Sunday, September 5, 2010
My Husband's Speech for My Father's Funeral
When I first met Gary, he was younger than I am now, and had a daughter who was a Junior in College, which should tell you something. I was not yet dating Kristen, in fact they would probably today call the stage we were in "stalking," yet Kris was thankfully blissfully unaware of my interest. To her, I was a useful friend who could get her father into the only late-night student drinking establishment in Oxford, which again should tell you something about Gary. Desperate as I was to make a good impression, I spent the day constructing an elaborate web of explanation as to why Gary was in fact entitled to enter the cellar bar of the Oxford Union. Again, today they would probably call this elaborate web "a tissue of lies". I spent several hours waiting for Kris and Gary and then had to visit the restroom. On returning I was told by Bruce the Doorman, a panel beater from the Cowley Motor Works, that Gary and Kris had arrived. Instead of my elaborate web of deception, he had got down by promising Bruce, the City and County of Oxford arm wrestling champion, a date with Kris. Again, this should tell you something about Gary.
Gary proceeded to engage in what they call conspicuous consumption, buying round after round of drinks for anyone who was on nodding acquaintance with Kris, and over the course of the evening drank virtually all of this hardened coterie of drinkers under the table. Literally in some cases. At 2am, there were just a handful of us left, which should tell you something about the entire Helfrecht family. Gary and Kris left for Uncle William's house by taxi, but I found Kristen's Swedish friend Maria wandering around the building. Maria is six foot tall and beautiful and had been protected from the attention of numerous young bucks by Gary, which again should tell you something about him. Maria was supposed to be staying with Kris that night, so I volunteered to escort her back as she was in no state to make it home on her own. When we arrived, Gary complemented me on playing my cards well and offered me some sherry that he claimed he had found by breaking in to one of William's cabinets. Apparently he finally retired at 3:30 am after finishing the bottle, while I was asleep on Kristen's floor wondering just what the heck I had gotten myself into.
That evening set the tone for my relationship with Gary. Even in the time he called me Igor for daring to propose to his first daughter, time spent with Gary was always characterized by good humor, a healthy knowledge of just how far the envelope could be pushed and, more often than not, copious amounts of alcohol.
Gary was a jolly man, a hearty man but, above all, a good man. His love for his family shone through above all. The way he taught his daughters round the dinner table he shared with Susan to argue their position, while perhaps not always appreciated by his sons in law, contributed to hours of debate at the beach house and I know he was proud of how clever his daughters were. He loved his mother like no other and whenever the brothers got together, local police forces were placed on alert. His devotion to Rudi impressed everyone who witnessed it and in all his relationships with his family, Gary has been my role model.
I shall let others tell you that Gary was as great a friend as he was a father, son, brother and husband. But speaking for the Murray branch of the Helfrecht clan, I know that we shall miss our Grumpy terribly. Gary, I know you're up there. You probably promised to buy St Peter a drink. We miss you, but above all we love you - and will love you forever.