Saturday, June 17, 2006

My Dad

With Fathers' Day tomorrow, here's something I wrote for the funeral of my father, Robert Draney, in March of 1994:
My memory of my father is a collage made up of thousands of little memories:
  • The sparkle in his eye as he told a joke;
  • Making up his own, silly words to popular songs;
  • Singing and whistling to himself as he worked on something;
  • The time he playfully sat on the arm of the rocking chair Mom was sitting in, fell back, and knocked a hole in the wall.
I also remember the everyday courage with which he led his life. He fought throat cancer and beat it. He fought prostate cancer and beat that. Score Dad 2, Cancer 0. He faced his problems, big and small, with quiet confidence, calm, and patience.

Dad was very interested in the family history and proud of his Irish heritage. He loved a good Irish joke, or for that matter a bad Irish joke, and he cultivated a respectable Irish accent for his joke telling. A sad Irish ballad could always bring a tear to his eye. If he regretted anything in his life, I suspect it was that he never made it over to see Ireland.

He taught me his curiosity about the way things work and his joy of learning. He showed me that it’s often pretty easy to fix something that’s broken, if you just give it a try. After he retired he took up computers as a hobby, although he knew practically nothing about them at the time. He learned, we learned together, and we both had fun in the process.

But the best thing about Dad was his kind, gentle heart. I’ve heard that the best thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother. Dan and Mom did that so well every day that we kids hardly noticed it, until we grew up and saw how special that is. His love for Mom and for us was always unquestioned, unconditional.

Dad put his heart into his work, as well. In “vocational rehabilitation” he spent his career helping the handicapped learn to help themselves. I have always felt proud of the kind of work he did and the good he did for others.

We always knew Dad had a big heart, but it turned out that also meant it was “enlarged.” In the end his heart was just too big for him to stay here on earth with us.
Dad's branch of the family left Ireland for Canada well before the Potato Famine. After some years in Canada they emmigrated to Kansas, where he was born.

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