Thursday, February 9, 2012

SMILE

In the brisk shadow of a melancholy morning, a thick layer of frost encapsulates my windshield. I reach  into the trunk of my car in search of an ice-scrapper, and instead find a double tied, bulging bag of chocolates that I had forgotten to give to my father. It is my first and only regret.

On Sunday, January 29th, 2012, at 9:50 pm - I along with my sister Colleen, my husband Mark, and my fathers caregiver Roshan - witnessed my fathers final breath.

He fought hard and long and in the end, he went out on his own terms. It was dramatic. It was beautiful. It was a privilege to be by his side, just as I have been for most of my adult life.

I was instructed by the Monsignor to keep my father's eulogy to 5 minutes or less.  I wanted to tell the Monsignor how callous his comment was, instead I bit my tongue and delivered a eulogy that lasted 5 minutes and 20 seconds.



The first time I read anything I had written out loud, was here, at my son’s funeral, with my dear friend Sandy by my side. When I finished I caught a glimpse of my father.  He was smiling. It was the first time I knew he was proud of me.

I stressed about what I would say today, during my 5 allotted minutes, and then realized most of it has already been written. It is the beginning, and a continuing thread in my memoir.

Chapter One begins…

It is the first taste of summer, the first Friday of June, when the sun and wind are in perfect tune. We are together again, just as we often are. My father sits on the front porch of our office in his classic white, high-backed rocking chair, too afraid to rock, and I stand beside him, too uncomfortable to sit.
He clings to his independence - his stubborn, thick Irish temperament - while I patiently wait for him to need me just as I have always needed him.  I wait for his Parkinson’s disease to slow him down enough for us to get to know each other … 

My father and I did more together after his diagnosis then we did in all the years prior.
 
Instead of being a man who was forever on the go, he became calm, soft spoken and complacent.  No matter what I suggested, his answer was always the same... “OHHHH kay.”

Together, on the suggestion of his fellow college football allie, Ed Yeterian, we went to the University of Notre Dame and witnessed an Army vs Notre Dame football game.  It was the first time we had been on a plane together. 

We went to Giants football games.  We went to several Uconn Husky Womens basketball games.  

We took a road trip to Vermont, to visit my sister Colleen and reminisced about our days skiing on Killington Mountain.

We took endless trips to the cemetery, to the ice cream parlor, and to job sites.

We did things for him but we also did things just for me.

On warm, sunny, Tuesday afternoons we took tia chi classes in Havemeyer park. We took zumba classes at the Senior center.  We went to polo matches at Conyars Farm. We took the ferry to Island Beach where my father would eat 4 or 5 hotdogs smothered in onions and mustard, then put his feet in the sand, and stare silently at the sound.

In the wake of my son’s death, timed with the onset of his Parkinson’s disease, our family grew closer.  We did simple, deliberate thing together.  Easter egg hunts.  Halloween trick or treating, and random excuses for celebrations.

In June of 2009, we went to see the epic, science fiction film, Avatar.  It was our first and only time together at a movie theater.

Parking was difficult.  I struggled to get as close to the theater as possible.  When I outmaneuvered a young woman to get a parking space, she challenged me in a verbal fit of words. 

With one hand steadying my father, I did my best to defuse her but she was cruel, crude and cunning.

“Shut up you old cow!” she screamed.
 
Had my father not been there, I would have given her something to talk about.  Instead I wished her a good day and into the theater we went.

For the next two hours and 42 minutes, I stewed about the altercation. The only thing I remember about the film was how adorable my father looked in his 3D glasses. 

As we exited the theater I asked my father if he liked the movie.

“It was okay” he answered.
“Well then,” I asked, “what was your favorite part?”

With a twinkle in his eye he answered, “when that girl called you an old cow.”

I know my father would not want me to talk about his accomplishments.  But he would want me to thank those of you who increased the joy quotient in his daily routine. 

Number one on that list is Roshan.

For almost two solid years, Roshan cared for my father but it was never a job to him.  Everything he did came from a place of love.  He cooked, cleaned and comforted my father in a way that he had not experienced since he was a young boy.   Because of Roshan I never worried about my father.  Through example he taught me about dignity, compassion and grace .

This may come as a shock to some of you but Butch Daly, is not my brother, father, uncle or husband… More importantly, in addition to being a coworker, a comrade, and a confidant - he is by far, the most loyal man I have ever known.  He has been devoted to my father, to my family, to the dogs, and to the company for over 45 years. 

