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Sunday, November 21, 2010

My Tribute to My Dad




My dad was a great man.

Though he is now gone the memories that I have of him will live on in me forever. Not only did my father give me his name, but also he gave me everything else.

I would like to share with you today the memories of my father Richard James Copley.

My parents divorced when I was just 3. It must have been an awful time for my dad. When I was little I was living with my mom in Connecticut and my dad lived in Plymouth, Massachusetts. He made the 3 hour drive down Rte. 44 as often as he could to visit his only son for just a few moments. As I become a single parent myself I know how hard it is to not tuck in your little boy every night. I am blessed because my little boy is only 3 miles away. How torturous it must have been to him to have his little boy 3 hours and 3 states away.

He was always there for me in those years though. As I grew older he would come and pick me up so I could spend the weekend. I remember the feeling of warmth and comfort being with my father in his home on a Friday night after that long drive. I never thought in those days how much harder it was for him to drive it both ways…. and to have to put all that gas in a car that could break down at any moment.

When things were important to me they were important to my dad. When I was fascinated with the Hardy Boys series we used to go to the Hyannis Library to get some books for while I was visiting. During this time I asked him what the word “lad” meant. For a long time (I think many years) he called me “Lad”.

When I started playing sports my dad knew that he couldn’t go to all my games. He did ALWAYS go to the last game of the year when I played little league.

As the years rolled by my passion for sports grew. My dad’s passion for supporting me grew at the same rate.

I remember with pride the first day I outran my dad in a sprint. I was like 6. I remember wanting to pass the football with my dad. I know he hated it but he did it anyway. Until that I day he through an errant pass and I ran into a tree; becoming a bloody mess…. I guess his passion for sports ended at support.

That’s what I needed though. I always needed someone to cheer for me and that’s what my dad did. He became an amazing father.

He was quirky about certain things. One time he gave me a bent up shovel to clean up some trash in the basement. It took about 10 seconds for him to accuse me of bending his shovel. Really Dad?!? You gave me a bent shovel.

Another time he accused my sister Deb of drilling a hole in the porch with one of his drills. Teenage girls apparently are notorious for drilling holes in porches.

Years later I remember my dad calling the police when he couldn’t find things. He was convinced that people stole his tools. One time the police were at the house filing a report while I walked in the basement with my friend River. River picked up a drill off the workbench and said, “Hey didn’t this get stolen”. We waited for the police to leave before we told my dad. Guess he forgot to look on the work bench for his drill.
When I was old enough he started sending me bus tickets instead of picking me up. For years I rode that bus from New London to Hyannis. For years I couldn’t stop smiling as I got off the bus. I tried but I was always so happy and proud to see my dad.

For years I was an unhappy and lonely little boy trying awkwardly to find my way. From my entire childhood I can say that the moments of safety and pure joy were the moments that I spend with my father.

We never went to Disney. We never stayed in nice hotels. We never went to theme parks. We never flew anywhere. For us vacations were spent driving to Bangor, Maine or Conway, New Hampshire. The joy that I felt sleeping in a van with my dad in the woods of Millinocket, Maine I cannot express in words. While my dad didn’t provide me with lots of things and spend lots of money on me he did teach me the value of living in the moment and enjoying the gifts all around us.

While my dad didn’t always buy me “stuff” he did make sure that I got what I needed. When I wanted my first mountain bike I asked him to buy it for me. He said “no way in hell”. (Or something like that) Instead he made me work for it. For almost a month a carried ladders and slapped on paint to earn the $400 to buy a Shwin Mountain Bike.

He paid the taxes but I earned that bike.

Years later he’d help me buy my first computer the same way.

Years later he’d help me buy a car that way. My dad ALWAYS made sure that I had what I needed but ALWAYS made sure that I earned it. Thank you for that lesson Dad.

When I was 14 years old I grew fond running. I remember the first summer that I lived with him on Cape Cod. I wanted to run as many road races as I could. He apparently thought this was a fine idea. He took me to a dozen races that summer. He paid every time and never once complained about the money, or getting up early and sitting around bored while I slogged through 5 mile and 10k races. He was the ultimate supporter. Again, thank you for that Dad. This summer of running road races led to my lifelong passion for running.

Years later I remember listening to my dad when I broke up with the first girl that I dated more than a year. He told me, “time heals all wounds”. Even though I was 2000 miles away in Colorado I knew he was with me. Those words meant so much to me.

My life was falling apart then but I always knew that I had my dad for support. This fact helped me sleep at night. Just the thought of my wonderful father has always pulled me though the tough times. It worked in 1996 and then it worked again just this summer. As my dad’s life was winding down my life was falling apart again. One of the things that got me through as my marriage ended was the thought of the strength my father has shown and the supports that he has given. Sometimes words don’t even need to be said. Sometimes just that he is out there is enough. Going through life now without him is going to be a challenge. A challenge that I will be able to face knowing that he would want me to.

