Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Daddy's Little Girl

This is a tribute to my father, Richard Winston. I read this at his memorial service:

"The last time I spoke about my dad in front of people was 30 years ago… for a third grade assembly at Birch Wathen School. With our classmates’ parents in attendance, we each gave a presentation about the person we admired most. I spoke about my dad. I got his birthday wrong. I bragged that he used to play for the olden day Yankees. And even then, my illustration had his hairline starting three quarters back from his forehead. At the end of my speech, I introduced him to the audience, and he stood up from his fifth row folding chair… and everyone clapped… it was a moment of shared pride that I will never forget.

This… is another testament to my father’s character… his charisma… his life.

And this is just some of what I would like to add today about the person I admired most.

My dad was handsome. He was funny, and he was kind. He was also forgivably consistent.

Like how he called every woman “cookie pie” with such charm that they forgave him for not remembering their names. Eventually they realized they were all cookie pie… or, um, we were all cookie pie. My dad lived on one big Pepperidge Farm!

And how he was always tidying, straightening, futzing… I can’t remember him ever walking by a picture frame he didn’t straighten, or a television antenna he didn’t adjust. At “work”, his desktop was perfectly organized. The edges of his papers lined up to a micro-meter, and no dust spec had a life span longer than the sweep of his beautifully manicured hand. At “play”, he handled the treasures in his fishing tackle box with the same meticulous care he gave to rare gems and jewels. Lures and bobbers became his diamonds and pearls… his rods and reels, the beautiful bodies they were designed to adorn.

If you ever had the pleasure of watching my dad order a hamburger, you’d have seen his adorably amusing Jackie Mason persona order the bun “let me tall ya, a little buttah on both sides, lightly toasted, if you could”… and then you’d just pray he’d leave a good tip!

Almost every person here has shared smiles with my dad. You may have called him a friend, a colleague, a brother, an uncle, a cousin, a golf buddy, a patron, a partner… you may have even called him in cards… but I called him Daddy, and as Daddy’s Little Girl, I can tell you I always called when I was going to be home late! Collect.

My dad was a pillar of unconditional love.

He didn’t get too mad when I once mistakenly pilfered his prized Liar’s Poker roll of twenties… just like I hadn’t gotten too mad when I didn’t get that chimpanzee for my 5th birthday.

My dad’s motto was “whatever makes you happy”… Some would say I was spoiled… a silver glitter Ludwig drum set (which didn’t exactly make for nicer neighbors)… Bally table pinball machine… skateboards, bowling balls, ice hockey equipment… a Bloomingdale’s credit card at 12… a brand new Chevy Camaro at 18… an apartment overlooking the Hudson River, so I’d have my own place (and not have to give up my really cool job at Tower Records)… with a furniture budget more than most college tuitions…

He even scored me a sixth row center seat to see The Who perform Tommy at Radio City Music Hall in 1989… my dad just wanted me to be happy.

Come on… spoiled? Let me remind you… I never did get that chimpanzee…

On car rides with our family, my sister and I could pick the music…hell we could even drive the car… at 5 years old… sitting on his lap… and well… that nice police officer could tell you the rest... My dad is also solely responsible for my appreciation of the most important automobile feature of all… the princess seat! You know it as a center armrest… imagine my joy when we eventually got a car with a princess seat in the back! For my sister.

My dad could make boo-boos go away with a kiss… really… but he knew that colds and flu’s required FAO Schwartz. He smartly realized that the only cure for my summer camp homesickness was to just bring me home…midsummer. He told me later that he did it because missed me just as much.

He recognized the symptoms of meningitis as more than just an “I don’t want to go to school today” headache… and when I had to call him this past June with my diagnosis of breast cancer, he reacted with a cool calm collected “well, you’re not going to go to any Podunk surgeon”, like Ithaca doctors only treated farm animals… so he and Susan mapped out a course of action that demanded nothing less than the best in the world for his baby girl. That “best” is here today as well with his family.

In retrospect, my diagnosis was an unlikely gift… it gave me a frequency of quality time with my daddy… more in the last 8 months than we had shared in the last 8 years. I saw the bond between him and my husband, Chris, solidify… in hospital waiting rooms, in midtown cafes, at the rooftop bar of the Peninsula Hotel… and through weekly phone calls when they’d just “check in” with each other. How many little girls can actually say that their dads approved of their husbands 110%? I know that my dad not only approved, but was satisfied I had married someone so much like himself… oh no, I married my dad? How did I get so lucky?

So here I stand, 30 years later, speaking again about the person I admired most...
A devoted father, a loving husband, a gentle caring soul… he was a friend to everyone who knew him… and if he were here today, he would stand up shyly, give a little wave, blow me a kiss… sit back down in his fifth row folding chair… knowing how proud I am to have him as my dad."

In memory of

Richard Alan Winston
June 12, 1927 - March 15, 2006

No comments: