Eulogy for my dad
Puyallup, Washington; July 20, 2009
My dad, Glenn Medlin,* died July 9, 2009, on what would have been his mother's 101st birthday. He was 81. This is the eulogy I gave at the celebration of his life.
When I was a kid, I played baseball. During one game when I was 15, I was playing shortstop when my friend Mike came to bat for the other team and hit a double. Our coach decided that was enough of that, and it was time for a new pitcher.
While the new guy was warming up, Mike and I had a minute to chat, and he asked if my dad was there. Of course he was; he and Mom never missed a game.
"Where is he?" So I pointed out my dad in the stands. "That's him." Mike looked him over, gave an approving nod, and said, "Pretty cool-looking dude."
I looked at Mike and thought, "Are you out of your mind? My dad? Pretty cool?" But then I took another look at Dad, and I thought, "By golly, he's right. He *does* look pretty cool."
Good thing, too, because as the years went by, I noticed more and more things I'd inherited from the guy. One was his sense of direction. That inner compass that unerringly leads me north — when I should go south. West, when I should go east. Over here, when I really want to go over there. I got that from him. Thanks, Dad.
Dad used to say the only time he had a sense of direction was when he was in Korea. He spent a lot of time driving a jeep over there. If you take a wrong turn in Tacoma, you end up in Lynnwood instead of Puyallup, but you take a wrong turn in a war zone and people can die. So he could do it when he needed to.
The military also showed off Dad's knack for detail. Dad usually didn't sweat the small stuff. I had some pretty unfortunate hair back in the '70s, and he just let it go. But when details mattered, he took care of them.
When he was in Korea, he wrote home and asked my mom to send over some nail polish. It was waterproof, and he painted that nail polish onto the wires of his jeep so he could drive through streams without stalling out. A detail guy.
That sense of detail surely served him well in his career. He started off doing pretty menial work for an outfit called Gereke-Allen in St. Louis. After a few years, he became a salesman, and then the company was bought out by Weyerhaeuser, which you may have heard of.
Dad stayed with Weyerhaeuser his entire career and worked his way up, retiring when he was about five steps from the top of one of the biggest companies in the world. He'd tell you that those were five pretty big steps, but still, not bad for a guy who never went to college.
Dad was a funny guy. He liked a good joke. He also liked a bad one. He enjoyed playing with words, occasionally in a slightly off-color way, like when he'd ask if you knew the name of the dehydrated Frenchman. I'll let you think about what that gentleman's name might be.
Like every funny person you'd ever actually want to spend time with, Dad liked it best when the joke was on him. A lot of y'all may have heard this story, but I'm going to tell it anyway, because Dad liked it, and it's a good one.
Dad didn't like to have sticky stuff on his hands. It was like kryptonite to him — he was useless until he got it off. One time he and Marie came out of church and got into their car, and Dad noticed he had a bit of something sticky on his fingers. Well, there was no way he could continue his day like that, so he went back into the church, washed his hands, and got back into the car.
And there it was again, the kryptonite. Where could it have come from? Dad looked around and noticed the pastor's wife, watching him and laughing so hard she could barely stand up.
I don't know if you're in this room today, ma'am, but if you are, I salute you. What she had done was, she'd dabbed a bit of honey on the underside of Dad's car door handle. It wasn't so much that it'd squish or that you'd notice it when you opened the door, but it was enough. It was fiendish, it was brilliant, and it got him. Great prank.
Dad told that story a lot, and the thing that always went unspoken was this: That's the sort of thing you do to a friend. It's a prank you pull on somebody you like. And that was Dad. If people think I'm funny — and believe it or not, there are some people who do — or that I'm good company, I owe a lot of that to Dad.
Then there's the everyday stuff — it's the way I whistle a tune, or the way I turn a phrase. Sometimes I'll be shaving, and I'll catch a certain expression when I look in the mirror. And I'll think, "Wow, I looked just like Dad then."
And that's pretty cool.
Me and Dad at his mother's gravesite in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, May 9, 2008. Photo by Dani.