Saturday, July 25, 2015

Remembering Dad on his Birthday

Richard Patterson, 1941-2015

We're experiencing another "first" today... Dad's first birthday since his sudden passing in January. He would have been 74 years old today.

Like many of you who have lost a parent, I find myself still in disbelief that he is gone.  Last year, on this day, I was preparing for his lobster-themed birthday party at my house.  He LOVED a good meal, and I always tried to impress him with a new recipe or an old favorite.  His rating scale was "not bad" to "that was excellent, Bethy," and the fact that there were fewer of the latter was his way of coaxing me into making more goodies for him.  There was no one that I wanted to impress more. No one.

Today, almost six months after his passing, I am aching for the comforts of home while I am living abroad... I want to be in my Tewksbury kitchen baking a cake for my Dad.  I want to visit the cemetery and have myself a good cry.  I want to hug my Mom and Brother, knowing that we all share that same deep sense of emptiness today.  Instead, we'll be honoring Dad today with a trip to a local farm where we will pick berries, just like we did with him most every summer.

I never shared our Eulogy to our Dad, but today seems like a perfect time to do so.  If you knew him, I hope that you feel like this captures his essence, and - if you didn't know him - I hope that you feel as though you now do.  He was indeed an amazing man and a wonderful Dad.  Read on to learn more...

Remembering Our Dad
Ask anyone and they will tell you that Richard Patterson was a great guy.  If you are a friend or family member from his early years, you may have known him as Rich or even Richie.  Once he entered the working world and married life, he became Dick or – to dozens of children who are now adults – Uncle Dick.  And, although he had every intention of eventually becoming Grandpa, his eldest grandchild named him Papa instead.  No matter how you knew him or what you called him, he was truly one of the most likeable people we all ever knew.

Our Dad had an amazing life and, although we are all deeply saddened that he left us too soon, he would be the first to remind us how grateful he was for each and every year.  Just last week, as we sat together in his hospital room and discussed his heart problems and the possibility of lung cancer, he said… “You know, Bethy, I have a unique perspective from most people.  I survived cancer and have been lucky to enjoy twenty years of my life that I thought I’d never have.”

And enjoy them he did…

As many of you know, Dad was offered an early retirement from the Gillette Company after his successful battle with colon cancer.  In their early 50s, he and Mom wasted no time enjoying all of the things that so many people must wait until their late 60s and 70s to do.  They were able to travel together and find special destinations that they would return to year after year.  Dad volunteered his time to serve on Wilmington’s Conservation Commission and loved doing site visits and prepping for his hearings.  He was also incredibly passionate about childhood cancers caused by pollution, and he was instrumental in advocating for compensation for local victims.  Dad was never a boastful man, but when we spoke about his meetings and the outcomes, I could see how proud he was to be part of the team that was making things right.

The top item on his fun list, of course, was golf.  Dad loved to play with his Gillette pals and would print out the tally of how many beers he had won after every game.  His cardiac doctor joked that most of his patients would come to their appointments with papers outlining their blood pressure and medications, but Dad would simply bring his golf card and a smile.  He inherited his love of gardening from his own Dad and was quick to complement me on how well I grew my weeds and the search and rescue mission that was required to find my cucumbers.  He had a great sense of humor, didn’t he?

Since becoming a Papa, one of his greatest joys was spending time with his seven grandchildren.  He absolutely loved to watch the kids play sports and simply glowed when they hit a homerun, scored a goal or shot a basket.  Nana and Papa’s house is famous for sleepovers and you know one is in progress when he answers the phone saying “Disaster Control.”  The non-stop fun (and mess) includes things like making potions in the kitchen, building tents, playing whiffle ball or soccer, swimming, coloring in Cosmo’s Place, painting, baking… you name it.  There was no doubt that he spoiled his grandchildren, but he was careful not to spoil us.

When our Dad was studying at UMASS Amherst, his father had a heart attack and Dad strongly considered quitting college and returning home to Woburn to support his parents.  He was so grateful to be able to continue his education, but that fear stuck with him and inspired him to be financially secure.  As we were growing up, Dad instilled in us a very strong work ethic and taught us how to be responsible with money.  He insisted that we significantly contribute to the cost of our college education, and he explained that credit cards absolutely must be paid in full each month.  Dad was always interested in hearing about a promotion or a job interview or a new opportunity… both for us and our spouses… and you could almost see in him a sense of relief that we would likely never experience the fear that he had experienced as a young man.  We truly credit his wisdom with helping us to be able to provide for our families, and we expect to pass those lessons on to our own children.

Our Dad was a low-key, easy going guy who took great delight in striking up conversations with friends and family and even strangers.  Unless you were a telemarketer (God help them), he genuinely enjoyed a good chat.  Many of you have fond memories of a particular topic that he would revisit time and again.  For Ellen Money, it was the perpetual request for her to make him a jelly roll, and for Sheila Burke it was always talk about Boston College, and for our dear Auntie Janet, he was constantly angling for some of her world famous meatballs.  For a long time, I would roll my eyes and think that he sounded like a broken record, but then I realized that that was not the case at all.  He valued his connection with you, and it was his unique way of making you feel special.  We hope you did.

It seems almost criminal that this memorial service should be held on the day before his beloved New England Patriots win the Super Bowl.  He watched the championship game from his hospital bed less than two weeks ago and was incredibly excited for tomorrow’s game.  Although he treated his grandchildren to several Patriots games in Foxboro, his preference was to watch the game alone – uninterrupted – with his sleeves rolled up and his pants hiked up to his knees.  Football was most definitely his favorite sport, and everyone knew it. 

Two of Dad’s sweet nieces, Joy and Julie, traveled down from Maine on Monday with a Patriots fleece blanket that they had made especially for him.  After a series of ups and downs since being readmitted to the hospital nearly a week earlier, Dad took a turn for the worse that morning and was quickly declining.  When we saw the cozy blanket, we immediately placed it over Dad and shared our messages of love with him over and over again.  We played a beautiful song called “Seagull” and – in the last few seconds of the song – our Dad peacefully passed away.  We share that image with you not to make you sad, but to help you to understand how simply perfectly our Dad left us to go to an even more wonderful place.  There is absolutely no doubt that he felt our love surrounding him and that he was grateful for what he considered to be an incredibly full and blessed life.

There are countless lessons that we have learned from our Dad, but among the most important are to be thankful for each and every day, to take time to enjoy the people in your life and make each one of them feel special, and to always, no matter what the controversy… be a loyal Patriots fan.

Three cheers for Richard, Rich, Richie, Dick, Uncle Dick, and Papa Patterson. 

We love you, Dad, and we will proudly carry on your legacy.

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