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"I'll be right here": My eulogy for Dad

That's Dad's empty choir robe laid on the seat behind me.

One September morning at Davis Hospice, Dad and I were having breakfast together, just the two of us. A nurse came in to check his vitals, and Dad proudly introduced me as his daughter. The nurse nodded knowingly at me and said, “Ah. A daddy’s girl. I get it.”

That gave me pause, because I have never once equated myself with the moniker “Daddy’s girl.” Dad never doted on me, was just as happy to see me wearing jeans and hiking boots as frilly dresses, and never once called me “princess.” It was usually “Allison,” sometimes “sweetie,” and occasionally “Amber” or “Sandy.” Those last two were our dogs, but I tried not to take it personally.

No, I think Dad’s and my relationship really took off when I became an adult. I just thoroughly enjoyed his quiet, steady company. In particular, we shared so many interests: books, theater, the outdoors, good food, fitness, and having a gin and tonic together as a reward for said fitness. Like, say, having biked up a 9,700-foot mountain pass.

That said, we are also very different from one another. He was extremely patient. I’m…not. He was very quiet. I’m…not. He was an introvert. I’m really, really not. But instead of letting our differences befuddle and annoy him, Dad took joy in them.

When we got home from the first Tour de Wyoming we rode together, Dad told Mom that, because he had brought me along this time, he was now friends with all 300 riders and 50 volunteers on the tour. That may have been a bit of an exaggeration, but I was definitely being my usual self, which meant walking up to random riders at rest stops and saying, “Hi! I’m Allison, and this is my Dad, Eric. Where are you from?” I tend to forget that this is something introverts don’t do.

We got to ride our second tour together just last summer. It’s six days long, and there was a closing barbecue the night before the last day. As Dad and I and our friend Jack Palma stood in line waiting for our food, a steady stream of fellow riders came up to us to say hello and ask how our ride had gone that day. I greeted them all by name. As the eighth or tenth one walked away, I said to Dad, “That’s Dale.” Dad threw back his head and laughed out loud. I was completely mystified. “What’s so funny?” Still giggling, Dad replied, “I’m going to just start pointing to random people and asking you their names. I’ll bet you know every single one of them.” It was a great feeling to know that Dad took such joy in my personality, even though it’s so different from his.

When I think about the man my father was, I often wonder how he became the man we all knew and loved. You may not know that his father was killed in a car accident when Dad was nine years old, and his mother never remarried. He had no father figure to guide him through his teenage and college years, to give him advice about marriage or fatherhood. And yet, as my mom is fond of saying, he turned into a gentleman of the old school. And he was a fantastic Dad.

If we look at nine-year-old Eric, though, we get a preview of the thoughtful, helpful, kind man he would grow into: A few weeks after their father died, my Dad and his sister Barb—who was seven at the time—sat down and had a talk. They decided that their mother would have an awful lot on her plate now that she had to support them and be their only parent—so they made a pact to be good kids from then on. And they kept their promise.

Carl and I made a similar vow to Dad before he died. We promised we would take care of Mom, and we’re counting on all of you to help us keep that promise, okay? And actually, it’s a good thing we didn’t promise to be good, because we all know only one of us would be able to keep that promise, am I right?

The last time I saw Dad, I recounted to him the story of when he taught me to ride a bike. I had this sweet yellow Schwinn with white daisies and a banana seat, and he took off the training wheels. I remember starting out at about the intersection of Pioneer and 7th Avenue, Dad’s grip on the loop at the back of my seat holding me up. I remember hearing his footsteps pounding along behind me…until I suddenly didn’t. I had a moment of panic, and I glanced back to see where he was to find that he had stopped in the middle of the street and I was actually riding by myself for the first time. And that was when he hollered, “Keep going, Allison! I’ll be right here!”

I told Dad, on that last night, that when I get sad about him, or when I’m scared of living in this world without him, or when I just plain miss him, I’ll remember that moment. I’ll think of him saying to me, “Keep going, Allison! I’ll be right here.”

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