Eulogy for my father.

A few people have asked if I would post this; thank you genuinely for caring.

Here are my departing words for my father, Joseph Charles Landolt (10/11/50 – 11/7/19).

Hi everyone. Thank you for coming and supporting me and my family, and honoring my father’s life. 

I wanted to share some of our favorite things about dad that I hope will live on through my brother, Corey, and I through our future generations. 

Perhaps what daddy is best known for is his wit. Our dad was hilarious, and he had a wicked sense of humor. Some of my favorite memories are all of us watching “Grumpy Old Men” or old Steve Martin movies with him on the sofa while growing up. He always had a pun or dad joke on hand – He always liked to say “May the Good Lord hold you in His hands, but never squeeze you too tightly.” I will never forget his raucous laughter, bellowing through the house whenever he happened upon anything that struck him as funny. It was such a good, deep belly laugh. I’m happy to carry on the legacy of having one of “those laughs” to future generations.

My daddy was brilliant. Columbia educated, he never let Corey or I off the hook for not knowing the definition of a word. We had to drag down that big stupid red dictionary from the shelf (that still resides in my bookshelf at home) and look it up ourselves, and then repeat to him what it meant. He believed in both the value and the responsibility of an education; not to show off a fancy degree, but to simply make your corner of the world the best it can possibly be. He used the connections he had to get my husband his first job at an engineering firm before he went back to grad school, and that job kept food on our table and a roof over our heads in the first years of our marriage. I’m grateful for that. He was a devoted and voracious reader, and it was very rare to see him without a paperback in hand – he preferred mysteries and the New Yorker Magazine, given his druthers, but would gladly re-read the same magazines over again when there was a lack of new material; to this day, I don’t think a coffee table is complete without a stack of reading and a pair of glasses on it. 

Now I can’t relate to this at all, but my dad held strong convictions and opinions. Just before he passed, he called me laughing because he had called into one of those MSNBC talk-line segments and let them know exactly what he thought about the current administration, on live television. The caller after him vehemently disagreed and let my father know in no uncertain terms what he thought about dad’s opinion, which dad relayed to me roaring with laughter the next day. If you can believe it, this also happened during Corey and I’s childhood. I will never forget the coiled phone cord stretched to it’s limit from the wall mount in the kitchen and across the living room in front of the TV, dad arguing with the host in real time. It was too much lol. When we were putting his things in order, I actually found the little scratch paper where he had written down the the snippets of his thoughts, and he had used such creative vocabulary when he called in; if you know me, and have ever heard me speak of something and describe it as abhorrent, egregious, or an abomination – you know I got it from my daddy. 

Our dad was kinda the “town mayor”. It didn’t matter which town, because he did it at home growing up just as well as he did in Florida in his later years – wherever he went, kissing babies, making people laugh, and weaving them into his daily life through charm and chitchat. My father never met a stranger in his life, and his manners were punctilious. He was just a handsome, witty, charming man, and when he drove us around town for errands growing up, I was just so proud that he knew every bank teller and grocery checkout person by name, and always had a warm greeting for them. When our family danced in our ballet company growing up, my dad actually played the Mayor in the Nutcracker for years and years. It suited him perfectly, and I will cherish those memories. 

Daddy was sentimental, and I’m positive I inherited my embarrassing lack of a stiff upper lip from him. He was so tender lol. He could never hear a song without tearing up, or reflect on a memory with a dry eye. I so cherish and respect that about him. Our dad also loved a good time. Whether it was riding every thrill ride at least once at the local carnival every year, or dressing up like a vampire or the phantom of the opera (which he always pronounced “phanthom”) for halloween, if there was a “thing” he could go all out with, he did it. He and my mother once transformed our entire house into a haunted house for our school friends, and it was just insane. There were props, and decorations, and music, and they were both dressed up, and there were like, stations with peeled grapes as pretend eyeballs – it was nuts. Halloween was one of his favorite holidays, and Corey and I were the direct beneficiaries of it growing up. 

