I hope you will indulge me and allow me a post not about Pearlsky. Actually, she plays a small part.
I buried my father on Monday, literally.
There was no service at a chapel, only a small one at the cemetery. Since the weather was poor, we gathered in the main building first, and I eulogized Dad indoors. I wrote the eulogy the night before at my parent’s home (well, Mom’s now) and since her printer was not working, I then transcribed it from my netbook to paper. That in it’s own right was meaningful, but I have no idea why.
I kept my cool while reading the eulogy, even ad libbing a bit, until I reached the end … when Pearlsky is mentioned. That was tough. Purely to get it out there, I will add it at the end, although why any of you would even look at it, I have no idea.
So, from the boring to the bizarre …
Dad was most proud of the fact that he was a fighter / bomber pilot. He was a captain in the Strategic Air Command (during the Korean conflict) and ended up sitting on a nuclear weapon somewhere near Sarah Palin’s house, since he used to fly high enough over the base to see his potential target. Luckily for us all, he never got the “go.”
My eulogy mentions his service, but all who attended the burial knew of it.
There we are, near the end of the short graveside service. The coffin is lowered, I cover it with dirt with the help of some dear ones. Then, because of who I am, I say THE prayer, a prayer I will say for the next eleven months. At the moment the prayer is over, I hear a sound in the distance. I look at Mom, she does not yet hear it, I look at my sister Ellen, and I see her quiver. Others gasp.
A very loud plane flies over. It was commercial, not military, but nonetheless. The timing was precisely when I would have hired the Blue Angels to fly over. We were not in an air corridor, no other planes were heard. The clergy even said “I’ve been doing funerals here for over 20 years and never heard a plane.”
What most people did not know, when Dad was a young pilot, he did something very, well, frowned upon. One day he buzzed his parents house (to fly very low and fast) and then Mom’s. The story is that his parents knew it and Mom did not notice. I asked her if she noticed this time … she was too busy wiping tears to answer.
We are here to lay to rest Paul Smith. Retired US Air Force Captain Paul Smith. A loving husband, loving father and grandfather, a man that left a wonderful impression on all those he interacted with. A son of immigrants who made a lasting impression and a mark on all around him.
Dad fell in love with Mom 62 years ago, and never stopped adoring her.
He enlisted in the air force, knowing he would be drafted. He did what was needed to become a Strategic Air Command pilot, ending up with the responsibility of a nuclear weapon and thankful he never needed to use it. He wore his Air Force ring proudly for all his life. The ring that is now on my key chain.
Dad married his teenage sweetheart, and had Ellen at the end of his Air Force career. The exceedingly proud father finished college, at times known in the press as “fleet footed Smith” for his actions on the football field, and started his career as a salesman. The consummate salesman. Starting with soda, and soon moving into pharmaceuticals, Dad worked his way to national positions in the industry. I love the story that he and his close friend were the first to sell Mylanta … a day before it was officially introduced.
Dad was a committed family man. He did everything for mom, Ellen and me. On his modest salary he bought the house in suburbia, put us through college, took Mom on a yearly trip somewhere around the world, and made sure Mom would always have what she needed. We always came first.
I learned empathy from Dad, a value that I believe is vital. I remember his coming home from pediatric oncology wards and VA hospitals, how he was touched by what he saw. How it effected him, the compassion and feelings for those in vulnerable positions. Dad cared about others and could understand what they were going through.
Before we could read, dad would tell Ellen and me about the joy of reading, and would always encourage us to read about our interests, just as he would. The pursuit of knowledge was important, as was our ability to get as complete an education as we desired.
Dad taught me how to design and fly model airplanes from scratch. He would go swimming with Ellen, a passion they shared, and watch the beloved Giants with her. Ellen is a success in her career in sales which she attributes to Dad’s encouragement and mentoring. He made me take typing in high school, at a time when I had no idea why I would ever sit in front of a keyboard. Dad was a true visionary!
Dad adored mom, there is no other way to put it. He took her around the world, he was a wonderful husband. He loved Paula, his mother in law and was like a brother to her sister, Jean.
He loved Mom so much that one day when Mom was dieting and asked Dad and me to keep her from eating at night, he hatched a plan. Being the budding engineer I was in seventh grade, he asked me if I could rig the refrigerator. All I will say is that when Mom opened the refrigerator that evening, a loud siren went off … Dad was hysterical, as was Mom.
Everyone whose life he touched loved him. Ellen’s friends were like additional daughters, they were as fond of him as he was of them. My ex wife often said that if she were to run away from me to Mom and Dad, she would go to my parents, not hers. Dad welcomed my new immigrant friends to our holiday tables as if they were life long family, and the love was strong.
Dad had five heart bypasses the day after his granddaughter was born. They were both in intensive cares at the same time, and maybe that was the reason for their bond. Although both his grandchildren are severely disabled, it is like he has never noticed. Unconditional love for both, a bond with Pearlsky, they both lit up tremendously when in each other’s company.
Paul Smith. Air force veteran. Husband. Father and grandfather. A man who did the best he could with all that he had. And succeeded, as shown by the love of those around him.
Rest in peace, Dad. We love you and will miss you forever.