Right now Ed Fallon is at the pearly gates of heaven demanding to know, “who the heck is in charge around here, and why’d you make me wait so darn long?” My father would be using more colorful language, but you get the picture.
Fortunately, what my father lacked in patience he made up for in other areas.
My father rarely gave me advice. Which made the advice he did give me all the more memorable?
My sophomore year in college. I was working a couple jobs and studying a lot. I was home one weekend, eating waffles at the kitchen table, and dad asked, “When are you gonna start bringing some young men around here.”
“Dad,” I answered. “There aren’t any young men knocking down my door.”
Without missing a beat he replied, “Maybe you better open the damn door.”
Three months later I met the man I would marry. One sentence of advice from my father changed my life forever. That was the power of Ed Fallon. He could zero in a problem, formulate a solution, and serve up an answer in one sentence.
Many of you know that my first husband, Scott, died in 2005. But I remember bringing Scott home to meet my parents for the first time. He was twenty years old; he rowed the University of Washington crew team, and was built like a house. I asked Scott what he thought. His response was “Well, I’m about four inches taller than your dad and probably twenty pounds heavier, thirty years younger, but if he met me in a dark alley he would kick my butt.”
17 years later, I brought my second husband home to meet my parents. After dinner I asked Tim what he thought. His response was, “You gotta respect a man whose default mode is outrage.”
Tim always admired my father’s ability to maintain his youthful outrage. But my father was not all rough edges. For a man who was often short on words, he was surprisingly great at writing letters. In 1977 he wrote:
I am very proud of you—not only as a good student, but as a very good PERSON. I think it is high time that I , as your father, showed my appreciation by taking you out for the evening. May I suggest your favorite movie and a bit to eat at your favorite restaurant?
I was nine years old. My night out was dinner at Pizza and Pipes followed by a Bellarmine Volley ball game.
And when I was away at college he wrote me a letter to tell me our dog was dying of cancer. In that letter he wrote, “Your mom is really taking this hard, but handling it well. She has grit.” In subsequent letters he told me I radiated class, that I was a bright spot in his life. And in one he wrote, “I love you so much more than I have ever told you or you can possibly imagine.” But, before I completely alter your perception of my father. . .
My favorite letter is addressed to both my brother and I. It says, “Fallon’s Law-not to be questioned-make your bed each and every day period!!!” with three exclamation points
Awhile back my son, Cole, and I were talking about strong memories and he said “Sometimes Papa will ask a question and then grab my shoulder and squeeze just a little too hard and say, ‘right Cole boy right.’ And I just want to say, ‘Yeah! Yeah!’ Because whatever it is, he makes me want to agree with him.”
Cole, honey, there are many people here who understand exactly what you were describing. My father was a force, he was influential, everyone wanted to be on his team.
I mentioned that six years ago my first husband died. Shortly after his death, a crow took up residence on our back porch. All day long that crow would stay in our yard. Scott was not fond of crows, so the kids and I had an inside joke that since Scott died in a bit of a reckless accident, his punishment was that he had to be a crow all summer. Well, Three days after my father passed, I was driving south on I5. It was the morning rush hour and cars were on all sides of me. A bald eagle and a crow swooped down and landed in the lane I was travelling in. To the rest of the world it may have looked like two birds fighting over some road kill, but I know the truth. The two men who loved me without exception were sending me a message. Sending me a message, to go shopping because the South Center mall was right there.
I am going to end with an apology because my last message to my dad is actually an inside joke and only one other person in this room with understand its significance, but it will make my brother and my dad smile. So my message is this, dad, if saint peter asks for a password to get into heaven, tell him it’s write with eversharp. The doors will open wide for you, dad. May all your questions be answered, may you find joy beyond measure. May you rest in peace.