Saturday, February 1, 2014

For My Father

My father died 10 days before Christmas. I wrote the comments I wanted to share, read them at the service, then kinda put them out of my thoughts. I'd shared them with my friend Rhonda and promptly forgot about that, too. Yesterday she and I got to texting about silly epitaphs to have on your gravestone (I'd suggested "She was sweet and stupid" for her – which is only half true, after she texted me the comment "Hakuna Matata!"). She eventually sent this text:

"I told Georgie (Rhonda's daughter) last night that when I die, if you were still alive to look you up and have you help her with my eulogy. I read her yours for your dad and she was so impressed. She loved it! Should make you feel good. She hates everything:)"

So here's the eulogy I wrote for my dad. If it's good enough for Georgie, I suppose it's good enough for a Contrarian post.

Last Sunday I lost the best drywall man I've ever known. That he could level the horrifically out of level ceiling of a 120-year-old house before applying new drywall amazed me. I always wanted the job to go faster, but he’d slow me down and show me how to do it right.

I also lost the best electrician I ever hired. And even though I only paid him with a ham sandwich and a can of Old Milwaukee, he'd draw careful wire diagrams of the 3-way switches so I'd understand how they worked, and show me which spots in the electrical box would make the lights come on, and which spots would electrocute me.

I also lost an amazing plumber, who tolerated that I didn't want new fixtures, I wanted to make the 1920s fixtures work like new. Though exasperated, he rolled his eyes and helped me anyway.

My first-class carpenter also passed away last Sunday, along with the roofer who taught me how to lay shingles and the handyman who showed me how to hang gutters.

My go-to mortgage lender died on Sunday as well. He could always be counted on to make the loan. He'd have a payment book and keep careful records with each payment I made.

And my auto repairman died as well. He could take a lawn mower engine apart, put it back together, and rebuild a car’s brakes or transmission.

All these guys I lost were in fact one man: My father.

And those talents only scratch the surface of the things he taught me. I grew up in a house where men cleaned and cooked. It wasn’t just a job for women. It wasn’t common for his generation, but it was the way he was raised, and so became the way I was raised.

He had a deep love of music, That rubbed off on me. I recall as a teenager watching a TV show with him of old video clips of County Basie, Lena Horn and Nat King Cole. I told him I didn’t like that music. He shook his head in disgust. I eventually leaned to love that music.

When I had kids of my own, he regularly pitched in and tended to them like the Eagle Scout he once was, taking them to the woods and the creeks and the ponds.

That engineer, that handyman, that jack of all trades – he was good at a lot of things, but he wasn't very good at saying, "I love you." Those just weren’t easy words for him. But he was saying it all the time in acts of service to me. He said I love you with a hammer and with wire splitters. He said it with a pipe wrench and a drywall knife. He said it with a loan and said it again by making sure I paid it back. He said it by nurturing my children.
My father, Jim Meyer, with my sister Jama.

All those projects he used to help me with, I’ve done them on my own now for years, ever since he slowed down and the helping got harder.

A few years back I was telling him about a project I was working on. I could see in his eyes how he wished he could help. He said in frustration, “I’m not much good for anything anymore.”

But that handyman was good for an awful lot. I wouldn’t have known how to do most of what I’ve done, if he hadn’t repeatedly told me that he love me in the only way he knew how to say it.

My new book, The Salvage Man began going online for e-readers before Christmas. It's currently available at iTunes,, Fastpencil, and I'll be doing a public launch to tell the world in the weeks ahead - probably throw a party at my house with hardcover versions available.


  1. Well done. I remember meeting your father once. Didn't get to know him. But I know him better now.

  2. Twice in 2014 you've made me cry. Hagar the Horrible doesn't cry. Beautiful, honest eulogy.

  3. Very nice eulogy. Sounds a lot like my own dad. :)