Aug. 26th, 2012

farrandy: (Default)
Due to *cough* over-whelming demand *cough* I submit for your perusal the stories I told about my Dad at his funeral.

I have, of course thought of several other stories since I wrote this, and doubtless will be thinking of others in the days to come, but I'll just leave it as I read it then.

Hope you enjoy them.

My Dad
A Few Reflections and Mostly-True stories by Randy Farran

We interrupt this very somber occasion so that I can tell you a few things about my dad, Ralph Roosevelt Farran.

Let me start with that middle name. Roosevelt. He never really liked it that much. I don’t think it was anything political; in fact politics was something that Dad didn’t talk about very much. Now that I think about it, that may be one of the reasons why so many people liked him. No, I think he didn’t care for the name Roosevelt because, well, it’s a real mouthful of a name to hang on a kid. But if you’re the son of Benjamin Franklin Farran, and you have uncles with names like George Washington Farran and Thomas Jefferson Farran, I guess the die has already been cast. At least he didn’t get stuck with a Franklin or a Theodore. He got just a plain old Ralph for a first name. A lot of people when they hear the name Ralph might think of that kid in the movie who wants a Red Rider BB gun for Christmas. I remember showing that movie to Dad not to long after it had come out, and he sat there laughing all the way through it. Then he went upstairs, rummaged around in the closet—and brought down a Red Rider BB gun that he’d gotten when he was a kid.

By the way, I would like to take this opportunity to thank Dad for breaking that naming tradition; considering when I was born I might have been Randall Fitzgerald Kennedy Farran. [looking at brother]. Don’t laugh, Rus; you could have ended up with the middle name Eisenhower.

Now, everybody here knows that dad was a real friendly guy. He’d talk to just about anyone. Sometimes he could talk a lot. I remember one Christmas the phone rang. It was a relative calling to wish the family a merry Christmas. Only problem was, it wasn’t one of our relatives. The guy at the other end of the line had dialed the wrong number. Dad talked to him for several minutes, so I guess he’d found a kindred soul.

Yeah, dad liked to talk. He could tell stories, sometimes over and over. Like the time he met Harry Truman. And…I don’t mean some relative named Harry Truman Farran either…but the actual President Harry Truman. Or the time he got to carry Lester Flatt’s guitar. If you don’t know who Lester Flatt is, well, I feel sorry for you. Let’s just say that Dad considered it an honor. He told me that story a lot. Never mind the fact that I was there when it happened. There was a time when he would start in on a story and I’d think “Oh, god, he’s gonna tell the story about the bucket of steam again!” This, by the way, is a very funny story about hijinks during his tour in the navy, but I won’t tell it right now ‘cause it’s kinda long. But after hearing it I don’t know how many times, I started to dread it. But then one day, it occurred to me that someday, he wouldn’t be around to tell those stories any more. I didn’t think that day would come so soon. After that, I just enjoyed hearing them…one more time. And now I wish I could again…one more time.

Sorry, I meant to keep things light. I just got off track for moment.

While he was in the navy, Dad met a beautiful girl serving ice cream at a soda fountain, one thing lead to another, and after his tour was up, they got married—a fact that I and my brother and sister are very appreciative of. They bought half of a duplex—the other half having been cut off and taken somewhere else (don’t ask me why; I’m still unclear about that myself), and Dad proceeded to make additions to it. First, he put a two car garage on it (and poured a driveway for it), never mind the fact that they didn’t have two cars at the time. Next, he put a second story on top of the garage, because by this time it was getting’ kinda crowded down below, what with three kids and a dog. Several years later, he started working on a large patio out back, but before he got finished, it had turned into a family room with about as much square footage as the original half of a duplex. He might have continued, but I think by this time he was running out of yard. He did most of this work by himself. He did have some help from mom and us kids because I don’t think he knew there were such things as child labor laws. Okay, I’m joking there. A lot of the time we were “helping” by “going and watching some cartoons and staying out of the way already!”.

After building onto the house as much as he could (without disrupting flight paths, anyway), Dad still liked to build things and could often be found out in his shop working on his latest project. Like the fold-up picnic table that has seen more than 40 Christmas and Thanksgiving dinners and I don’t know how many garage sales. Or the cases that he made for a mandolin I bought, or my autoharp. But whatever the project, one thing they all had in common was that Dad built things to LAST. Yep, everything he made was very durable, and by that I mean HEAVY. I think Dad may have working under the belief that the world was going to run out of its precious supply of gravity. But then who am I to judge; after all, nothing he ever made has drifted off into space yet.

Oh, yeah, I’m going to tell you a little secret a lot you might not know about Dad. There was at one time a television show that he would not miss. No matter what project we were working on around the house, if this show was on that night, everything had to be finished and all the tools cleaned and put away in time for the evening’s entertainment. What was this show? Gunsmoke? Nope. Columbo? No. M*A*S*H? Huh-uh. It was The Muppet Show. I think his favorite muppet was Miss Piggy. No, strike that. I know it was Miss Piggy.

Later on, Mom and Dad purchased a bit more land behind the house. I was afraid that the house was going to start growing again, but Dad decided to dedicate the extra acreage to growing a garden, specifically tomatoes. Dad spaced his cherry tomato plants so that he could drive his lawnmower between them, pull off a tomato and pop it in his mouth without stopping.

Yeah, dad liked to eat. He liked to cook too, and he was pretty good at it—as long as he didn’t have roof over his head. Outdoor grilling, he was fine, but for some reason, his culinary skills failed when he walked through the door. I remember a time when Mom was sick and Dad cooked all the meals for us kids. He had made breakfast for us and Mom came downstairs and Dad complained about what picky eaters we were. Mom looked uneasily at the… crispy eggs…and runny bacon… and said something like, “Maybe they’d like it better if it was cooked.”

Now, I won’t say that everything that Dad cooked was inedible, but it was…an adventure. One day Dad and I were home by ourselves and Dad asked me if I’d like a Reuben sandwich. I told him that sounded good. When he was done fixing them, he called me in to eat. Now, at the time that this happened, I was old enough (and polite enough) to not point out that when most people make a Reuben sandwich, they use rye bread and not white, thousand island dressing, and not mayonnaise, Swiss cheese, and not cheddar, and corned beef, as opposed to ground beef. I guess he thought that Reuben sandwich was defined as: “a grilled meat and cheese sandwich with sauerkraut on it”. It was still pretty good though, even if it only had one ingredient right out of five. Guess that proves I’m not that picky an eater after all.

Well, I think I’ve had enough fun at Dad’s expense, so I’ll leave you with a couple of last thoughts. First, Dad’s last moments were spent with a cup of coffee in his hand and a dog in his lap. I can’t think of very many better ways to go--provided the dog in question isn’t a Great Dane or a St. Bernard or some such. That might be uncomfortable.

My final thought is this: I live in Tulsa now, and the local newspaper has for the past year been daily printing quotes from Will Rogers. The day after Dad died, ironically, this is the quote they printed. Just a few words that say it so much better than I can:

“What constitutes a life well spent, anyway? Love and admiration from your fellow men is all that anyone can ask.”


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