Sep
09

Eulogy for My Dad

By

*Note: I wrote this last post about my dad before he became ill rather suddenly. I had held off posting because I had hoped to get some better pictures of him and his granddaughters. It soon became apparent that just wasn’t going to happen. My dad died on September 6th. I am heartbroken. This is what I read at his service.

Some men defy description. Some men defy definition. Some men can thwart any attempt at capturing their essence in words.  My dad was one of those men.

I enjoy writing, and I’ve actually been trying to write about my dad for years, but thus far to no avail. Of course, I never imagined that what would compel me to finally put my thoughts down on paper would bring with it the need to talk about him in the past tense. But no matter. He is present still, and words still fail.

Words fail, because to capture my dad simply must include things that for anyone else would come across as uncomplimentary, but, in the frame of my dad, are quite endearing. I’ll list just a few of these things, and you’ll see my problem.

My dad had a way with words. Of course they were swear words, but he could string together a rant, the arrangement and cadence of which really took a special kind of talent.

He had his phrases. And we loved our “Neilisms”

There was “I never should have left my mother.“

or

“You’d think out of all my kids I’d have one normal one.” He would just shake his head and mutter, “Nope. Not a normal one in the bunch.”

His grandkids called him Grumpy because the name fit.

He would tell my mother she was fired at least eight times a week.

And there are not a few people in this room who, while growing up, as my cousin Johnny said the other day, would’ve sworn their given name was Knothead.

There are tons more, but almost none are appropriate to share here.

I could tell such stories and things about my dad, and, to those who did not know him, he would sound like a curmudgeon, someone you wouldn’t like or wouldn’t want to be around.  And nothing could be further from the truth.

There are so many contradictions about him—his love of hunting and his affection for almost all animals; his quietness and his noisiness; his politically incorrect verbiage and his willingness to give a stranger the shirt off his back. The things that made him uniquely Neil are the things that, when put into words, belie the gentleness of his soul and the kindness of his heart.

Perhaps part of why words fail is because his life was unfinished.  There’s a motorcycle lying in pieces in the garage because he wanted to tinker with it and make it his own. He made his own arrows, customized his bows, and couldn’t resist adjusting this or changing that with almost everything he came across. Hearts included.

Of course there was still more he wanted to do. Always more. You’d tell him to rest or slow down and he’d just start rambling about the eight billion things he had to do.  He had his lists. And as my sister Kristen would tell you, even his lists had lists. That too, was my dad.

Perhaps another reason words fail me is because I only knew him as a dad.  For me, of course that was enough. He was a great dad. He took an active roll in his daughters’ lives and my mom would say he was like a “Mr. Mom” before it became fashionable. When he yelled, we knew he’d be apologizing mere hours later.

He was the kind of dad who would build his daughter a teepee, or take his daughter fishing, or come to his daughter’s aid in the middle of the night even if it was to pull a car out from under a guardrail. He was there to watch the grandkids at a moments notice or do things around his kids’ houses. He loved us all. Kristen will tell you she’s the favorite, but don’t believe her.

I was reminded this week as visitors and phone calls and messages flooded in, that my sisters and I are not alone in our good fortune to have had him to look up to. There are quite a few people in this room to whom my dad was a surrogate father.  (He even has his pet names for them—Mudd, Fuzzy, Nudge and the like.)  And I’m pretty sure their love and devotion for him runs just as deep.

But there was also a Neil I can only have limited knowledge of:

Neil the young boy who grew up in Idaho and delighted in pestering his brother and sister. Neil the husband who adored his Irabel even through the affectionate bickering. Neil the outdoorsman who had nothing less than reverence for nature and would spend hours in the woods or fishing in his canoe. There was Neil the uncle, Neil the railroader, Neil the friend. So many stories. So many memories.  I simply can’t do them all justice.  I can tell you that the whole of the man was greater than the sum of the parts, and the loss is ours. ALL of ours.

Maybe it’s foolish to try to capture anyone in words. Our vocabularies are never as big as our hearts. Our hearts hold what we need. If you knew my dad, you loved him.  If you didn’t, well, you missed someone special.

So maybe for right here, for right now, it’s okay to simply say this: he was a good man. And he’d argue with you because he had too much humility to believe that, but I can find lines of men ten deep who would stand with me on that statement. And that doesn’t even count the ones in this room.

He would be touched and humbled by the outpouring of love here. He would also think we were all nuts.  Please know that he loved you all, and my family and I are so grateful for the support and the comfort you all bring.

God shared with us a great gift in my father. My dad was a good man, and he will be so very missed. Our hearts are a little heavier tonight. And the woods are a little quieter.

NEIL J LANDON 1945-2010

Categories : journeys in life

Comments

  1. Brewin says:

    Saw on Facebook that you posted our eulogy and knew I had to drop everything and read it, your writing never disappoints. Thank you for capturing a man I never met and letting me cry for a life ended waaay too soon. I know you and I both valiently try to be half the parents to our children that ours were to us–thank you for sharing with us what a special man he is. God bless and nothing but love to you…

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  2. Helene says:

    Kellerooooo,

    Dad is definitely smiling STILL after having heard the words that his o-so-talented daughter wrote about him. I am sorry I never got to meet him, he definitely sounds like someone I would get along WELL with… right down to the rants-of-expletives!!!!
    I love you, you and your entire family remain in my heart and thoughts….

    Helenie

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  3. Kris Giannone says:

    Kelly, that is a very beautiful tribute to your Dad. I was very fond of him and I always thought that he was very cool (earring, clogs). I also was blessed to have had a curmudgeonly father and all of his quirks made him so much more endearing to me. God bless you and your family.

    Love, Kris
    (from Dr. Johnsons office)

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  4. KELLY, THIS IS BEAUTIFUL. YOUR DAD WAS ALL OF THOSE THINGS AND MORE. YOUR BABY IS ADORABLE. THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS, JOAN

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