To my father.

I read this at my father's funeral. Rarely do things written in the black book get to be put here too. I typed it up at my family's request, but I feel I should post it here as well:

My name is Randall William Nichols II. Named for my father.

People sometimes ask me what it’s like to be a “II,” a second. I think of it being like a paper crown. Your dad, your namesake, is like a king to you. And when you’re young, believe me, you are so proud of that paper crown. You flaunt it, you treat it like a prized possession, and you mimic your father’s every move – you idolize him.

But that doesn’t last forever. You grow up, you come into your own, you get rebellious [Dad would appreciate that – “rebellious”]. Your paper crown feels silly, and unoriginal. On some level you want desperately to be rid of it, to be your own man, and get away from that legacy. And you fight it, and try to take it off, until eventually you realize that one day you’ll have to wear the real thing. And suddenly, it’s not so bad being a “II”.

So you put that paper crown back on, because you have grown up a little now, and you realize being someone’s successor is not so bad. It’s an honor, actually, and all those similarities you worked so hard against, all those things that tie you and your namesake together, you’re proud of them again.

Humbly, I admit I was getting there. I wasn’t there yet. But in the last year, I’ve spent more time with my father than I had in a very long time. Perhaps ever. We’ve run errands together, told each other stories, commiserated about those we’d felt had wronged us, talked about comics and movies, and wasted so much time in that way where wasting time is completely okay.

And we’d talked about the future. Not just what I was going to do, what we were going to do. He expected to see it. He was making plans.

Which is why this is so hard, and why I wish dearly I wasn’t putting my paper crown away today. My name is Randall William Nichols II, but now I am the only Randall Nichols. It is my inheritance. And a lot goes along with it, more than just a passing resemblance, shared body language, or a single, slightly droopy eyelid – something Dad and I shared. Something only some of you may know about him. I’d like to share that with all of you today.

My dad didn’t sleep. He did, actually, but not during normal hours, he was always a night-owl. Most don’t ask why; they assume it was the job at the newspaper, the work at the Shop-a-minute, his time spent as a partier and a ne’re-do-well. But it wasn’t that – it wasn’t just some bad habit for dad, because my dad was, let’s face it, a worry-wart. And his mind just couldn’t slow down at night, not with everything out there that might go wrong, that had gone wrong, and all the things he might not have tried hard at. Not to mention people he might have failed, or felt like he’d failed. People he cared about. Because for dad, caring and worrying – they were interchangeable.

There is a good chance if you ever talked to my father, called him a friend, or a brother, or father, or son, shared a meal with him, or listened to one of his stories, then he spent some time in his life worrying about you. And even if you were at odds with him, even if the rest of the world had written you off, if you came to him, he’d help if he could. Because he worried about you. What you thought, what you were going through, how you felt – he cared. And then after, when he had done his best by you, he would worry he hadn’t done enough. He couldn’t stand the thought of letting anyone down – even though he knew, sometimes, disappointment was unavoidable. We all let people down, sometimes. And that bothered him too, deeply.

And with those thoughts, with that weight, who could sleep? It can make you so tired. And I know he struggled, because too often he and I would be able to call each other at two a.m., and find the other awake, anxious, and lucid. Wanting to talk about anything, save for whatever was on each other’s minds.

But there was really no alternative for Dad. He loved you all, as you are, and if a few sleepless nights were the price of that love, it was no contest for him. He’d choose his friends and family every time.

And that’s his legacy, my inheritance, and my head is heavier for it today. In some sense, it is a burden we all share now, because a man who thought of us all so often, who talked of in his stories and put us in his prayers, isn’t here to do that anymore. And we’re worse for it today.

But we’re better for knowing him, and though he left us far too soon, I feel almost happy for Dad, because there are no more sleepless nights, no more worrying. He can finally rest.

I love you Dad.

--Randall W. Nichols II
[May 15, 2009]

1 comments :: To my father.

  1. That was beautiful.