Monday, August 23, 2010

hello again...

girl. it's so good to see you again, coming out from under that wide umbrella which has sheltered you from your stormy summer. looking into your eyes i can see that you've changed a bit. your curves have softened. your eyes see deeper. and listening, do i detect a stronger beat to your heart?
strong girl...stronger than you'd ever imagined you could be. happy girl, hungry to grab hold of your days once more. reaching girl, knowing that that road behind you has prepared you well for the uncertain journey ahead. running girl, not running from but running to...the life that is yours.

arms flung wide open you run under the sun with the wind as your partner. strains of music long gone unheard fill your heart and soul with joy. at the finish line which is also a starting line your bittersweet tears welcome you home. back to you. fresh from the journey with new stories which tenderly reveal themselves in the way you now see the world.

hello again friend.
you. me.
i've missed you.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

a daughter's tribute...

It's been a time since I've posted. Circumstances surrounding the illness and passing of my dad have kept my mind tangled and time for writing simply non-existent. What follows is the remembrance I wrote and read at my Dad's memorial service. I've had many requests to share this piece, and so I am...sharing it with you. I also hope, now that my life is a bit more steady, to be here more. Writing and sharing life with you...

To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world. These words were stenciled on the wall behind the sign up desk at the hospice home where my dad spent the last two weeks of his life. To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world.

Words read daily, by my mom, my sister, my niece, me…all our family who came and spent time with dad during those last precious days. Those words danced around my mind as I sat in contemplation, pouring over the life that was my dad’s in preparation for this moment. Because that’s what my dad was, the world, to my mom, my sister and I, to our family. It’s with great pride as Larry’s daughter to share the world that was my dad’s life with you today.

My dad’s life was a testament to the power of the spirit to withstand and conquer challenges. Many of you may not know that my dad spent the better part of his childhood living in an orphanage in the city. Dad was placed, along with his brother Bob, in the orphanage when he was three years old and remained there until the age of nine. I can’t help but think that the courage he showed later in life fighting his many medical battles was forged during the formative years of his childhood. Learning to survive, believe, endure and carry hope for a better day.

After Gram and Gramp were married they moved to Grayslake, my dad and Bob in tow. Two more brothers would follow – Rick and Randy. His teen years, at least, found him finally at home, living life as should be promised to any child – with his mom and dad and his brothers by his side.

My dad graduated from Grayslake HS in 1956. Shortly thereafter Dad and his HS buddy Jack Kordt stuck out their thumbs and hitchhiked their way to Southern California via the original route 66. They left with little more than $40 between the two of them and a nose for adventure. After a month in California they made their way back to Grayslake, again, courtesy of their thumbs, broke except for their memories of a wild and wonderful time which I know for sure was one of the best times of my dad’s life. He cherished those memories and the memories of good times and great friends his whole life long. Such good friends he had, ones who remained close to him even up to the final days of his life.

A short time later my dad met his dream girl, my mom, while working at Abbotts. Not only did she catch his eye, she caught his heart as well. The good looking guy with the classic 50’s flat top and his model bride tied the knot in June of 1959 and celebrated over 50 years as partners in marriage. Ups, downs, all-arounds – two young kids with barely a nickel to their name, my parents made a beautiful life together, working their hardest to provide my sister and I with the things that they never had.

In his younger days my Dad held many jobs in an effort to earn a few nickels to rub together. Gas station attendant, MdDonald’s fry cook, you name it, he did it. His
passion though was the printing industry and my Dad made a life long trade of it. For many years he worked as a pressman. I’ll never forget the times I visited my dad at Munder’s in Zion when my dad worked on that monstrous four color press – all by himself running this thing which was a little bigger than a single car garage. Even now occasionally when I crack open a catalog from the mailbox I breathe in that smell – ink, paper, press – and it takes me back. One of the many scents I associate with my hero, my dad.

He held many positions in an industry which changed so drastically throughout his career. From pressman, to litho stripper and on to production and management, my dad was the hardest working man I knew, often times working two jobs to support the needs of his family. Not just my mom, my sister and I, but often helping out his parents, my mom’s folks, and their brothers and sisters. If a soul was in need, my dad would do his darndest to lend a hand or a few dollars to help out, always teaching, always showing by example to his daughters, and to our entire family, how to live a live of purpose.

