Friday, September 19, 2008

My Dad: A Tribute

There are a few things you only do once in your life.  On Wednesday I did one of those - I buried my dad, Robert (Bob) Vukmirovich.  Many friends and family gathered to pay tribute to a very special man.  On Tuesday night, after a short Eastern Orthodox memorial service (my parents are Serbian Orthodox), I had the chance to talk about my dad.  Though it was hard to do, I felt like it was something that I NEEDED to do.  With my mother, wife, children, friends and family watching, I spoke of dad.  This is basically what I said:

So many people over the past few days have told me how kind and patient my dad was.  I thought about how they perceived these character traits.  What it really came down to for me was that my dad was FULLY PRESENT wherever he was.  If he was talking with you, he would put aside distractions and really focus on you.  This was often in contrast to my mom and I who are frequently known to say things like "there's a bird!" during conversations.  My dad gave of himself to you, enjoying the moment.  A particular example of this was when he and my daughters would play "the quiet game" while they traveled in the car.  Who could be quiet for the longest was the goal.  My dad, (they call him Deh-da - the Serbian word for grandpa) would usually let the kids win as all grandparents should.  On one particular playing "the quiet game", Deda "lost" by saying "I love rainbows!" - one of those random, kind of out-there statements.  If you saw Charlie and the Chocolate Factory think "I love grapes!"  So this phrase began to be adopted by our family as a message of being in the moment.  You'll hear my kids every once in a while say "I love rainbows!"  A great way to remember Deda.

My dad also had an incredible desire for touch.  It would have been one of his top Love Languages - a book by Gary Chapman.  This was true every time we got together.  I wouldn't just give him a quick "hey there" hug.  No, these hugs were the real deal.  It was intentional touch time.  I remember one time when I was very young.  Waiting for Christmas Eve guests to arrive.  Now our family is Serbian.  And Serbian time runs anywhere from 15-45 minutes behind the rest of the world.  So I was waiting for cousins to come open presents.  I was getting tired too from all the excitement.  So, I cuddled up to my dad in our sweet Avocado green La-z-boy recliner.  This was the type with the smooth, kind of pleather finish.  Bring on the 70's baby!  So we squeezed in the chair together and we both took a little nap.  I felt safe in the lap of my daddy.  So I rested.  I think that's kind of what my dad just went through.  He was tired, so he crawled up into the lap of his heavenly daddy and is now at rest after a long and tiring journey.  

So that's what I said.  Much more could have been said, but I wanted dad to be honored by brevity.  He would have liked that.  More smiles about his life than tears about his death.  I think that's the way I want to go out.  

I thought I'd finish by letting people know some things about my dad:
- he loved tech toys - we had the first "portable" VCR (11 lbs) on our street 
- he loved model trains - we used make a track that would go around the entire basement
- he loved to sing - a church choir member and director for over 50 years
- he was a chemist - 41 years at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit
- he loved crossword puzzles - everyday Detroit Free Press, New York Times on the weekends
- he loved gardening - especially flowers
- he hated eggs - any kind, prepared any way - even in this last hospital stay he asked "no eggs"
- he had the driest sense of humor - many a groan at his jokes
- he never had an unkind word to say about anyone
- he adored my mom - in his last years he called her "his hero"
- he was my biggest cheerleader (before my wife) - his words were always "you can do it!"
- he was enamored by his grandaughters - always on his mind and heart
- he was a man who was well loved
- he was a man who loved well (for this I am forever grateful)


amberWIRE said...

What a wonderful tribute to a wonderful man.

Christine said...

He was truly a gentle soul, and we loved looking at the pictures of him throughout the years.

PS - my husband swears that his brown blazer in that picture is corduroy. But my guess is polyester. The thick kind.

Are you holding one of those Serbian hip flasks in that shot?


Kathy Guy said...

Thanks so much for sharing your dad with all of us, and helping us get to know you better in the process. We love you guys!

Dr. T said...

Dan....this is (as with YOU)brilliant!
I'm not surprised, however....your parents too....equal absolute intellectual brilliancy.
Fabulous job, Dan!

Dr. JuJuan C Taylor (PhD)
Department Chair
Schoolcraft College

Anonymous said...

Awesome tribute to a wonderful man and a super family. You are all so much of the Smith Family's lives. We go way back and can say we knew Bob well. L & M