Remembering a father …

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A couple of nights ago, on the one-year anniversary of the passing of Edward Sheehan, his daughter, Michele Dmytrow, turned to Facebook to post the eulogy she gave at his funeral. I was truly touched, and asked Michele (my old Mahopac High School classmate) whether I could run it here. She graciously agreed …

One year ago I posted that I was simply at a loss for words. A few days later I found some and gave one of the eulogies at my dad’s services. I wanted to share in his memory:

When someone dies from cancer people often say he lost his battle with the disease. But anyone who has even known my father knows he never lost at anything. After a quick but incredibly tough fight, in the end he went out on his own terms—peacefully and at home. We expected nothing less from a member of New York’s Strongest for 20 years.

I’ve been thinking a lot about loss lately. About how now people would say I lost my father. But I haven’t really lost him. I can find him all around me—in the red hair atop my daughter’s big, round, Irish head, every time the Yankees win, whenever I see a copy of the New York Post, or if I’m scrolling through the channels and see Rudy, The Shawshank Redemption, or any of the Real Housewives shows. We never really lose someone, we just have to keep finding new ways to remember them.

Whether you knew him as Ed, Eddie, Fast Eddie, The Looper, Pop-Pop, Uncle Ed, Uncle Lead, Mr. Sheehan, Mr. S, Dad or he was your partner in crime for 50 years, everyone here has their own special memories of him. I want to share just three of my favorites.

After I had been dating Nick a few months I decided to bring him home to meet my parents. He’d seen a few pictures of my dad around my old apartment and knew a couple of things about him: he grew up old-school Irish in a tough section of the Bronx, he worked for the New York City Department of Sanitation for 20 years, and I was his youngest daughter. I imagine Nick might have been feeling pretty unnerved when we took the train up that spring Sunday afternoon. My dad was picking us up from the station and he was standing outside, leaning against the car, arms folded, shades on, waiting for us. He firmly shook Nick’s hand and we got into the car, me in the front, Nick in the back. My dad put the key in the ignition, started the car, and Broadway show tunes came blasting out of the radio, shattering any chance he had of intimidating my new boyfriend. To this day, Nick still occasionally refers to my dad as, “Show Tunes.”

For Christmas about 10 years ago I took my dad to Peter Luger’s steakhouse in Brooklyn. We had a reservation at 11:30 on a cold January Saturday because that was the only time they had available for weeks. We got there early, of course, and had to walk around the block a few times before we could get in. We sat down at one of the small wooden tables and ordered beers, creamed spinach, fries and steak for two. Our meal came, steak sizzling on the metal skillet, and the waiter asked if we needed anything else. My dad looked up and said, “Yeah, some ketchup please”. Suddenly a wave of total disgust crossed the waiter’s face and he said, “Sir, if you put ketchup on that steak, I’m taking it away from you.” My dad put his hands up and said, “No, no, no—it’s for the fries. I promise.” He loved that story and always said it was the best steak he ever had.

In my mid 20s and early 30s, I was living in the city and had Friday night season tickets to the Yankees with a bunch of girlfriends. Inevitably, just a few hours before the game, someone would always cancel. It would be too hot, too cold, too rainy, someone would get stuck at work or just get a better offer for a Friday night. E-mails would fly around about there being an extra ticket and I always knew my dad would take it. I’d call him at 3 o’clock (the games started at 7:05) and he’d say, “I’ll meet you at the bat, kid”. Meeting someone at the bat at the old Yankee Stadium was like telling someone you’d meet them at the clock at Grand Central. It’s where everyone met. But somehow I’d always find him, decked from head to toe in Yankee gear. We’d head in through gate 4, and start the trek to our seats in the upper, upper deck nosebleeds behind home plate. He’d sit there shelling peanuts, entertaining a gaggle of tipsy 20-something girls with his stories of old players and how things used to be.

I always thought my dad was a man of few words, and not exactly one to wear his heart on his sleeve, but as I’ve gotten older I learned to crack his code.

“Did you see the game?” meant, “I wish we could have watched it together.”

“How’s work?” was really, “I’m so proud of you.”

When he asked “How are the girls?” he was really telling me, “I’m so happy all your dreams came true”
“Let me know when you get home” was his way of saying “I need to know you’re safe”

“Stop crying you big baby” really meant “It hurts me to see you so sad”

The true measure of a man is not in what he has, but in what he leaves behind. My father leaves behind an amazing wife, three pretty great kids, four awesome grandchildren and family members and friends too numerous to count. It really was a wonderful life.

I like to think he’s up there now finally getting the chance to know his dad and sister. Laughing with Bobby and Buddy, watching Yankee games, drinking a Bud and enjoying a Peter Luger’s steak—with or without ketchup. And occasionally breaking things up with a nice glass of merlot and listening to some show tunes.

And when the time comes, I know he’ll be at the bat waiting for me.

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