One point which bears mention is that my sister and I were lucky in that we lived with parents that never said no to a pet. My dad gave a nervous nod to our pleading eyes when the question “can I keep him?” came up. Gold fish, tropical fish, one darn cat, many dogs, gerbils, hamsters, and even a goofy growling, laughing mynah bird who’s favorite phrase was “oh blank, I lost my cigarettes again”…we had it all. And it was fun. After flying the coop, my sister and I were replaced with generations of shi tzu’s – and boy did my dad love them. Not only did my parents keep this silly little loveable breed as pets, they showed them too, on the national level, going so far as to raise two grand champions. These days they’re down to one, but for many years you’d be greeted by as many as a half a dozen little shi tzu faces when you walked in their door.

Throughout the years my dad enjoyed so many different hobbies. As a child I can remember when he and my mom would spend endless hours as the archery range down in Waukegan. He loved that sport. I used to love to just sit and watch him line up that sight, steady his aim and eye his target. I can still hear the arrow snap free from the bow and remember how proud I was that this was my dad. From archery, bowling, fishing, coin collecting and downhill skiing, to stained glass work and even crocheting (yes Caity, pop pop was hooked for a time too) my dad was a pretty passionate guy. And don’t even get me started on how he loved his computer!

My dad’s biggest hobby though, was cooking. Dad was the cook in our family and we were all the luckier for it. For my bridal shower years and years ago it was my dad who put together the entire menu – a classic ladies luncheon from appetizers to homemade desserts. I’ll never forget it. And when my dad made a cake, it was an out of the ordinary, soaked in brandy, homemade fruit filling, travel to a few different stores for ingredients kind of cake. He approached all his culinary endeavors in just such a way. In turn, my sister and I delighted in cooking for my dad. The final test of our efforts came with a taste from my dad. He’d take a bite and we’d look at him and say “well??” There
were only two answers to that questions – it’s okay, or very good. Each and every time Cyndi and I reached for the “very good” response, knowing for sure that if it was “okay” then something was missing. Very good was an A, it’s okay was a C.

My dad’s greatest passion though, was his family, my mom, my sister and I, and the families we’ve created. How he loved his grandchildren, his great-grandchildren. Back in healthier easier times, my dad didn’t miss a beat with his grandkids. He took such pride in watching my son play years of football and I know those are memories that Nick will carry for the rest of his life. How I wish he could have seen Nick play lacrosse, watch Michael on the baseball field, see Caity cheer her way to state championships. Health complications may have prevented him from physically being there, but the kids always knew for sure that their pop pop was with them in spirit.

I want you to understand what an honor I consider it to be, to speak about such a loving, patient, kind, gracious man, my dad. And how my sister and I take such pride in being Milanich’s, carrying our dad’s name in a whisper beside our now married names. Just how much it means to me to stand before you and share the life that was my dad. All my life my dad has taught me, guided me, even to his final days, teaching me things about myself, about courage and about faith. In all my life as his daughter I can honestly say that the time I cherish most are the last few weeks I had with him. Holding his hand, telling him how much I loved him and how proud I was to be his daughter. Even witnessing to him and sharing our faith. Praying over him, with him, knowing that in my life I have been truly blessed in having him for a father. Realizing that everyone who knew him was blessed in a way just by calling him son, husband, brother, pop pop, uncle, brother in law, friend…

Years and years ago my dad, my sister and I used to sing a silly little song over and over. The song started out with the words “you remind me of a man, what man?” Cyndi knows what I’m talking about. To you dad, I just want to say it one more time…you remind me of a man…what man? The man with the power…the power to touch lives, to live with courage, to fight the brave fight. And now you live in victory dad…in our hearts and with God’s promise that at the end of the battle he comes to take us to a better place. Home. Where our heart is free.

realizing that i think might just have lived
one of the most memorable summers of my life,
and that i am all the better for having lived it.

loving life,

-t. is of my dad on the beach in North Carolina.