My dad passed away this past Monday from brain cancer.
It was the hardest day of my life. I was holding his hand as he passed away.
It was brutal... but I was glad to be there with him for his final journey.
The second hardest day was today, the funeral.
As I wrote Dad's eulogy this week, I focused on the one thing that made Dad who he was: humor.
So please enjoy the anecdotes about Dad.
He was an amazing man.
I wish you all could have met him.
When I was a kid, I didn't realize how amazing Dad was. I figured everybody's dad was funny, smart, talented and liked to exclaim on New Year's morning, “Well... There's another year... shot in the ass.”
Dad, or Mr. Daddy as we liked to call him, was simply the best. He had an amazing blend of business savvy and complete silliness. I feel like Sara and I have all the best qualities of him. Especially if you consider “impatience” a positive quality. Which, by the way, we do.
We heard from our grandparents about how precocious Dad was from the very beginning. Grandpa loved to tell a story about when Dad was 4-years-old. Eolin legend has it that Grandpa was doing yard work and filled up a bucket of water. He left to get something and when he gave back, there was Dad and an empty bucket. Grandpa asked him, “What happened to the water?” And Dad, quick as lightening stated, “Oh, a little worm came out of the ground...” And at this point, my dad used his finger to illustrate the worm tipping over the bucket... Yep. Blamed it on a worm.
Another story Grandpa told about Dad that really describes Dad's personality was about his toy wagon. When Grandpa went away to be in the Navy during World War II he built our dad a wooden wagon. When Grandpa came back he gave Dad the wagon which he LOVED and played with all the time. In fact, he used that wagon so much that it finally broke. Dad kept pestering Grandpa to fix it but one thing or another kept delaying the repairs. One day, Dad got into some sort of trouble, as he was aught to do, and Grandpa used the phrase, “Robert, shape up or I'll fix your wagon!” to which Dad's eyes widened and he said eagerly: “GASP! You're going to fix my wagon!?!”
His mischievous ways continued well into his teens. He was sent home from school with a note that stated that perhaps Dad had hypnotized a kid down the street to cluck like a chicken every time the bell rang. To which his mother, our grandmother replied, “Oh that kid? He deserved it!”
I know... we're all starting to make more sense to you all now, aren't we?
After high school he enrolled at Corning Community College. Grandpa was very adamant that Dad be an engineer like him. Unless being an engineer included being goofy (which by the way, it did not) he wanted nothing to do with it. But he relented and took some engineering courses including calculus. In short: he was bad at it. Really bad. Like “flunking out” bad. His professor told him that he'd give him a D+, allowing him to pass if he promised to NEVER ever use calculus in his life ever again. “DONE!” Our dad ran out of there and told his parents that he wasn't going to be an engineer, he was going to film school. I think I'm putting it politely when I tell you that this news was not received well. But it was that day that an entertainer was truly born.
An early memory of Dad that to me seemed pretty normal was coming home from school one day to find Dad in the kitchen with a mime and I thought, “Oh yeah, that makes sense. I hope there's juice in the fridge.” He was filming a series of PSAs for the television station group he worked for to help explain the ease and convenience of the metric system for when the US changed over. Needless to say that this debut has been bumped 30+ years so far. Fingers crossed for a 2011 premiere.
Dad had a plethora of hobbies. He painted, built and refurbished furniture. He made Sara and I the best doll houses when we were kids. And I still want to play with mine but I hear that it's "age-inappropriate." He also loved to cook. When we were kids, he'd make omelets using 12 eggs and it would take 45 minutes for EACH omelet. We don't know why. During football season, there was homemade pizza every Sunday. But his favorite mode of cooking was via the grill. He even made the Thanksgiving and Christmas turkeys on the grill, despite the typical east coast weather. Sara and I talked and we agreed that zero pieces of meat (except for bacon) have been cooked inside the Eolin household for the past 17 years.
But his favorite thing to do was to shoot short films. When he was a part of the Lancaster Advertising Club in PA, he made a short film for their annual Cameron Awards ceremony every year. He directed and acted in them and I remember being struck with how talented he was. Which was quite the accomplishment for me as I was a snotty teenager at the time. This was the first time I became proud of my dad. This was the first time he became more than the guy who made sure my homework was done, or told me to eat my cube steak.... he became a person.
Sara and I also worked for our dad when he and Mom took over WCBA AM-FM. He was a great boss. He taught me everything I needed to know and was uncharacteristically patient about it. He liked my work. He gave me more commercials to put together and voice. He let me DJ and make decisions. I was only 17 years old. So obviously he was either a genius or crazy.
Dad always supported everything that Sara and I did. Sara got into advertising and she and he would chat shop about the industry. It usually contained a few four letter words, which I of course didn't understand. I am a writer and we would get together and talk about stories and how they are told. He introduced me to comedy and sitcoms as a kid and he fully supported me when I moved to LA to pursue this.
When dad became sick, I moved to NYC to be closer. As a bonus, I've been able to work with my sister who had been living there for 12 years already. I see our dad in her everyday. He ability to do business WELL and with a smile on her face is a mirror image of Dad. She is humorous and quick. She also doesn't take any crap from anyone, just like Dad. And I find this very comforting.
I will be honest and tell you that Dad's passing does not feel real yet. I feel like he's out on some exciting trip and will burst through the door at any minute. I am sad that our mom has lost her partner. They were brilliant together. Caring, clever, talented and might I say quite good looking. I will miss Dad's wisdom and laughter. I will miss seeing him and Mom sitting in the library, drinking tea and looking out the window chatting about the wildlife in the yard. I will miss every little thing about him and how he lived his day to day life.
But thankfully we have all these memories and they are GOOD memories. He died surrounded by the his family: Mom, Sara, Sam, Baby Nate, all 3 dogs and myself. He knew how loved he was, and we knew how loved we were back.
My sister and I count ourselves lucky to be raised by a man who gave us the dating advice to never date anybody who honked in the driveway instead of coming to the front door; who wore a tie that didn't reach his belt; or looked like a porn star. Needless to say, he was not your ordinary run of the mill dad. And hopefully our memories of him will keep life from becoming ordinary without him...