My father stopped worrying about me the day Peggy Curcio came on board.  In addition to running the office, she reads my mind, finds my car keys, reminds me to turn my car off and accompanies me on tasks that range from complex to comical.

In respect to the honorable William B. Lewis and the entire Lewis family, you made a major impact in my fathers life, and in turn, in my life.  You made him an extended part of your family.  You opened your hearts and your home to him.  You taught him how to be a father.

In addition to his family, my father was surrounded by a quirky collection of friends. Those here and in the hereafter who taught me something unique about my father. This includes but is not limited too:

Walter Mckeever, Dick Degnant, John O’leary, Dave Peabody, Charlie Feldman, Robert Krause, Steve Sherry, Teddy Morano, Father Joe Shay, Jack Newel, Ed Silva, Hugie Quinn, and the entire Halligan clan, you are the best of the best.

In closing I’d like to thank all of you who wear the Kennedy name on your back, on your sleeve, on your hat, and especially in your heart.  Know that, every day, you made my father proud.



My father lost his ability to smile towards the end of his life.  A reminder to me that I will smile, often. I will smile especially when I feel I have no reason.

xo,Monkey ME


This is the last video I have of my father in a healthy state.  It ends with...

Monkey ME:    ..."Don't say goodbye, say goodnight.  Love you." 
Dad (oh, so softly):  "Love you."








  

53 comments:

  1. Ahh Shannon. Thank you for sharing this with us.

    Love you

    MG

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. thanks for reading MG and where is your face???? I miss it!

      Delete
    2. I'm drawing a blank...

      MG

      Delete
  2. Your Eulogy was beautiful, you were so strong! It made me tear up, to Kenniths dismay as he is uncomfortable when I show too much emotion. It brought me back to Kerrys funeral, that was the last time I was at that church, one of the toughest days of my life... but I dont need to tell you that, as I'm sure it was so much harder for you. I saw Terry and I got a lump in my throat, but held it together. Then I saw Jackson, and thought, wow, he looks so much like Kerry, thats his legacy to us. You are your fathers legacy, he must be so proud of the strong woman you have become. xoxo

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I was so.... happy (not right word) to see you and KC in the crowd. Jackson gave me the courage to speak! LOVE you both! xoxo

      Delete
  3. I'm so sorry for your loss. These beautiful words made me cry.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Sarah :))))) I hope my words also made you SMILE

      Delete
  4. I'm so sorry about your father, Shannon. Thank you for sharing this beautiful tribute for him. You made me laugh and cry. I can't believe you were only allowed five minutes. You did a beautiful job! Love and big hugs to you. Take care...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. thank YOU Jamie! xoxo from Monkey to YOU!

      Delete
  5. Keep smiling friend...you're dear Father would want this.
    DeanO

    ReplyDelete
  6. Shannon, I'm sure your Dad is smiling now. You are such an amazing writer, thank you for sharing your journey. Love you Monkey Girl.

    Inky

    ReplyDelete
  7. That was a wonderful eulogy and tribute to your father, Shannon! And the video made me smile.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. all part of my master plan Marty!!!!
      :)))))))))))))))))

      Delete
  8. Miss Shannon! I'm laughing and crying at the same time. That was precious. xoxo

    Miss Claudia

    ReplyDelete
  9. I'm sorry about your loss. Thank you for sharing such beautiful words from the eulogy. I'm still wiping the tears...

    ReplyDelete
  10. Shannon, how generous of you to share such a private and emotional time in your life. Your writing is always amazing. I wished I could've seen YOUR face for a minute in the video, too. Even though you've posted photos of yourself, it's not the same, ya know? And you know what's really weird??? Your voice sounded EXACTLY, and I mean EXACTLY the way I always "heard" it when I read your blog posts and e-mails. Can you say Twilight Zoney, Cosmic Connection??
    P.S. My favorite part of this entire post was when your dad said his favorite part of the movie was “when that girl called you an old cow.” !! What a wonderful sense of humor! Hugs, dear Shannon....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. love the cosmic connections! thanks for reading and listening and watching Becky! you're so good to me!

      Delete
  11. Shannon, that was a lovely eulogy, and congrats for keeping it close to the allotted 5 minutes. When my dad died last summer, they priest told my brother to keep it to 5 minutes. He didn't, and I have to say it started to feel too long, right at the 5 minute mark. Nevertheless, it sounds rather ungracious when they set a limit like that.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I was so worried he'd cut me off and then I'd charge the alter... and then well, things would get ugly.

