The Legacy and Questionable Power of My Father’s Puns

My dad had three puns that were so bad, they were only permitted on his birthday–and one was pretty challenging to employ on June 28th. Jim Walsh would have been 76 years old today.  He came from a long line of punsters and its with mixed emotions that his grandchildren also subject unsuspecting audiences to his legacy. At his funeral, 19 years ago, we passed around two leather-bound green books for folks to jot down their favorite memories of my dad, a precurser to the amazing testimonial strings found on Facebook at the passing of a loved one. My college buddy Dan added two of his favorite groaners from my dad’s visit to campus on his tri-state route, often in the South Bend area selling windshields to RV companies.  (“I’m like Lenin–I’m in glass.”).  He’d not only take me out for pizza, but invited me to bring along some pals–nothing like a… Read More…

The Fading Power of Handwriting: My Dad and Journaling in Northern Michigan

D-Day was just three months away, but my dad’s Uncle Walt was instead worrying about the folks back home, specifically his sister Laura and her husband. I didn’t know my grandparents had a rocky marriage, or that they were even separated, until I’d read this folded letter in my grandma’s shoebox. Sixty years later,  I attended the funeral of Walt and Laura’s youngest brother Jerry in Florida, I had a chance to give the letter to Walt’s children, whom I had never met.   Walt had died thirty-four years earlier and they had never seen their father’s handwriting from a young hand–smooth, and confident.  They had only known their father’s shakey hand. When they had held the letter and seen the writing, the tears began. The afternoon of my own father’s death sixteen years ago this Thursday–before I could accept that he had left me completely, I needed to sense… Read More…

Father’s Day Legacy: Jim’s Love of “Now”

I was doing some vital, long-forgotten yard-work in 1995 when my neighbor Beth yelled across the street, “Happy Father’s Day!” It took me a minute to realize she was talking to me.  Aidan was already a day or two over-due, so officially the greeting was premature.  But I smiled and realized that she was right.  I was in the club.  And someday, if I did things right, my kids would dread that holiday, as much as I did.  Jim Walsh was impossible to buy for and it didn’t help that his birthday fell on June 28th, so we needed to double our futile efforts as soon as school got out. I have taxing memories of Saturday odysseys through the sporting goods and office-supply aisles of  K-Mart trying to find something, anything, for my dad.  And when I  was wrapping up the golf-score clicker, the “World’s Greatest Dad” trophy,  the back-scratcher,… Read More…

My Dad’s Tribute Video: Someday I’ll watch this and not lose it…

It had taken me five years to gather the courage to put this thing together.  I lied to myself and thought I was ready.  I’d converted the wedding video, hauled thirty VHS tapes to school and scanned through all of the footage.  I’d loaded up each segment of my father’s life into pretty little categories:  Dad, Grandpa, Family, Friends.  Each with its own neat chapter on the DVD menu partitioning his life. Jim Walsh died suddenly in 1997 at the age of 57.  And I’d “been the soldier,” to quote my dad’s Uncle Jerry when I called him with the news.  After a year, I could say the sentence, “My dad died” without that vice-grip on my esophagus.  I remember at the funeral home, my sister saying, “I’m looking forward to it being a year after.”  It’s true, you go through those little anniversaries:  “Six months ago, Dad was up… Read More…