Thursday 13 October 2016

A Short Speech for Dad's 80th

Rather than just filing away all the little scripts and speeches that I am forced to write so that my kids can participate in the year-end home schooler's Christmas pageant, friends can turn a year older and their kids can get married and/or graduate, 
I thought I'd start posting them, so that others can adapt them for their own needs. 
Feel free to take and reuse anything that works for you.

Here is the link to the video of this speech:

Life Hack: If you actually use 80 candles on a birthday cake...
the cake will bake during the song.

When my father turned 80, my little sister cajoled me into saying a few words, not because I am the oldest (I am) or the wisest (meh) but because I "like to call myself a writer." 

ME: What?! When I say "I'm calling myself a cab," you don't think I'm a taxi, do you? 

SISTER: You're wasting time.

ME: (sigh!) OK. When is the party?

SISTER: In two weeks.

ME: What?! I'm really busy right now...

SISTER: Doing what?

ME: ........Netflix.

SISTER: He's 80, so keep it short.

Here is that short speech:

It’s a rare man who achieves greatness in his own lifetime. But tonight is my father’s 80th birthday party and so I will talk, instead, of my Dad...

My father has always been gentle, kind, patient and understanding... with the cats. With the rest of us, not so much.

He was a firm-handed father: stern, silent, and we all feared him getting involved in anything because when he spoke his word was law and small incidents could incite large punishments: “You have to change the channels on the TV for a week!” or “Go wash the car!” or “Scratch - my - back!” — which was so unfair, because sometimes my brother really was looking at me! 

Upon occasion, my mother did use the old, “Wait until your father gets home!” and on those days, we’d all sit quietly for hours, soberly dreading the moment Dad returned from work. When he arrived, he'd take his time coming to our room, then he’d tower over us and say something very stern and then let us off with a warning. I was always mortally afraid that he would, but in all the years, he never once spanked us! Which I think is a remarkably progressive thing because at that time, most of my friends were regularly being walloped by their parents. I remember one time he took my brother and I to the coat closet to give us “the strap.” He made a show of taking off his belt and looked sternly at us for a long moment, then he crouched, smiled and whispered that he was going to play a joke on Mommy and that we should shout out whenever he slapped the coats with his belt. When we returned, fake-crying, to Mom, she was sobbing at the kitchen table. It was hilarious! 

He’s always been a straight-shooter and man of few words so I think it was tough for him whenever he felt that he had to soften a message to spare our feelings. I remember when I was about 12, we were driving home from one of my baseball games and he suddenly decided to give me a “pep” talk: “Not everyone can be a super star. A team needs guys on the bench, as well. It’s called balance.” Until he said it, I hadn’t realized I’d needed a pep talk. My baseball career was not a long one.

When it comes to what he believes is right, he is like a dog with a bone. He’s that one in the crowd who will stand up and say what everyone else is afraid to. And though he’s never really lectured me, I’ve seen him give accounting lessons to the teen-aged cashier at Red Lobster who thought a 10¢ error on the receipt was nothing to worry about. She was one of the most popular girls at my high school, so I was fortunate enough to get to hear, first hand, how much she appreciated that. I've seen him block traffic because the gas station he’d been going to for years would not accept that a half tank in his huge V-8 was like 3 fill-ups of those bean-can imports, and that he should get the free car wash. And, I know that he started and ended a bar fight in Cultus Lake because some guy insulted his father. Sorry Dad, but whenever people insult you, I let it go—but mostly because I would never hit my mother.

Dad was always the type who might go ballistic if you left a light on, but on the other hand usually faced typically stressful situations very calmly. I remember how patient he was while teaching me to drive. The first time he took me out, I think he waited almost six blocks before telling me I was on the wrong side of the road. 

Dad’s a simple man. He loves his family, his friends, his cats, golf, gambling, sports, and movies. I’m sure it’s occurred to him that a movie about family might have killed two birds with one stone and interfered less with his other interests, but he’s never shirked his obligations or complained. Except, maybe, to the cats.

He was a classic, upstanding Dad of the 50’s. He went to work, brought home the bacon, talked little, but always talked straight; but I think the single biggest thing was that he was always there when you needed him. It’s such a simple thing, but a lot of fathers overlook it. When I was growing up, during the 60’s and 70’s, I noticed that a lot of fathers were never there for their kids, and even as a teen I could see the negative effect this had on them. I realized I was lucky because I could rightly assume that if there was ever a problem, my father would be there to pull my ass out of the fire. Of course, rescue always came at a price. But Dad rarely lectured, or told me what I should have done. Mostly, he just repeatedly told me what I had done and how really, really stupid it was. Also, he shook his head a lot. 

But he had our backs: 100% guaranteed. We could afford to be bold. And so, we are.

Children learn a father’s role from their Dads. I truly believe that my brother and I are the fathers we are today, and my sisters married the fine, family-oriented men they married, because of my father. 

He has four children (Tracy, Lindy, Mike and me: Bill.) I am the oldest, and though I have accomplished little… I know that my siblings will eventually catch up. 

My father is not really “Dad” any more. He’s now “Grampy” to eleven grandchildren from ages 23 down to 8, all of whom enjoy “cat-like status” and, consequently, all think he’s pretty cool. My kids think he’s hilarious because he says things like, “you ain’t smart,” which they quote, endlessly. And they even think it’s funny every time he says, “What?!” So they tend to laugh a lot when we visit.

Our family seems to be a rarity: a happy one in which we are all sometimes claustrophobically, irritatingly, painfully close and yet we all still love and respect each other. Dad is undeniably the captain of this family ship and though the course he set may not have been a perfect one, the final destination can not be argued.

Happy birthday, Dad.

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