Monday, March 10, 2008

A Nautical Party for Errol Hemingson

We had a little shindig for my old man on Sunday.

My Dad never wanted a "Funeral", or to be buried, or anything even remotely funeral-like or formal.  Didn't want a religious Memorial Service, or a Wake, and if you are a non-believer, what they call a Celebration of Life. Stated simply, he wanted a party. With his family and friends.

In fact, he wanted a party with a nautical theme.  So we did.  I say we, because I never could have accomplished the task without the extraordinary efforts and help of many friends.  Some deserve a special thanks. Without the help of Glenys and Justin and Cathy and Patrick and John in particular, I couldn't have pulled it off.  Thank you all. 

My Father was at the party, in both spirit and form. We had his ashes in the corner with his new boat-shaped urn, which is a rather beautiful ship's model of a gaff-rigged schooner capable of carrying ten pounds of cargo.

We put together a slide show of my Father's life, mostly of the early and later years, set to music and then recitations of Sea Fever; The Tide Rises, The Tide Falls; and Crossing the Bar.  I think people enjoyed it.  I spent the better part of two weeks with it, with Justin and Pat, and relived my childhood scanning photos.  I say this because one would think that you would get a little distance from the photos after spending so much time with them.  But I didn't.  I was often brought to tears.  When it was all assembled and put together and we ran it on the computer, I was brought to tears. When we did a dress rehearsal and sound check early Sunday morning, I was brought to tears. When we ran the film during the party I had to turn away, and when people asked to see it again, I watched it and shed a tear again.

Mondays, usually because of my long distance Sunday runs, have always been recovery days for me.

I didn't run yesterday, although my heart raced, but this Monday will be a recovery day as usual.

This is what I had to say about my Dad:

Some Thoughts on my Father.

Often times the hardest people to love are the ones who need it the most.

It's hard to describe someone like my Father unless you met him in person.  I have lost count of the numbers of times over the years that, after introducing my friends to my Father for the first time, they would turn to me and say, "You really weren't kidding".

I can never remember a time in my life where my Father doesn't loom large, a figure to me often times more mythic than human.  

Meeting Errol Hemingson for the first time was for many people an experience that they still haven't forgotten. It was, to put it mildly, often a shock.  An eye-opening encounter with a force of nature. A little like falling off a boat unexpectedly.  Which actually happened a few times.  

My Father was not only physically imposing, but at times it seemed his body was not even large enough to contain his personality, character, dreams, ambitions and especially his voice.  They all kind of just spilled over the top.  And if you were standing too close, you might get Errol C Hemingson all over you.

My Dad didn't so much enter a room, as take it over.  Like the Vikings coming ashore in Ireland.  He was a complex man, who embraced and embodied all the glories and frailties, all the virtues and vices that make up the human condition.  He was often exhilarating to be around, sometimes exasperating to be around, and occasionally exhausting.  He was unique.

He marched to his own drummer and kept his own time.  He did what he wanted, when he wanted and where he wanted.  Heaven help the obstacles in his path.

Even if you didn't see him, you could probably hear him.  And much as many of us often wished that he had come with a volume control knob, if you didn't hear from him, his voice was a sound that you missed.

The constant in my Father's life was his love of movement, adventure and what lay around the next bend in the road.  He was his happiest when in a car, truck, RV, motorcycle, airplane or boat going somewhere.  

He was someone who lived in more places than I can recall, who called wherever he hung his hat home.  And if said home had wheels or could pull up anchor, so much the better.

My father was a gypsy, rover, traveler, cowboy and a rambling man.  He was a restless spirit and could not stay in any one place for too long before the road beckoned him.

But my Father was not a loner, and wherever he went he sought out company.  He made a friend in every place he stopped.

I think that nearly every pet and animal that we had growing up was a stray that Errol had picked up along the way.  My Father had a soft spot and a weakness for the abandoned.

And in the company of others, my Father's appetites for a good story, a good meal and a good bottle of wine were as outsized as he was.

Over the years I lost track of the times I took him into the Emergency Room of a Hospital.  If it could be said that Dad was often hard on men and equipment, he was even harder on himself.

And even when Doctor's said that Dad was at "Death's Door", I lost track of the number of times he bounced back.   His powers of recuperation were nothing short of astonishing, right up until the end of his life.

Even last month, my Father was surprised that he wasn't going to confound the doctor's one last time.  And when it was clear that his heart condition was going to restrict him in a way he could not accept, he once again did what he wanted to do.

A restless spirit, I hope that on his next journey my Father finds what he was searching for in this one.

Serenity, contentment, and peace of mind.

God speed, Dad and a safe harbor.


Anonymous Michelle said...

A lovely tribute Vince. Your father sounds like quite the character indeed. I didn't realize he was so young--69 seems so young to me now, when I consider my own family members. My belated condolences on your loss. Hope all is well with you.

12:47:00 PM  

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