Daddy loved the outdoors, and you never saw him without him wearing a pair of moccasins or top siders. Every summer, you could find him stretched out back tanning with a paperback on a lawn chair whenever he had a free hour. We had this big blow up alligator in the pool, and he would drag Corey and I around by the alligator’s tail for hours and hours. He took us fishing at the lake near our house and I caught my one and only fish – a pickerel for the ages, while corey landed a Sunny. He took us fishing another time at the “paintworks lake” in gibbsboro, and I dropped his pole over the dock. I don’t think he held it against me lol. He and mom took us to Ocean City in the summers, and I remember us walking along the shoreline for hours. We must’ve walked halfway to sea isle one time, hand in hand, mutually enjoying the sun and roar of the seas in silence. He loved nature, and my brother and I have both inherited that love. 

My dad was the best cook I ever knew. I will never have another chicken cutlet as good as his “chicken rice and peas,” with the little can of Le Sueur peas and Rice-a-Roni pilaf. He was famous to us for his “chicken soup” which was just a can of College Inn chicken broth with ditalini and croutons. Nothing was ever more comforting than coming inside from the freezing cold to that soup after a day full of ballet rehearsals. We were also on a first name basis with Dominics, our local pizzeria, and he never deviated from his regular order of “half plain, half pepperoni.” We carry on that tradition to this day. Alas, much to the dismay of my husband and the teasing of our friends, we grew up eating boeuf bourgenion, escargot, chicken cutlets, and French onion soup in individual crocks, because he loved Julia Child. Between Corey and I, our taste in food hasn’t changed much. I blame dad for our food preferences, which some may call bougie, and I contend that we come by it honestly. 

Finally, and most importantly, my dad taught me mercy. It has been said that God is sovereign, and we are responsible; and I believe that one of our greatest responsibilities on earth is mercy. When I was in 5th grade, I got straight A’s for the first (and last) time in my life. My parents were so proud, and made such a huge deal that Christmas. But the following year, I came home with my first C, and although it seems silly now, I was positive I was going be disowned – I mean, I was terrified to come home. I got off the bus and I packed some things in a suitcase, and I wrote a note to my parents that I was running away, and set off to ..ride the rails I guess, who knows what I was thinking. But my dad actually came home early that day, which never happened, and found my runaway note, and found me hiding, and just laughed at me, giving me the biggest hug. I cried and cried in his arms because I thought they were gonna be so mad, but he laughed at me! That was not his normal manner of addressing grievances, I assure you, but there we are. It was mercy. He pulled down his old report cards right then and there from our old photo albums, and showed me some of his old whopper grades, and I knew everything was going to be okay. That stands out to me as one of the firmest memories I have that it’s okay to make a mistake – it was okay to fail, in essence, because he still loved me. 

And I think thats what mercy does. It doesn’t ignore the facts, it doesn’t deny reality, it doesn’t pretend the truth isn’t there in black and white –  it just doesn’t take it into account. Mercy isn’t like math, where it all has to add up. It just is. Mercy comes from the God who is Love, and it exists for the sake of the beloved. And underneath it all, daddy understood that. I know that he did, because we talked about it in the end. I love him for that. I love that for all of us.  

-take a breath-

So, in the immortal words of Robert Crawley of Downton Abbey, the cost of great love is great suffering when it’s gone. I will miss him dearly. We all will. We talked every week about the same four things – weather, politics, family, and how much he hated the crazy Florida heat. I will miss those conversations, predictable as the tide. He missed the leaves and change of seasons, though, and I’m so glad he’ll be at rest now, here at home, at peace under the falling leaves, and the blankets of snow, and the spring daffodils, and the warm summer sun. When we were gathering his things, he had a gospel tract open on his counter, and his favorite Scripture tucked away in his wallet. I know I will see him again, and I am comforted knowing that he is finally, finally at peace.

I love you daddy. See you on the other side. 

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