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Eulogy for Eugene

Thoughts on the Afternoon of my Grandfather's Passing, February 3, 2008
by Morgan S. Grether

It is the end: no more, no more.

You lived a long life and watched the world change over and over till it looked almost nothing like it did when you were a boy.

It is the end: no more, no more.

I wanted to write you a eulogy. Could it be you wrote your own, like your wrote your obituary? You always had words for yourself; "spin control," they call it in Washington.

It is the end: no more, no more.

You fancied yourself the hub of the family -- all spokes leading to you -- and worked hard through compassion and vanity to make it happen.

It is the end: no more, no more.

In the final years you called yourself "the family problem."

It is the end: no more, no more.

When you cared about something, your passion burned a holy fire and nothing could prevent the task from completion. Often this involved sports. You loved competition.

It is the end: no more, no more.

You worshipped basketball and worked for the game's inventor in your youth. You studied the game to find the perfect seat in the stands. You did the same for football and baseball. You were the consummate spectator.

It is the end: no more, no more.

You and I were children together, though you were the grandparent. At times this meant you could be shockingly immature, but it also meant I always had a playmate. You never tired of play.

It is the end: no more, no more.

A good joke was worth its weight in gold to you, particularly a prank at someone's expense. You taught me the value of a life filled with laughter. You were not afraid to cry either, and there were nearly as many tears as laughs.

It is the end: no more, no more.

Your favorite jokes were scatological. Gas attacks, bowel movements, urine, the dirty side of sex: these were a limitless fountain of humor for you. You once told your nephew your motto for life was, "Take care of your teeth and never pass on a piece of ass." You prided yourself as always being the naughty little boy from Jarbalo, Kansas, who used corn cobs to brush his teeth in the wash room and to clean his butt in the out-house.

It is the end: no more, no more.

Your childishness extended to vicious wrath. You could be haunted by thoughts of vengeance, of correcting wrongs done against you by back-stabbers: Julius staring Brutus in the face. Often this involved your daughters: Lear railing at Goneril and Regan. Or your brother: Esau holding Jacob. Your frustration and anger once boiled into threats of killing: Cain over Abel. Yes, your time was often spent east of Eden.

It is the end: no more, no more.

You stepped in to be a dad when my dad left. You could be like a saint, willing to do anything for me with great patience and encouragement. I try to give this to my daughter.

It is the end: no more, no more.

We spent endless hours together year after year with things like card-playing, hiking, going to sporting events. At times we could not have been closer. And yet. And yet your fighting with my grandmother, my mother, and my sister -- your wife, your daughter, and your granddaughter -- made me keep you at arms' length my whole life. The distance grew in your later years as your problems with these women grew.

It is the end: no more, no more.

While I wish I had been with you at the very end, I did come to see you three months ago when it seemed clear this would be your final sickness. I said I did not wish to say goodbye at the funeral, but face to face when you could hear me. We ate junk fast food, your favorite meal. You spoke little that final visit, but the time before you coughed an awful cough and said, "It's too hard getting old. Don't get old, but don't die young." We laughed and you added in contradiction, "Just don't die; that's my plan." You were afraid of saying goodbye, but we do not have a choice (despite our best plans), do we?

It is the end: no more, no more.

It is the end: no more, no more.

Composed: February 3, 2008