Dear Dad… (or, Hey, Joe…)
This weekend I’m going to L.A. for 24 hours, for the one and only celebration of life for my father Joe Lopez, since he passed away nearly a year ago. I was asked to collect my thoughts and say a few words about my dad. This is what I put together.
I think about you all the time.
Sometimes it’s about how much you loved to laugh and make others laugh.
Sometimes my thoughts are about how dark, though funny, your humor could be, especially when you made fun of yourself. Or you made fun of the ridiculousness of, life is stranger than fiction, life.
You loved to poke fun at the absurdities and not take everything so seriously.
I think about your practical view on time, circumstance and change.
Staying positive: “Just keep moving ahead.”
“One door closes, another one will open.”
“It’s a numbers game.”
On tenacity: “Don’t give up.”
For disappointment: “Well, what are you going to do?”
I think about your allergies to shellfish.
I think about what an amazing cook you were and how easy you made it seem to cook a gourmet meal for 30 people. You LOVED to host and entertain.
I think about how you’d cook all those meals and hardly eat anything yourself.
I think about how the kitchen was your kingdom and I guess, in the end, that if it had to be any way, I’m happy your kitchen was your final resting place.
I think about how I’d call you sometimes, if I was going to cook a meal for guests and needed preparation advice.
I think about how much I envied your sense of interior style and artistic tastes; colors, patterns, and how things flowed together.
I also envied your amazing knack for finding the coolest pieces of art and objects from around the world, from obscure locations, and you seemed to be at the swap meets, dumpsters or demolition sights at the perfect times to procure a fabulous find!
I think about how you cherished and utilized your trusty Thomas Guides, until those pages we curled, ripped, and worn, and kept them by your driver’s side tucked away.
I smile when I think that the 1957 Triumph you had, which was art, was your pleasure and your pain. You spent a lot of time, headache and heartache to get and keep that car running so you could take it out for an occasional spin.
I think about what a speed demon you were on the road whether it was the corvette or astro van. Not as much in the later years, but driving with you was always a heart-pumping adventure.
I think about how well you knew and loved L.A.
I think about the kick ass neon signs you had.
I think about how you exposed me to art and culture when we were kids. When I was about 7 or 8, you took my brother and I to the Nisei parade in little Tokyo. The visuals of those dancing dragons and learning how to use chopsticks for the first time, are still with me.
I remember our sometimes Monday night dinners at Katzu.
I think about your warmth towards others; your compassion, kindness and desire to always be there and help others, no matter what they needed, yet never asking for help for yourself.
I think about how in spite of the years of nicotine and alcohol abuse, your body seemed invincible, like a well-worn clock that kept on ticking.
I think about the mystery that is your past, your childhood, your teen years, your early life, and that whole side of your family, my other grandparents, I never knew.
I imagine the loneliness you might have felt as an only child, with the emotional and mental troubles your own parents had, and that you ultimately compensated for, through the attribute of self-reliance.
I admired and appreciated how there was nothing you couldn’t fix, build, breakdown or remodel by yourself.
If I were to give you an alternative or new middle name, it would have been “resourceful.”
I appreciate that you tried to show your love for me, and that I could count on a gorgeous bouquet of flowers sent for my birthday every year.
I think about the salsa music playing on your little radio.
I think about how envious I was you got to travel all over the world and wished, other than the Mexico trip we took when I was 9, that we could have had at least one international trip together.
I think about how many of your friends deeply loved you, appreciated you, counted on you.
I think about how cautious and protective you were over yourself, your heart, and yet when you finally opened it, when someone earned your trust, you gave it your all.
I would bet people say you were one of the kindest most thoughtful people they’ve met.
I take comfort that you exited this time and place in the way that you hoped you would.
I think about how much you are missed and sad that you might not even have known how appreciated and loved you were by so many.
I think about how I will honor you, in my own way and over time, as I begin to say so long.
I miss you Dad. I wish I could pick up the phone and tell you.
I wonder if your life was fulfilled in the ways you hoped.
I wonder what would you have done differently, if you could have?
I wonder what parts of you am I?