Sunday, May 03, 2009

A Eulogy for Harvey Fagen

This was delivered May 3, 2009 at the memorial service for my father.

Harvey Fagen.

There are many attributes that come to my mind when I remember Harvey Fagen:


And most important to me, Father.

When I think about Dedicated and Hardworking, I think about a time when we were living in Akron, Ohio. I had to have been five or six years old. We lived in a townhouse with a large common back-yard. One winter, I recall that Harvey built an ice rink for Jeff and me. He shoveled the snow into low walls surrounding a flat space that feels enormous in my memory, but was probably no more than 10 or 15 feet on a side. To my mind, the entire process looked like he made the walls then filled up the well with water from the hose, and in the morning we had a place to skate. I found out much later that the real process is a little more involved. He would be up all night, spraying a thin layer of water and waiting for it to freeze over and over again, until it was built up and thick enough to skate on. I marveled at the idea when I first heard the true story of the ice rink. I felt loved and I felt that I understood a little more clearly exactly where my instincts to provide for my own family came from.

When I think about Caring and Considerate, I think about how he has taken care of so many of the people in my life. He loved my mother deeply, stayed with her and helped her through some very dark times in her life. He was there to help my Grandmother Lil through her many trials until she too passed away. He has always been there to either help or just listen when I've had problems that loomed over me. He had advice, but he also understood the power of just being there and listening.

When I think about Loving and Human, I think about a man for whom family was foremost. I think about a man who traveled to be with those he loved for events both happy and sad. I remember one happy event, the wedding of one of my cousins back in Cleveland, Ohio. Of course, before we got to the wedding, we had to have the bachelor party. It was held at The Schvitz -- a steam room and bath house much beloved for its male bonding environment. As most bachelor parties go, this one had its share of alcohol present, and at some point, my dad got into something resembling a drinking contest with someone much younger and with a bit more bulk to handle the booze. Let's just say that Harvey wasn't the winner in this exchange of shots. My brother Jeff and I were part of the processional that poured him into the car and got him back to my aunt's house. When she saw what condition he was in, we were directed to deposit him on the lawn furniture in the screened in porch in back along with some blankets and a bucket, just in case. Having to help take care of the man who had taken care of me all my life was when I learned he was Human. Of course, after only a few hours of sleep (and a few glasses of water) he was up and around to attend the wedding with a spring in his step and a twinkle in his eye. The groomsman that he went toe-to-toe with wasn't in nearly as good a shape. That's when Harvey moved a couple of pegs back closer to Super Human in the eyes of us twenty-somethings.

When I think about Fortunate, I remember how he loved to go to Las Vegas and play blackjack, and how he always seemed to come back a winner. More importantly, I think about how lucky he was to have found Judy. The last four and a half years were a great adventure for him with a terrific partner as part of this wonderful community. A partner and a community that I saw pull together and ease him through the stages of a devastating illness. A partner and a community who helped him keep his spirits high even as his body was laid low.

As I think about these things that my father was, I think about the most important thing to me that he was, and that is that he was my father, and that I love him dearly, and that I will miss him terribly.