saturday, September 17, 2005


This is what I read at my grandfather's wake this past weekend.


My mother ended her eulogy for my grandfather by referencing his frequent use of the phrase "men of our talents." He’d use it in contexts like when I was little and he was helping to put together a big G.I. Joe vehicle or playset or something like that: “I’m sure we can figure it out, men of our talents...” That was always my favorite saying of his. He was a man of many talents.

One of these was his adventurous intellect. He was always borrowing the latest mysteries from the library (his nightstand, as my mom pointed out, never had any less than three books on it), checking out the latest movies at the theatre (he went to the movies a lot more often than I did, and I was a film studies major), following the latest series on TV (we'd often compare the relative merits of Vincent D’Onofrio on Criminal Intent and Tony Shaloub on Monk), trying a new sport or hobby (when he had to give up basketball because of his heart back in the ’80s, he switched right over to golf, and he was also quite the bocce player, and there wasn't a word game in the newspaper that he couldn't solve). He's always been such an inspiration to us grandkids as we discovered our own interests through the years, and there was no one better to have a conversation with about them at family gatherings than Pa-Pa. Even when there stopped being new books and movies and TV series and even newspapers for a while, I always looked forward to having new topics to mull over with him.

Another talent was making us laugh. I remember in their old house in Franklin Square, he and Grandma had a fridge with the freezer on the bottom, which he explained by saying Grandma got really angry one day and punched it so hard it flipped over. Then there were the passionate debates he and I had over the reindeer decorations in the basement around Christmastime, from which Rudolph had been omitted—he insisted that Rudolph was just a myth, not real, as opposed to the other eight flying reindeer. More recently, he cracked Amy up in the motorcycle shop in Port Jeff when he read aloud the words on a t-shirt: "If you can read this, the bitch fell off," he said in a deadpan voice, before explaining to Grandma, "See, hat's the back of the shirt, Joan..." (Pretending to be exasperated with Grandma was another one of his talents. I’m sure he was always pretending, though.)

I am sad that he's gone, sad for all of us that no new memories will be added to the list, no new evidence of his talents will be produced. But I'm also happy, because more than anything, bringing happiness to everyone he knew was Pa-Pa's real talent, and that happiness will never leave or dim or fade. He will always be there for me and with me, standing at a party and quietly cracking jokes with a bunch of unsalted peanuts in his hand, or working on word puzzles in the newspaper with golf on in the background, or telling me about the horse operas he'd go see at the movies when he was young. I will always remember the smile he wore as he made us smile too, and even today I'm happy because of it. I hope all of us keep that smile in our minds and in our hearts. A man of his talents deserves no less of a remembrance.


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