Sunday, November 29, 2009
A Tribute to My Father ~
Roy Elis Ohman
By David Roy Ohman
It is difficult to succinctly find words to describe a person and their impact on your life, but I feel it is important to do so, to give that last parting summation.
My father was a person who did much for many and yet he, himself, felt unworthy of love. He was born to a mother who openly withheld love, but he was nonetheless nurtured and loved by his extended family, particularly his uncles Axel and Artie Backland and their families, his Aunt Jennie and John Flem, and his Grandma Backlund. Always living in the shadow of his older and larger brother Walter Paul, my Dad found his way through life and grew into his own Self with the help and love of my mother.
Together they built their own world and created their own family, to whom my father was unwaveringly dedicated. After working as a painter with John Flem in his early days, he traded in his paintbrush for a set of pole hooks and belt and became a telephone company lineman and later a central office switchman. He did this not because he disliked painting, for he didn’t ~ he loved working with John Flem. He did this for his family and the security of a regular paycheck.
He saved his money and built his first a home in Fosterdale and then a camp in Stalker, PA with his father, Elis. Those were tough times, working during the day and then working on the house at night and weekends, but they were also some of his best years.
He created homes for our family and showed his love by his undying commitment to provide us with a stable place to live and food on the table. He was not one to openly or often express his love in words, but rather in his deeds.
Being the only son with four sisters, I was allowed to spend more time with him and share in his loves of hunting, fishing and the outdoors. I remember wanting for him to come home from work, seeing him come home tired from his day, yet still pick up his baseball glove to play catch with me or tie flies or reload in the basement.
I was able to know him in ways that others did not and see him at times when he was truly enjoying life. I will always be grateful for that time and for his gift of time and knowledge.
I feel sad at times because my sisters did not have access to this side of him. However, I truly feel that he loved all of us in his own way and none more than any other.
To be able to say that you knew that you were loved by and would always be taken care of by your father is a great thing. I can truly say that this was what I knew and lived. What a wonderful gift. Thank you, Dad.
Throughout my life, my father was always there for me. No matter what was needed, he would always do whatever he could to help me and later, my own family. How great it was to know that he was always there. I will miss having him as my safety net.
While we didn’t always agree on what was best or right, he always respected my opinion and more often than not, allowed me to go down the path I chose even if it was not what he believed was right.
He told me once as a teenager that he would always trust me unless I gave him cause to doubt his trust. From these simple words, I understood the gravity of his commitment to the good that was in me and always did my best to honor and foster his trust. Thank you, Dad, for your gift of trust and respect.
It’s because of that trust and respect that I had the gift of coming to understand who he was. Even when I was frustrated by him, I never wanted or tried to change him. I could see the source of his own frustration was that he carried his own story of his sad childhood with him and I did my best to honor that child within him. I accepted his shortcomings and honored his wisdom.
Thank you, Dad, for all that you have shared with me and so many others. I will carry you with me as I go to work each day to provide for my family, as I look out at the river and as I roam your beloved hill in Pennsylvania.
I am so thankful that you are free of your body now and I trust that you finally know that you are truly and incredibly loved. I love you. We love you. And we, who are gathered here today, are so thankful that you are living on within us.
Roy Elis Ohman
A Eulogy by his grandson, Jason Gottesman
Please bear with me. I didn’t find it easy to eulogize my grandfather the typical way by sharing an experience or trying to describe him with words. Mostly because he was, in a word, indescribable. Someone who truly needed to be experienced. Rather, I thought I would discuss the last twelve months of Grandpa’s life, as best as I can remember it.
So many people over the last few days have said that it has been a bad year for Grandpa. Yet, I think that the year was not bad for him, but special. That is something we should be thankful for.
About twelve months ago, Grandpa was not far from where he died. He was in Wilson Memorial Hospital in the ICU recovering from a subdural hematoma. He and Grandma spent Thanksgiving there and they were oft visited by family and friends.
His recovery seemed to go quickly and, by Christmas time, he was already up, walking on the porch and complaining that he couldn’t do what he wanted to do.
Things were going well. In the early spring, Grandpa bought a new suit, a necessity brought on by years of late-night snacks and novels filled with horses and gun smoke. He had a lot to look forward to and important functions for his new suit. Christina was going to get married and I was going to graduate from law school.
In March, I was diagnosed with cancer. The day after my diagnosis, he was by my bedside, hoping for my recovery as he was still recovering himself. Later, in the spring, he told me that he knew I would beat the disease. Many people had said it before, but I never believed it until then. He said he knew.
In May, he proudly attended my law school graduation, finally wearing his new suit. He tried to explain to me the mechanics of his “zipper tie,” but I still, to this day, to not understand how it works.
In June, after my second surgery, Grandpa was again by my bedside hoping and praying for my recovery. The rest of the summer was busy. He got to wear his new suit again for Christina’s wedding and he got to welcome Mike into our family. He knew Aunt Lisa was selected to speak at a national conference and that Aunt Amy moved closer to him.
This fall he shot the last deer of his life and then he passed last Friday. The last time I spoke to Grandpa was the weekend before he died. A Sunday. I was finally doing better and he told me that that was all he needed to hear. Then he told me he loved me. That was the last thing he said to me. Shortly after he died, around 3:30, I leaned in and kissed his forehead. I told him that I loved him. That was the last thing I said to him. I guess we are even.
There is a quote out there that says we should do three things each day: laugh, think and cry. It is said that if you do those three things in a day, it makes a full day. If you do them every day, you have something special. I think that enough happened over the last twelve months that made is possible for Grandpa to do all three every day. I think that makes a special year.
We will all miss him in one way or another. We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t. It isn’t the lessons he taught us that will be missed. They are easily remembered. Big lessons like putting others before you or the small lessons like how to tie a hook on. These lessons will live on through the generations.
I think what we will miss, what I will miss, is the comfort in knowing he is alive. Knowing that he will be there to enjoy the good times with us, do what he can to get us through the bad times, or to tersely, but affectionately point us in the right direction when we go off course.
Graham Greene said, “You cannot conceive, nor can I understand the appalling strangeness of the mercy of God.” That seems about right.
I will miss my grandfather very much.