|Eulogy for Joseph L. Douglas Jr
||[Apr. 5th, 2012|05:53 pm]
This is the Eulogy I gave for my father on March 12, 2012.|
Eulogy for Joseph L. Douglas Jr
(February 14, 1954 - March 7, 2012)
Our father liked to tell stories, and although this was wonderful he often told the stories again and again and again. He would start one and my brother or I would take turns to say, “Yeah Dad, I remember, you told me this already.” He would answer, “Oh, I did?”
And then he would tell it to us anyway.
He would tell us stories about Relay. He always talked about his friends there with great affection and with a twinkle in his eye that told me it was a place he had fun, but as a son I should probably never really learn just how much fun.
In the last ten years or so these stories were largely dominated by my daughters: Mary Isabelle and Mary Gabrielle. Joe had many stories about the granddaughters he loved so much. For Belle, he would tell me over and over how he remembered me bringing her to one of his softball games when he played for the Casual Fish. My dad had gone out to pitch and Belle would run up and down the fence looking at him yelling, “Pop-pop! Pop-pop!” She would have been two or so at the time. She’s thirteen now, and it was a memory my father cherished. For Gabby he adored all of her little sayings. She and he would look through pictures together when she was little and Gabby would ask him who all the people were. Once they were going through some pictures and they got to one where Gabby had asked, “Who’s that?” And my dad replied, “Oh, I don’t know darlin’.” And without skipping a beat she said, “Well its got to be somebody.”
For many years thereafter, whenever we were with our dad and we didn’t recognize someone he would turn to us with a grin and say, “Well its got to be somebody.”
Everyone here might have known Joseph Douglas Jr at a different time in their lives, and the Joe you may remember may vary a bit to ours. After all we knew him always when he was the sum of all his experiences. But that’s ok. Whenever you knew him or loved him it does not matter. All that matters is that at some point he touched your life.
When I was a kid I was up in my parent’s attic and found one of those old marble notebooks. I flipped through some empty pages and found some words written in it that read, “Joseph Douglas could have been anything he wanted. He could have been an astronaut, he could have been a fireman, he could have been a doctor or a soldier or a teacher, or a million other things. He could have, if he wanted to…”
I showed it to my father who was puzzled. He wanted to know if I had written it. I told him, “No.” In retrospect I think a friend or family member must have written it for him and it got lost in the other books he had stored in the attic. I think those words sum up my father pretty well.
Joseph L. Douglas Jr was not an overly ambitious man. Not really. Sure there were things he wanted to do, and things he might have wished he had done, but he was not the kind of person that chased wild dreams and wrestled them down to the ground. If he did have a lifelong ambition though it was to be more like his father.
Joe was not always a romantic, but he knew when to get my mother some flowers. And this was not only when he was in the doghouse. Every Christmas morning he addressed the Christmas gifts to my mother Denise with “To Delinez” or “To My Polish Princess.” Even if his gifts were not always original, no two packages were addressed the same, and he revealed his love to her by always finding a new term of endearment.
He took my brother and I to Orioles games every year, and he watched them regularly. He coached my brother’s Little League team, and when he was not coaching he always came to the games to cheer us both on. My dad and my brother Brian used to talk Baseball and though I know the basics about the sport, when they talked it was always more than I ever understood. Nevertheless, I loved that they had their own language with one another. Their love of sports always gave them that.
In recent years Joe did all of the food shopping and cooked most of the dinners. He had also all but taken over doing the laundry. He would joke that in his retirement he had become the perfect housewife.
Seven years ago I was in Afghanistan. He would write me letters that read, “Dear Shawn, I do not really know what to say. I hope I find you well and I look forward to seeing you again. I miss you.” He would then write at length about not knowing what to write, and he filled up pages with words that touched my heart and gave me strength to get through that tough year. By not knowing what to say, he told me everything.
Probably the greatest joy I personally had with my father was watching how much his granddaughters had changed him. He was a great father, but he was an amazing grandfather. He loved the years he spent with the girls, playing school with Gabby or losing to cards against Belle.
Our father wanted desperately to be like his father and always felt like somehow he did not measure up. When my grandfather passed away last year my father stepped up to try and fill that void as much as he could. He loved his mother, Margret, and visited her often. Nanny, he loved the time he spent with you. He also spent extra time with his sister Mary, his brother Mark, and his sister Marguerite. He may have been retired, but he made being there for all of his family his full time job.
What he failed to understand and what we understood quite clearly was that he was like his father in the ways that were most important: To him, Family mattered above all. And it was in this way that he did not just measure up, but he far exceeded all expectations.
Our father had a special affinity for St. Joseph, who is the very example of the perfect Earthly Father. He prayed to St. Joseph, and had a renewal of faith, especially in the last year. Joseph loved and cherished all of his family. He loved all of his friends – past and present. We could all learn by that example. While we are on Earth it is each and every one of our responsibilities to love and take care of one another. Joseph Douglas knew that.
I did not get a chance to say goodbye to our father, Joe, and I would like to end by doing that now. “Dear Joseph, I do not really know what to say. I hope I find you well and I look forward to seeing you again. I miss you. In all our talks about my future over the years I shared with you my hopes and dreams. I have a secret. When I was little all I wanted was to be a father like you. I will always try to be as good to my family as you were to yours, and when I struggle, I too will pray to St. Joseph. Dad you were, and are, my hero. Goodbye.”