Eulogy given on March 5, 2016
What can you say about someone who gave you fully half your life? Half my DNA and half my forming personality came from my dad. And for 54 years he’s been part of my everyday life. Always there. It’s hard to get my head around the fact that he’s not here anymore.
What can I say that would do him justice? I could tell a thousand stories. Stories of childhood when I followed him around on his ever-present projects; driving to Evie’s Hardware in Bethel Park. Stories of adolescence in Berwyn; of building the Pentagon with toothpicks for a school project and Saturday morning football games. I have wonderful stories of my teens and twenties and how Dad loved my husband Carl, and how it was Dad who reminded me to hold on to my faith when the grief of losing him got unbearable.
But all those stories would only hint at the essence of the Very Good Man who was my father. Did you know Dad and I took flying lessons together? We did, back in the 80’s. When we went up in a little Cessna together, Dad commented on how beautiful the world looked from 5000 feet. All the imperfections were smoothed out – it looked like a model railroad layout. So this week, I tried to step back to gain a 5,000 foot view of my father. And when I did, he came into focus again and I remembered something he taught me. Something that truly shaped who I am, something I live by that is uniquely from him.
It was in the 1970’s when he first told me about it. My first driving lesson was on the 1976 Dodge Aspen with three on the column - I was 14. But it was several years later when I had my license, and it came time to take my first long-distance trip, alone. Dad got out the maps. He loved maps, he passed that on to Bob and Chuck and me as well. So, he got out the maps and we spread them out and we went over the whole route. But then, Dad pointed out all the roads on the map that had little black dots along them. And he told me these were scenic routes. He said there would always be more direct ways, but if I wanted a really good and interesting trip, I should go out of my way to take the scenic route.
I realize now, that’s how Dad lived his life. He loved to take the scenic route. Literally…like every time we’d visit Grandma, he’d suggest we take the Statin Island Ferry on the way home. We kids were always game, but Mom always tried to veto it. We did it lots of times. And there’s a dirt road off the main road to Williamstown, Mass, called Bee Hill Road. Dad never failed to suggest that we take this “short-cut,” but it wasn’t any shorter, it was just more interesting.
Dad loved the scenic route – in non-literal ways too. He had a natural curiosity about life and a great sense of adventure. One time, when I was a teenager, after a big rain at the lake, Dad suggested we take the rowboat down through the swamps below the dam — just Dad and I. It was the first time I had ever been down there and it felt like we were in an episode of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. It took us hours to make our way down stream, carrying the rowboat between swamps. At one point, Dad spent half-an-hour building a flume with rocks, just so I could havea good ride. That was a very scenic route.
He also taught me how to sail. Once, when I was very little we hit something underwater with the center board, and it scared me and I began to cry. So Dad circled around to show me that it was a stump we hit — he did this just so I wouldn’t be afraid. And he showed me how to keep the boom at just the right angle to the wind, and since the wind and the position of the boat constantly change, finding the right angle is a continual process. Dad loved that. He said, “When you do it just right, you get a great ride.”
He did it just right. He lived life on the scenic route and he had a great ride. He passed along his love of adventure and his natural curiosity to me. He gave me space to be who I needed to be — to think outside the box and not limit myself to the conventional answer. And he gave this not just to me, but to his whole family, and no doubt future generations too will carry on in the way of Maynard.
So on your way home today, or maybe on a drive tomorrow… sometime soon…go a little out of your way and take the scenic route. Enjoy the adventure and think of my Dad.