      Delete
  12. wish you never write either of the 2 eulogies for that was beautiful thanks for sharing

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. thank you Mark! look forward to reading you again.

      Delete
  13. This was beautiful Shannon. I can imagine the grace with which you spoke these words. Your father was listening, surely. And your son, I bet somehow he was there too.

    So much grief, I know.

    I send you hugs and positive thoughts.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. thank you Myran! your hugs and positive thoughts reach me...e very day!

      Delete
  14. Little Sister you & I travel the same highways & its all Good <3

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. its a wild and wonderful thing ..isn't it JQ! imagine how sweet this years fest will be!!!!

      Delete
  15. A wonderful tribute, Shannon. Thank you for sharing this with all of us.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. thank you for reading Katie! I miss reading you (heading there now)

      Delete
  16. I'm very sorry for your loss, Shannon. Your eulogy was a such lovely tribute to your father. Thank you for sharing it.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Bless you dear!


    Warm Aloha from Waikiki
    Comfort Spiral

    > < } } ( ° >

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've been thinking a lot about Hawaii lately Cloudia... who knows, perhaps someday soon, we will meet

      Delete
  18. *sigh*

    Miss Shannon, I send you many virtual hugs, monkey and otherwise. My heart breaks for you, but I know your dad is smiling now, from ear to ear, in a place where Parkinson's doesn't exist. I am so glad you were able to spend good times with him. REALLY good times.

    Our friend (who is like family) was told by the doctors this week to go home and live his life, as there is nothing left that they can do for him. He is 63 and is living his bucket list before the Parkinson's gets too bad. He went on a Nascar and Indy car ride along last year. He flew in a hot air balloon. He just came back from piloting a WWII plane. In May he's riding in a blimp. And, I'll be damned if I let him run out of things anytime soon.

    Thinking of you. ((((HUGS))))

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love that !!!! In addition to the no regrets regarding my dad, I keep thinking how pleased I am that I twirled fire TOPLESS at Burning Man!!!

      Delete
    2. Life is way too short to worry about how silly we may look or what other people will think. Life is for the Living, and those of us brave enough to do so. :)

      Delete
  19. You got a lot a rocks in your backpack girl. I was gettin worried there for a while.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mudge.... I thought of you this morning as I was running/walking the track where my dad's ashes will be scattered. Almost put some rocks in my backpack, then thought, it won't be good for the knee's. but I did envision a backpack full of rocks, and with each lap I released them. By the end, I felt lighter.

      Delete
  20. Very sweet Shannon!!! Your Dad would be very proud!! Thinking of you!!

    ReplyDelete
  21. Yes, that is quite the homage to your dad. So sorry for your loss.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. thank you Queen Bee! love your screen name :)

      Delete
  22. Death is a shock, whether expected or not, said my mother-in-law. Time heals, we know that, we just don't know how long.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. (deep breath)......... death is a shock. all endings are sad. I am sad. you are sad. you are love

      Delete
  23. This was just beautiful! I'm so sorry for this loss at a such a difficult time in your life. You did your father proud.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. so appreciate your comments. my father continues to give me strength :)

      Delete
  24. so beautiful Shannon! What a lovely tribute! Your dad would have been so proud of you!

    ReplyDelete
  25. Beautiful story, Shannon. And, a very touching eulogy. I'm sure your Dad was smiling down on you, with a proud father's love!

    ReplyDelete
  26. Hey you... What a wonderful post. The love and adoration you must have felt for your Dad pours from this.

    Valentine's Day is a rough day for me. My Dad had his stroke on Valentine's Day in '96, and set everything in motion that would be a bit over a year from Hell for me.

    I guess my reason for stating that, is that we eventually get over the hurt of the Loss.

    I spoke at my the memorial service for my friend, Robert... I spoke of a passage I had read once about how when we lose someone, the hurt we feel is because when our loved one left, he/she took a part of us with them... Eventually, we get to where we can smile and laugh again about that person we've lost, and that's when we discover that they have left of part of themselves with us... and that is the basis for our smiles.

    May you smile again soon...

    Thinking of you always...

    ~shoes~

    ReplyDelete
  27. Love you, Monkey. You did your Daddy proud.

    ReplyDelete

Thank you for encouraging my JOY of writing. By reading and commenting you are feeding my soul, stroking my heart, and in the end...making me a better writer.

Thank You For Encouraging My Joy of Writing

Thank You For Encouraging My Joy of Writing
greenmonkeytales@live.com

Shannon E. Kennedy

***

Photo by Joan Harrison