I lived with my mother from age 3 to 14 but always yearned to be with my father.

Finally in 1987 I moved to Cape Cod to live with my dad.
Cape Cod is where I still call “home”.

In high school I became a runner. I don’t think it is a coincidence that I finally found my identity, that I hold to this day, when I started living with my dad.

I remember the day in 1989 when my team won the state championship in cross country. As I hugged my teammates I was happy. When I hugged my dad the tears started to flow. My biggest fan was always there to show pride in me. I appreciated that Dad. Thank you.

Now and forever, coming home is going to have a different feel with my father gone. The sadness of his loss will be in part of my heart forever. I am sure going to miss him.

I could go on a lot more about the support and love that he showed through the years. I literally could go on for hours and not do this great man justice.

My father took great pride in his kids and his grandkids. He loved us all and showed in so many, many ways. He wasn’t one to give money but he was always there to meet us halfway. He couldn’t ever solve our problems but he was an ear to listen, a shoulder to cry on and bearer of great wisdom.

He was always quick to offer his adult children a job or a place to stay. He was always quick to offer to help paint our houses, sheetrock a wall or loan a ladder.
I worked for him for years. He always had work for me to do and sometimes paid me well. I guess those first few years I was young and sloppy…. (I’m sure this is true and I’m sure I’ll admit to it someday…)

I am lucky. Many people don’t get a chance to say goodbye to people that are important to them. As my Dad’s health deteriorated over the last two years there were many times I wanted to tell him how I felt about him. There were many times I wanted to say my goodbyes. It is just so hard to do that to someone that is living. Finally one day last week I knew it was time.

On Friday morning I sat down at my lap top put into words what I had been thinking about all my life. I am so proud that I was able to write my dad a goodbye letter.
This is part of what I told my dad:

I said, “I am proud that you are my father. You have provided me with everything that I have every needed from a father. You have been truly all that I could ever ask for. You have taught me how to be a good person and a good man. You have taught me how to work hard and how to achieve my goals.

I am everything I am today because of you. For this I say, from the bottom of my heart THANK YOU.

Please know that I am praying for you today and every day. I am deeply saddened that I am so far away in these days when you need me more than ever. Please know that I may be far away but I am close to your heart as you are to mine. I think of you every second of everyday. I love you more than you'll ever know and I am thankful to have your name and to be your son.

I look back on my 37 years and I see you every step of the way. You there at all the good times and all the bad times. You cheered me when I was on top of the world and you supported me when my life came crashing down. You were always there. You are the most important person in my life. Again, I say thank you.

I could go on and on about the good that you did for me; the support, the love, the trust....

You will always be in my heart. I want you to know that.

I give this to you today as a good bye. Not forever but for now. You're time on this earth is coming to an end. It's OK Dad! You have done your job! You lived a great life and raised 4 amazing children. Dad - when you are ready you can go. It is your time. God is waiting for you. I will be there with you again someday.

We are all born and we all die. It's what we are in between that what matters. You have lived a life of worth and value. You have made a difference. You have loved and been loved. Now it is time to go see what else is out there. It is time to say goodbye to this trip and start the next one. It's all up you Dad. It's up to you when you want to go. Janice is going to be alright. I will make sure of it. Debbie, Karen and Lori will be OK. We have all cherished our lives with you. The end is so hard but it is necessary. Dying is part of living....

Thank you for life Dad. Thank you for everything that you have done for me. I will be thankful for you forever. You are the most amazing person that I know. I love you. You can go whenever you are ready.... you have won the race. You are the champion. You are my champion.”

I have tried today to do my best to pay tribute to my dad. My words cannot do justice to the greatness of this man’s life and his legacy.

He is the best father that I could have ever imagined.

He was an amazing husband to the love of his life Janice.

He was a remarkable grandfather to his many grandchildren.

His light shined on this earth for 69 GREAT years. He’s moved on now but his memory will be with us all forever.

To conclude I want to say thank you to my sisters Lori, Karen and Deb. I want to also offer my whole hearted thank you to Janice and to my cousins Michael, Dan and Kristen. The care you were able to give to my father over the last years of his life leaves me with a feeling of awe. I am humbled by the support that you gave him for so long. I know that it was so very hard. Thank you so much.

I hope you all were as affected in a positive way by Richard Copley as I was. Thank you all for being part of his life. He truly was a great man.

My tribute to my dad has been for you. Now I need to say something for me and…. for MY son.

Colby: I am going to spend the rest of my life trying to be to you the father that my father was to me. I will be everything you need in the good times and in the bad times. I promise to do my best to be the father that you need me to be. I am honored to have had the most amazing father in the world. Now I will carry on the legacy… my dad’s legacy.

… so that someday, many, many years from now, when my light stops shining YOU will stand in this very spot, in front of MY friends and family and say… my father was a great man.

Rick Copley – November 16th, 2010

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