Thank you all for coming. I’m grateful for everyone here.
I'm someone who is good at a lot of stuff. I have a reasonable dose of confidence. Today I don't feel that way. I feel inadequate to speak of my father, to suitably honor who he was and what he gave me.
I'll start with the the first thing I know. I know how he made me feel. I know he was proud of me. Something comes alive in a boy when he feels his fathers pride. His regard for me made me a complete man. His love allows me to stand in the presence of others without shame, without conceit. He raised me to feel like I am enough.
As a child I was preoccupied with my own thoughts and feelings. My attention was consumed with myself, with my inner life. But I would be out with my Dad, at the bank or a store, standing in line, surrounded by strangers. Everyone silently tending to their own inner worlds. And then my dad would turn to someone he didn't know and say, “Have you ever tried this gum?” Who was this unknown man in front of us with the sensible collar and boat shoes, buying hotdogs? He'd never seen him before in his life. But now they’re talking about gum. Now my dad is giving him gum. Now they’ve introduced each other. Now they’re friends.
My dad taught me how to leave my personal universe. He was an explorer of people. He taught me to be curious and interested in others. He showed me what's possible when we encounter people with an open heart and good will. Through him I learned I can give of myself to people, and in the giving, both the world and myself are more. He could talk to anyone. He was never afraid to risk connecting with someone. It made him strong.
He worked hard, forcing himself to march through the tedium and drudgery of cold calling sales prospects to support our family. He felt things profoundly. Sometimes his sensitivity was hard for him. He struggled with depression and he sought help, and that made him strong too.
One night in my teens, when we lived on Williams drive, I came home, and for some stupid teenage reason, I decided to sneak into my own house. I shut the car door quietly, tiptoed up the stoop, eased the screen door open, and gingerly turned the doorknob to slink into the utility room. When my eyes adjusted to the darkness I saw my dad like this: <fist cocked/wide-eyed> He thought someone was coming for his family. He was going to take them on bare-handed. Seeing my dad like that was scary, but he showed me he would do whatever it took to keep safe the people he loved.
He was determined that his children would know more, would have more than he did. When I was around nine, he sat me down and asked me which would I rather have: ten thousand dollars a day for a month, or doubling a penny every day for a month? I figured the doubling-penny plan would net me around a dollar sixty, and ten grand a day was obviously better. But using his pad of paper he said, “I’m going to show you the power of compounding interest,” and he blew my mind with the clarity of his logic. He wrapped up his demonstration saying, “I’ll tell ya Jason- it’s exciting!”
He loved understanding how things worked. He was mechanical and logical. He was an early adopter. We got the first Toro snowblower. He had a phone in his car in 1985. We got the first Atari on our block. We had two computers before most families had one. He read Megatrends and The Third Wave. He patented a sensor for grocery shelves that told you when more cans needed to be stocked. He couldn't know then how his passions would enrich and improve my life. My entire career in technology is a direct result of his foresight and encouragement to see the future and prepare for it. My own patent was issued this year, but what I have created is not to my credit. It is to his. He showed me the way.
He loved to be a joy to people. His catchphrases were legendary in our family. His conversations were peppered with rejoinders and witticisms, bad puns and silly rhymes. He loved “dad” jokes. As far as he was concerned, we were all out, standing in our fields. We still don't know how to translate his favorite phrase, "oom-gawa-dooey-dawa."
He showed me what it means to be a deeply decent man. He was gentle and honorable, in a world that desperately needs gentleness and honor.
When he said goodbye to someone, I can't remember him actually saying "goodbye" - what I do remember is what he loved to tell people when they parted. It was good advice, and it is good advice. I can guarantee you he would say this to each of us here today. He would say "You keep smiling."
I love him and I will.