Quietly we slipped into town. It had been a while since I last stepped foot in my hometown of Sonoma California and as we meandered through streets filled with wandering tourists my memory tried hard to visualize this once peaceful quiet place as it was many years ago. This town still holds a certain charm, a quaintness which unfortunately now feels like a false front. Gone are homes actually owned and lived in by people downtown, instead each cute little cottage or early 1900’s home is filled with one type of business or another. Gone is that small town feeling where mom and pop mercantile line the plaza. Instead the city is surrounded by winery getaway bungalows, tasting rooms, restaurants, and high end hotels catering to those with wine adventures on their mind. Oh there are a few small business breweries, diners and stores but for the most part as you drive in it no longer has that small town charm but more of a high dollar Los Gatos feel.
The traffic was horrendous and as we pulled into Duggans for dads memorial service it was evident no one held an ounce of patience for driving across this very congested portion of the city leading to downtown. Standing outside for a moment before walking in to face family and friends I did soak up the Sonoma sun and smiled, remembering how blessed I was to grow up here. Something I have never taken for granted.
Once inside mom and I placed a few pictures around, made sure everything was in its place while beginning to welcome people with open arms. Last night I had decided for me at least this was not going to be a sad event. Dad wouldn’t have wanted that, besides I have learned over time there is no reason for us to cry or be sad. The only reason we cry is for ourselves, our own misery with someone we love being gone forever. Our loved one feels no pain, carries no worry and would only want those of us left behind to smile, remembering the good not the bad.
After many, many hugs, some wonderful conversation, and several well placed jokes we came inside and began the service. Our pastor was fantastic, light, charming and funny he brought a warmth and glow to this occasion that was desperately needed. Family sat in front and when it came time to speak, my mother did her very best to relay how she felt and followed up her recollections with directions for after the service.
Next it was my turn and I have to say, I was pretty nervous. I started with a joke. Dad and I had spoken on several occasions about memorials and funerals. Our running gag was never had either one of us heard a family member walk up to the podium, thank everyone for coming then slam their fist on the table, look the audience in the eye and say: John Doe so and so was a Son of a Bitch!!!! So that’s what I did by sharing that story! Thankfully the room laughed and just like that my nervousness melted away just a little. Pulling a prepared statement from my jacket pocket I cleared my throat, steadied my vocal chords and began to read:
What I learned from watching my father.
Many things can be said about Robert Franceschi
He was a charmer when need be.
A friend for life once you worked past his often times gruff exterior.
A hard worker
He loved 49r football
He was my dad
But it’s not the image he portrayed that matters to me, instead it is what he taught me from witnessing his actions as opposed to his words. For we know as young emotionally charged youth we fight against our parents every chance we get. Yearning for freedom of our own, to make our own decisions without help from our parents so called “words or pearls of wisdom”. No it’s what I witnessed, without words through silence filled deeds and actions that resonates so very deep within my soul.
From watching my father since the moment I can recollect his life lessons rang true, teaching me…
It’s never too late to re-invent yourself – Dad struggled and worked hard every day to support his family and even when things didn’t go his way he never gave up. We were never rich, often times just barely having enough money to get new school clothes was a burden but my dad did what had to be done and if that meant going from a salesman to a barn builder, a store owner to a restaurateur then that’s what he did. Was he scared? You’re damn right he was, but he always tried and it’s because of him that I have never been afraid to try something new, reinvent myself, morphing into a new side job or purpose and I will sell my last belonging to make sure my family always has what they need.
A love of animals- My dad loved animals, he loved horses, dogs, cats, birds and ostriches. Oh he complained like hell about them, especially my mom’s dogs! But when he wasn’t complaining and no one was looking that tough guy wall came down and he would sit with a dog/cat on his lap or a bird on his shoulder. When his last horse passed away he was devastated for as he put it; Goldpiece was the only one who listened to me anyways.. I love my horses, dogs, chickens, pigs and cats. They are part of my family and whenever they hurt, I hurt. It’s because of my father’s spirit for animals that I care about them as much as I do. I couldn’t imagine life without pets and livestock roaming our property. Whether for riding, petting or putting dinner on the table they are a huge part of our lives. And yes whenever that damn SPCA commercial starts and Sara McLaughlin begins singing while sad puppy eyes stare back at you through the tv screen well I am here to say you just may find it raining only behind my glasses.
