My Dad passed away a few weeks ago. This past weekend was his funeral, and here’s the address I gave to the over-100 friends, family, and neighbors who gathered to celebrate and honor him.
I wrote this eulogy in my mind so many times.
There was the time in the ’90s when Dad was supposed to fly to the Philippines where his own mother was on her deathbed, only to land in the ICU with 90% collapsed lungs. Thank goodness he didn’t get on that plane, and after a hospital stay he was just fine.
Then there was the time he had a heart attack in Myrtle Beach. I get a text from my mother saying “I think Dad’s having a heart attack. My phone battery is dying, call you later.” Later, of course, Dad’s main worry was whether he’d be able to watch the Yankees in the World Series from his hospital bed. And he was fine.
Later, as most of you know, Alzheimer’s dementia set in, and in some ways we lost the Dad we knew years ago, and we grieved for him, but even though the intellectual part of the relationship was gone, the emotional part remained. Many times during the past five years I’ve thought his days were numbered and wondered what I would say at this moment, right here. So here goes.
Dad wasn’t a big philosopher. He didn’t sit around debating life, the universe, and everything. He did tell me, though, that when he was in the ambulance on his way to the heart trauma center in Myrtle Beach, that he made a deal with God, where if he survived the heart attack, then he’d start going to church again. And he did.
He was the kind of guy who if he made a promise, he kept it. When I was growing up, he wanted me to be a doctor like him. I told him from about age five that I wanted to be a writer. When I was around ten or eleven it got more serious. He’d try to talk me into going to the hospital with him and I’d say why? I’m going to be a writer. Instead of trying to dissuade me, he tried to motivate me and teach me a lesson about how difficult it is to be a writer at the same time. He said, I’ll make you a deal. For every dollar you earn as a writer while you live in my house, I’ll match it. Okay, sounds good, right.
Well, I went out and got myself a job as a monthly columnist for Superteen Magazine. They paid $50 a month, which was very good in 1983, when the minimum wage was around $2.50. So I went to him and I said hey dad, remember that deal? And he handed over a check to match every check I got. I sometimes sold articles for $100 a piece, too. It was great motivation for me, and he never complained or tried to back out of the deal. Thanks to the Dad Matching Fund I made more as a freelance writer when I was 16 than my friends who worked part time after school as bank tellers.
I think my dad was often confused about the expectations of being an American Dad, but he did his best to fulfill those expectations, whether they were ours or society’s. He absolutely loved baseball and the New York Yankees, but he didn’t play baseball as a child growing up in the Philippines. But he dutifully brought me to the sporting goods store in the mall when I was ten so we could pick out baseball gloves and attempt to play catch. The thing is he didn’t really know how to catch or throw, but he gamely went along with it. I didn’t know either, so we just muddled our way through it. This was the same Dad who taught me to ride a bicycle, and I didn’t learn until afterward that he didn’t know how to ride a bicycle! What mattered to me, really, was that I got to spend time with him, throwing the ball around, or just sitting together, the two of us squished into one recliner together, watching the baseball game on TV. When he went into hospice care last month, I know a lot of his memories were already gone. But when they put the hospital bed in the living room in front of the TV, what he wanted was for me to squish in next to him and watch the game.
Okay. One last thing I want to say, since I know Dad couldn’t really say it himself toward the end of his life, was how much he loved being part of the community in Heritage Springs. All of your kindness, love, and support of him over the past several years has meant the world to me and my family, and to him, and I am joyful that he lives on in all of your memories. Thank you.
FYI, a short version of his obituary appeared in the Newark Star-Ledger: https://obits.nj.com/us/obituaries/starledger/name/sergio-tan-obituary?id=51592605.
The full length version can be found on the Trinity Memorial Gardens website: https://www.trinitymemorial.com/obituaries/Sergio-Tan/#!/Obituary