Friday, April 19, 2013

For Dad

I know I made a promise to keep this blog populated with content, but times have been tough as my lovely dad has been in his final months, weeks and days.  He died on April 11th and the funeral was on April 12th.  

Here is my eulogy:

What do you say about the kindest man ever created?  A man defined by his big smile and twinkling blue eyes.  There is so much to say.  He was a loving father and caring grandfather always concerned and interested in our lives.  He had an incredible work ethic and never complained.  He gave to charity after charity – particularly those that supported women.  He was a prolific reader, a Civil War buff and an expert on British history.  He loved music, Gilbert & Sullivan, playing pinochle and decadent desserts.  He was an exemplary husband whose love and respect for my mother was always apparent in everything he said and did. 

I have been so incredibly blessed to have Irwin Lawrence Mann as my father, my dad.  His is the kindest soul.  The sweetest, most generous, hard-working, caring and witty, husband, father, grandfather and friend.   

Elie Wiesel once said, “Life is not made of years, but of moments.”  It is all too true that dad fought so hard thru all of his sicknesses and until the very end because he wanted to spend every moment life gave him with the love of his life – his amazing Doris.  She was his rock, his “beautiful wife,” his best friend. 

Many of you were at the send-off party for my brother, now Brigadier General Michael Mann, (ooh, my father was so proud of him!) – when he went to Afghanistan - which coincided with Dad's 80th birthday.  My mother spoke about how fortunate she has been with the men in her life.  Especially, her husband.  We have all been so blessed to have Irwin Mann in our lives.

Dad’s kindness radiated and he could always brighten your day.  When we were kids, he would wake us up with, “Rise and Shine!” and send us off to school or work with a promising, “Good-bye and good-luck!”  He would welcome his shoe store customers with an enthusiastic, “Afternoo-oon!” And, we would all smile at hearing his always cheerful voice greeting us on the phone with an exuberant, “Hello from Eastchester!”  

No one had a more keen wit and he loved to tease.  He had so many silly nicknames for us.  And, although my dad left the joke telling to my mom, he could deliver a great line.

My father was very fond of offering advice – and one of my favorite lessons was to “make lemonade out of lemons,”  -- to find the good in situations, people, work, and day-to-day living – which he practiced every day.  And, though I fought it as a kid, I now I understand the wisdom of his advice, “put on a hat!”

My oldest and fondest memories are of my nursery school years and driving with my dad to Tiny Town. What fun we would have.  We would sing, our favorites – “K-K-K Katie,” “She’ll be Coming ‘Round the Mountain,” “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad.” And we would discuss our favorite colors – mine always changing and his always blue.  I never wanted to leave my dad and he would have to give me a gentle nudge into the arms of the awaiting teachers. Over the course of two years, there were so many legendary Tiny Town stories…A favorite was about how I insisted on only peanut butter sandwiches for lunch, but then tried the hot lunch on the very last day – spaghetti and meatballs – and loved it.   He often would retell these stories and I would love hearing them.

Dad studied to be an accountant, but ended up bringing his bright spirit and unmatched work ethic to his shoe stores – Corner Shoe Outlet and Step n’ Style.  He worked 6 long days a week. But he was always there for us, doing the big family food shop on Sunday mornings, making our school lunches, braiding my hair, quizzing us on our school work, and helping my sister Bev and I care for our guppies and cat fish, Sniffy.  Sniffy even got to share in our Friday night Shabbat chicken dinners, dad using his thumb nail to mash up a tender morsel of chicken just for Sniffy.

Dad was an attentive and loving grandpa.  Mom and I love remembering how he  danced with, toddler Amanda to “Beauty & the Beast.”  How she curtsied in front of him as he took her hand for the waltz. And with Jakey, Dad always was quick to ask how he was doing in hockey and soccer – and for both grandkids, a constant interest in their school work.  And, he loved Rob from the moment he met him and welcomed him into our family with open arms – with Rob’s powerful bear hugs often eliciting a compulsory, “Oy!”

I recently learned that Judaism has a long tradition of angelology – which does not subscribe to the notion of angels with wings, halos and flowing robes.  Jewish tradition teaches that angels are spiritual entities created by God to perform a task – to protect, praise, or rescue.  My dad, Irwin Lawrence, was and is our angel – always protecting, praising, showing us the meaning of gratitude and always with us, in our hearts, minds and souls.

I think of dad:
Every time I wrap a gift - he was the expert
When I stir my ice cream into a thick creamy soup
When someone says, "Make lemonade out of lemons!"
When I sink my teeth into a black & white cookie or chocolate ├ęclair
When I read Dickens – especially “Great Expectations”
When I hear the song or reference to “Tipperary” or any Gilbert & Sullivan song
When I’m awake.  When I’m sleeping.
I think of dad, Every Day and FOREVER.