To sing whenever possible. I know right? No one can picture my father standing tall in front of a crowd singing his heart out. Well he didn’t, but what I learned was no matter how difficult a day’s become when a song comes on the radio that you love don’t be afraid to belt it out! For you see many times I witnessed his day/mood go from bad to good with nothing more than a good country song and some alone time inside the Ford truck recording studio traveling down Hwy 12. The power of song is amazing, you don’t need to know how to sing or even sing well but for those two and a half minutes you are George freaking Strait and no one can take that away from you. I drive my kid’s nuts to this day singing every song that makes me happy as it billows from our cars speakers. When I am through I always have a slight smirk upon my face.
A genuine appreciation for the automobile. Dad loved cars, all kinds, makes and models and that love trickled down to me. From the time I could walk I can remember staring at this truck, crawling around in that car and listening to my dad tell stories about not having much money so one time he painted a car with a roller and brush. When dad purchased a restored 1936 Ford and brought it home it was the coolest thing I had ever seen. With its swoopy fenders, giant bug eye headlights and sparkling chrome grill that car was to me what was right with the world. Soon after a 1941 Mercury arrived and not long after that a 1921 Model T. The two latter cars are in my garage awaiting the day they will travel the roadways again with the same regal status they once held within their time. Nothing made my dad smile more than when he drove one of his old cars.
Nothing in this life is given to you and hard work pays off. Shake a man’s hand when you see him, look him in the eye, your word is more important than anything you possess. If not for watching him work the way he did while trying his best to keep things running at home I never would have learned the patience needed to understand the old adage of “Rome wasn’t built in a day”. Yes you can risk it all by taking loans and building your place into the very best place it can be from day one. Or you can work hard, recycle materials and slowly, without debt build something from nothing, hopefully leaving some form of legacy for your children to inherit. I am working hard to teach my children those very same values.
And lastly but most importantly
Marriage isn’t easy- That’s right, marriage is in no way shape or form easy and if you believe it to be some fairytale story you are sadly mistaken. But what marriage is, is filled with mistakes, sometimes big ones! And with those mistakes also come huge successes, both of which help forge a bond between you and your significant other. Learning the ability to say you’re sorry so another doesn’t emotionally suffer and learn to accept apologies in return, forgiving all wrong doing while never holding a grudge. Giving of yourself wholly to your spouse and your family regardless of time, place or series of events. Remembering that someone you love, loves you back no matter what and with that love comes good times and bad, but it’s how we handle ourselves that create true memories lasting a lifetime. Not posed pictures hanging on a wall staged like a portrait session in the woods, but memories of moments alone, together, surrounded by smells, sounds and sights. From the moment you first met to your final kiss goodbye 55 years later. Marriage isn’t easy but done right, marriage is life fulfilling and holds rewards like no other….
I am sure there is a dozen or so more I could recite, but this is where it ends. I know he looks down upon us all, free from pain, free from his broken down body, free from stress and doubt. I pray his spirit sends a sign to my wife so she feels his comfort, knowing he is alright with her not being here to help celebrate his life. I pray he is surrounded by old friends, family and those he cherished. I pray he feels our love and rests easy knowing we are ok, for sadness knows no place when your job here on earth is done.
We celebrate who he was and the legacy he left behind.
I love you dad…
When it was over I was relieved. Sitting down and listening as my Aunt and Uncle spoke, then watching as our former neighbor stood in front and said something that rang so true of my dad. If I was ever in a fight I would want Bob right behind me. Along with; Bob always did the right thing. That indeed was my dad. To hear it from another adult male figure from my young adolescent life was indeed fulfilling. Dad always did the right thing, no matter the cost and if you ever witnessed my fathers rage then you definitely knew you wanted that man in your corner when the shit hit the fan. Not because his anger was a dangerous thing but because as stated prior, dad always did the right thing. That extended to his ability to control and corral that anger, putting it to good use when the moment arose. Usually leaving a UPS driver or two with a need for an underwear change should they be found guilty of speeding on our road.
At the end of the day we had a very nice lunch at Rossi’s, it was such a pleasure to see so many faces from our past. The ability to reconnect, tell tall tales, have a few laughs while surrounded by so many special family members and friends will keep my heart warm for a long time to come. Its just to bad that life has engulfed us so, that we may only see each other at weddings or funerals.
Either way thanks to all those who gave up their Saturday to pay tribute to my father. I know he was looking down, smiling and wondering just who in the hell was going to pay for the whole damn thing!
God Bless you all..
Tomorrow the adventures continue as the Franceschi clan loads up and heads to Saratoga to spend the day with their mother…