It seems like it was such a short time ago I was trying to find words to paint a picture of my mother, but here I am, less than six months later, remembering Dad.
It's hard to think of my dad without my mom, and the truth is I haven't done that very often in my life. (Even this picture was actually cropped from a photo of the two of them...taken at their 50th wedding anniversary 6 years ago.)
But I'd like to try to find words to describe the man who was Marty to his co-workers and buddies from his early days, Mart to many acquaintances, Martin on formal occasions, Mart Eby to my mom when she was perturbed with him, Grandpa to a few much loved boys… and Dad only to me.
My dad always used the phrase, "Down home," when he was heading to Millwood, generally to hunt groundhogs alone or with one of the boys. "I'm going down home," he'd say as he pulled on his everyday hat and shoes. The song, Suppertime has always reminded me of Dad's love for both his mom and his home at Millwood. I thought it was fitting tribute at his memorial service, knowing he was finally, truly home, right on time for supper. You can listen to Jim Reeves version here.
My dad loved olives more than anyone I've ever known – (it's an Eby thing, right?) and he couldn't leave the chex party mix alone…or maybe I should say Mom couldn't leave it alone….she had to hide it when she made her gigantic annual batch for our Ocean City trip if she wanted to have any left for the vacation. I used to think she was just hiding it from me, until the year Dad gleefully showed me where she'd stashed it...after she went to bed!
Dad was a big coffee drinker for many years, and I could never understand how he could love it so much when all he ever drank was instant. And he did not want any of those awful, flavored specialty coffees…like hazelnut or French vanilla. "Why would you do that to a perfectly good cup of coffee?" he'd ask. His favorite summer food was cantaloupe, cantaloupe, cantaloupe, and that was one of the last foods we had the privilege of feeding him.
Dad loved the Phillies year after year after year, whether they were winning or losing, and he always had opinions about who should stay and who should move on. I'm not sure what he would have said this year… (Throw out the bums??) He watched their games religiously (sometimes on mute when he was studying his Sunday school lesson.)
It would not be an exaggeration to say that his grandsons were his pride and joy. As I was looking through my parents photo albums in search of pictures for our memorial photo collage,I didn't find a lot of pictures of Grandpa with the grandsons…but I found hundreds of photos Grandpa had taken of the grandsons, year after year. Many of the pictures were of boys opening gifts given by generous grandparents – rollerblades and sleeping bags for the older boys, and a more recent tradition for Youngest, the specialty Hess truck for Christmas each year. That one also remembers frequent trips to Zimmerman's where Grandpa always bought something for him when they stopped in.
Whatever "the boys" were involved in, Dad was interested and present. As I said when I described my mom, if Belleville gave a prize for the grandparents who had traveled the most miles to support their grandchildren, Dad and Mom would have been the winners for over two decades, beginning with those first SS Christmas programs in the early 90's. He wanted to watch Jonathan play soccer, then basketball, right up through James' debut in t-ball, soccer, and baseball. It wasn't the event, it was the person. Home school programs with Joseph and Jonathan, graduations, Suzuki concerts, Grandpa was proudly present. (Grandma too.) Grandsons enjoyed individual time at Grandpa and Grandma's house each summer. Grandpa worked with the boys in his shop, helping them making whatever they felt like creating. They played Yatzee and Uno and 7-up, went mini golfing, and stopped at Freeze and Frizz; if it was Grandma who planned special outings like trips to Lake Tobias and the Philadelphia Zoo, it was Grandpa who funded and chauffeured the adventures and made sure there was a good place to eat somewhere along the way (No MacDonald's for this Grandpa!)
My dad was a man who could fix anything that was remotely salvageable. He was forever bringing home cast-offs from JB Zimmerman's and making them useful, and those "saves" often ended up at my house. "Maybe they don't want that old junk, Mart," Mom would worry. But this was one time Mom was usually wrong. The guys looked forward to Grandpa's "treasures." Someone remembers a leaking bucket that had Grandpa stumped for awhile. Finally he filled the bottom with about an inch of liquid nails and cut a piece of Plexiglas to wedge into it. It was a very heavy bucket, but it did not leak!!
My dad was not a man of words – he didn't like to play word games like Probe or Scrabble or Password; there weren't late night discussions; he liked to receive e-mail, especially pictures, but he never learned to send messages. I never got a note in his classic font, a mixture of large and small case, cursive and manuscript. He didn't do much writing, and when he did he always asked Mom how to spell words. He very seldom talked on the phone.
But he was a man of action. He just faithfully did what needed to be done. He took care of things.
He took care of us.
He took care of us.
Dad never complained about work, he just drove to New Holland in the Doodle Bug, day after day, for 30 years, carrying his metal lunch pail full of whatever Mom had gotten up at 6am to pack for him. He paid the bills and saved for the future.
That was how he took care of us.
At my childhood home on Main Street, he maintained the house, did the yard work, painted the wooden siding on a rotating basis, puttered at some gardening, and kept his cars in top shape with regular service at the dealer.
It was how he took care of us.