My grandfather's eulogy.
When I was trying to think of the right way to talk about my grandfather, at first I wasn't sure how much I was going to be able to say. He had already retired from the graphic artist's union when I was born, his children were grown and living lives of their own. He'd accomplished many of the things that had made him the man he was to his family and his friends. But it occurred to me that not matter how you knew Vincent- as a grandfather, or as a brother, as an uncle, or a colleague- that there would always be many ways to speak of him. Each of us here today own memories of him; when you hear his name, each of us sees a different picture of him in our heads. So I thought I would just talk for a little bit about what he meant to me, talk about my picture of him.
I think the first word that I would use to describe him is "upright." He always seemed very tall to me, and I think that was because he was the kind of man who had a kind of correctness to him- he had authority that made him stand up a little straighter than the rest of us. He expected a lot out of the people around him, and they said okay, because you could look at him and understand that you couldn't tell him no. It's a feeling you get even when you look at the pictures of him taken when he was working as a lithographer, in the way that he talked to other men and the way they listened to him. You can see it in the pictures he took with his children, standing quietly next to them, looking stern and proud at the same time. You can even see it in the photos of him on the golf course, looking down thefairway- you can picture him talking to his ball. "All right, that's enough fooling around. On the green, let's go."
But even with that weight that he carried, with that authority, there's another picture of my grandfather that I think of often, and that's him laughing. He loved to spend time with his friends and his family, to hold court and tell jokes. I remember a story my mother told me about a time when I was very young- my other grandfather dropped me off at their house, and there was Nonno at the front door, down on his hands and knees, barking like a dog at me as I walked up to him. My grandfather Sweeney called my mother and said "You know, Dominic's father, I don't know about that guy..."
Of course, a lot of that mix, the hard work that he did and his affection for the people who were important to him, comes from the era in which he was raised. In many ways my grandfather symbolized the American dream of the twentieth century. He came to this country as a child, learned English on the fly, graduated from high school, attended college, and built a career that could support his family. He was an ardent supporter of the American Labor movement, organizing print shops all across California, including the first Chinese-American print shop to be incorporated into the graphic artist's union. He lived through the Great Depression, World War II, and seventeen different presidents. He married my grandmother in 1941, and was a devoted husband and father for the rest of his life. He made sure his children were educated and that they understood the importance of education, and he made investments that could provide for them well into the future. The sacrifices he made for his family have made my life easier and given me opportunities in more ways than I can count.
But again, I have to come back to the man that I knew, the man who stood up straight as a ninety-year-old, the man who grew plums and apricots and pears in his garden, the man who first put a golf club in my hands, the man who looked up at me from the bottom of the hill in his backyard, the man who spoke at my wedding at ninety-three years old, the man who could tell me with a look, "I have done these things for you, I have given these things to you, but I ask you to earn them, I ask you to give them to your children as I have." Nonno, I have not earned them yet, but I will work for them. Nonno, our families are happy and healthy because of you. Nonno, I promise I will come down from the hill. Goodbye Nonno, I love you.
My grandfather's eulogy.