The words I shared at my father’s funeral mass:
So do you want the short version, or the long version?
Well, dad was my editor for these types of things so the joke is on you. There is no short version. I’ll take a few minutes here to sum up the life of the man who, along with my mother, has given Chris and me everything we could have dreamed of.
My father was OFD, as they say: Originally From Dorchester. Sorry, Dah-chestah…I’ve been gone from these parts for a while. He had many of the traits that define you Dah-chestah guys. He was tough, he had an amazing work ethic, he finished what he started, he was prideful, dependable, loyal and honorable. He had a dry sense of humor with a big laugh. He had a soft side that really showed when others needed him. And he was charitable, without ever really telling anyone. They say character is what you do when no one is watching and my father had that in spades.
He spent his childhood days roaming around the first base bag at Ronan Park in Dorchester. And when he did something well, his Irish grandfather used to tell him “G’boy Sweeney”. He developed a love of sports from the get-go. From what the old-timers told me as a kid, he became one hell of a ballplayer for Mission High School. He served his country as a member of the Army reserves for 6 years, and he had great respect for the flag. He and my mother spent their younger days skiing in New Hampshire with a group of people that would become lifelong friends. Hello there, Brettl-Hupfers. He passed to me that gift of skiing, which has helped me see the world and make my own lifelong friends.
He loved to tee it up with his golf buddies at Brookmeadow and I assume all of you enjoyed driving it 100 yards past him as much as I did. It wasn’t my fault. I got him more drivers than Phil Mickelson when I worked for Callaway. His favorite line when he hit a wayward tee shot was: “Ohhh Eddie, baby, where are you going?” That was the clean version.
He was a master at learning how to do things around the house and then doing them until they were perfect. As his helpers, it was very evident to Chris and I that there was a proper way to hold a flashlight, mow his precious lawn or vacuum the pool. These house projects also offered a chance to not only learn how to do the things he was doing, but also the proper language to use while doing them. These are some of the pearls he imparted on us:
“This thing is useless as ‘breasts’ on a bull.”
“That looks like a monkey ‘having relations’ with a football.”
And my personal favorite went things went awry: “Awww balls!”
Here’s a text he sent me recently after mom took a tumble on some ice in the driveway. This sums up his sense of humor well:
“Happy birthday, Tim. Still very cold here. Mom wants to go skating, but I told her that her skates need sharpening and I didn’t put blades on her walker yet. She went for a skate in the driveway the other day in her shoes but she only scored 00, 00 and 01. That was my sympathy score. I won’t say what the Russian judge scored her because it might start another cold war. The Swiss judge declined to vote. Neutrality.”
It probably took him 30 minutes to type that.
I would say that while all of you were his friends, technology was not. But, like with everything, he tried his best. Every night, my mother watched him curse at the computer in his recliner for 4 or 5 innings of the Red Sox game. So you might understand why I find it amusing that his job title at Boston Gas was something like Manager of Information Computer Services.
So that brings us to his work life. 42 years he spent making the trip down Route 1 to Boston Gas. He started in the mail room, put himself through night school at Northeastern, and eventually worked his way into a management role. I don’t remember him ever calling in sick. When I graduated from college I was proud to tell him I had a better GPA than he did. He was happy for me and then casually reminded me that he had gone to college while holding a fulltime job, raising two kids and building a second story on the house. And that was the end of that debate. I know he has been meeting for years with a crew from the Gas Company twice a year and he absolutely loved those gatherings.
He would tell you without doubt that the best thing he got from his time at Boston Gas is sitting right over there. And I have a feeling my mother would agree! Ed and Janet met in 1961 and were married in 1969, and THAT is a lot of courting, folks. You made him earn it, Mom. Nice job! Mom and dad have been married for 48 years. And I’d like to share 2 quick stories of their life together.
The first was when Dad was readying for his cancer surgery at Dana Farber. As we left the room, I heard him say to my mother: “You are the best thing that has ever happened to me.” Again, mom probably agrees. And no mom, he was not under general anesthesia at that time.
The second is a story my mother loves. It happened a little while after that same surgery, when they learned that dad was now cancer-free. As they left the doctor’s office and were standing by the elevator after getting the good news, mom looked over at Dad and simply patted him on the shoulder and they smiled at each other. No words were exchanged. “The smile is all we needed,” Mom says.
I guess they have set such a high bar for marriage that their two strapping and yes, completely heterosexual sons haven’t been able to find partners that might help us achieve the same marital bliss. There is still time, Jan. Still time.
My father had his priorities straight—they were family and home. As well as God and country. He was a real family man. Concerts, games, golf, shooting skeet with Chris or playing hooky from school on a Wednesday to go skiing at Wachusett Mountain. He wasn’t just our dad; he was a friend. As a baseball coach for Chris and I, he was constantly teaching. He really wanted the kids to learn, not just win. But we sure did win a lot. He taught us to treat all people equally, but don’t take any crap either.
When I was pondering a job opportunity in Australia six years ago, I called my parents to discuss. Melbourne, Australia is about as far from Boston as you can get unless you’re an astronaut, and my father had recently beaten bladder cancer so I wasn’t sure what to do.
“You’re getting older,” I informed him.
“Tell me something I don’t know,” he said.
I was unsure about moving that far from my parents at that stage of their lives. He stopped me in the conversation and told me to live my own life; the biggest one I could. “We worked hard so you could take advantage of these opportunities,” he said. So off I went. Because I have been far away, my brother has been there for my parents when they needed him in some challenging times. And he’s never complained. So thank you. He and my father took trips to the Bass pro shop and spent time at Chris’ club shooting trap and skeet. And he loved that time with you and was super proud of the man you have become.
One of my dad’s favorite poems was “The Station” by Robert Hastings. If you don’t know it, the point of the poem is that too many people live their lives in search of the next best thing…a bigger car, a better job, etc. That was not my dad. But the lesson of the poem is that sooner or later we realize that there is no Station…no one place to arrive at once and for all. The true joy of life is the trip. “Stop pacing the aisles and counting the miles”, the poem goes, “because the Station will come soon enough.”
It’s natural to think that maybe we were all cheated out of a few more good years with big Ed. A few more laughs, rounds of golf, pearls of wisdom and, yes, even a few more “Aww balls!” But he would never say he was cheated. The night before his surgery in February, my father told my brother, “I’ve had a great life.” He was content and proud of his family. He was happy and he was unafraid. As always.
So I guess we could say that The Station is now at hand, Dad. You have indeed enjoyed the ride, and I’m quite sure you had few, if any, regrets. Along the way, you gave much more than you took. You treated people with respect and I know you earned theirs in return. I’m sure your mother is waiting with a hug and your old buddy Bob Leonard is waiting for me to stop talking now. He’s reaching into the ice bucket for a cold—and terrible tasting—Miller High Life and extending one with an outstretched hand.
So we’ll wrap this up the only way I could think of:
Thanks, Dad. And G’boy Sweeney.