Lessons from A Very Unconventional Dad

I was in San Francisco when I got the dreaded call.

As I was preparing to leave for the airport, I grabbed a bunch of tissues from the hotel bathroom and stuffed them into my bag. I knew that a 5 ½ hour flight home, alone with my thoughts, was not going to be easy.

Concerned that I wasn’t going to have enough tissues, I ran back to the bathroom to grab a few more.

And then once again for even more.

Calculating the precise number of tissues needed when a parent dies is not something that they teach you in school. Not even in AP Calculus.

Armed with 46 tissues, I headed to SFO.

I went through 5 tissues, in the UBER alone, on my way to the airport.

Every time I reached for a fresh Kleenex, I found myself counting tissues. It reminded me of how much my Dad loved numbers.

He was a math wiz who relished in memorizing digits and anything associated with them such as birthdays and anniversaries. He treasured dates and, until his stroke, never forgot a birthday. In earlier years, sometimes he would call me for no other reason than to inform me that it was some distant relative’s birthday that day.

Frequently, he would call again, just minutes later, with a joke. Many times, it was a joke that he had already told me before. Sometimes it would be such an unfunny joke that it would be insulting to even call it a joke.

But, I always laughed. Especially at the bad ones. To me, it was more amusing that my Dad actually thought his jokes were funny.

Seated on the plane, staring out at a heavenly sky, I couldn’t help but recount these seemingly silly – yet now achingly precious – moments with my Dad.

It was with this backdrop, and only 31 tissues left, that I began to pen my father’s eulogy.

My Dad was anything but conventional. He didn’t mow lawns on weekends. He joked far more than he reprimanded. He often answered serious questions with humor. He claimed to have been “allergic” to anything that he didn’t like. Instead of planning ahead, he focused on living – mostly by his own set of rules.

He was a free spirit who loved life, his daughters and, of course, numbers.

I decided there would be no better way to eulogize this unique, and somewhat quirky, man than numerically.

Although some have been guesstimated, here is my Dad’s eulogy by the numbers:

18,192 – the number of days that I shared this planet with my Dad. Coincidentally, 18,192 is also the approximate number of times that I heard my Dad tell me that he loved me. My father never ended a call with me without him uttering the words, “I love you.”


Considering I spoke to my father nearly every single day of my life (sometimes more than once), I think 18,192 is a pretty good estimate of “I love yous.”

LESSON NUMBER ONE: One can never say, “I love you” too much.

27 – the number of jokes that my Dad knew.

1 – the number of his jokes that would be considered “clean” or “child appropriate”.

270,000 – the number of times I heard my father tell a joke.

You don’t need to possess my Dad’s math skills to have an appreciation for how often my Dad told recycled jokes.

Everyone who ever came into contact with my Dad – from relatives to waiters to barbers to random passersby – knows why there are no Irish lawyers. But, for those who never met him, it’s because they can’t pass a bar.

LESSON NUMBER TWO: Even the most unfunny jokes can become funny when repeated enough times – even more so when they are only funny to the person telling them.

99 – number of pairs of Susan Benis Warren Edwards loafers that my Dad owned. 99 also happens to be the number of loafers that were ½ a size too small for his feet.

LESSON NUMBER THREE: Sometimes it’s better to look good than to be comfortable.

If you should ever notice me limping, it is due to lesson number three.

3,159 – number of button-down shirts my father owned. Coincidentally, 3,159 is also the number of button-down shirts that were missing every button above the navel region.

49 – the number of complaints I received from the staff at the senior living facility because my Dad’s chest hair was exposed in the dining room.

LESSON NUMBER FOUR: Not everyone appreciates exposed chest hair – particularly while dining. This is why I never ever expose mine in public.

The only thing more particular than my Dad’s fashion requisites were his eating habits.

0 – number of butter cubes allowed on the table as well as the acceptable amount of garlic permitted in recipes at restaurants.

No one hated butter and garlic more than my Dad. In fact, every single restaurant that my Dad frequented – and there were many because the man never stepped foot in a kitchen – knew about his “allergies” to butter and garlic.

LESSON NUMBER FIVE: People are highly allergic to things they dislike.

Lesson number five explains my sneezing attacks when unscrupulous lawyers are in close proximity.

1 – number of times I drove to Hershey Park with my Dad.

0 – the number of times I actually went to Hershey Park with my Dad.

Why? Because after sitting in 7 hours of Christmas Eve traffic, we arrived to find that Hershey Park was closed for Christmas. Who would’ve thought that an outdoor amusement park in Pennsylvania would be closed on a snowy Christmas day? Everyone but my Dad, that’s who.

My Dad wasn’t a man who planned. He was a guy who liked to show up where he wanted, when he wanted. And when things did not go quite as he had envisioned, he often just laughed. Maybe it was because he knew it would make for a funny story one day – you know, in case he ran out of jokes.

LESSON NUMBER SIX: Even the worst planned trips can make the most memorable and funny childhood experiences.

249 – the approximate number of movies I went to see with my Dad throughout my childhood and teenage years. 249 also happens to be the number of movies which were already well into Act II by the time we had arrived.

As I previously explained, my Dad lived by his own schedule – no one else’s. He didn’t care if amusement parks shut down for holidays or winter. And he certainly didn’t adhere to movie schedules. For us, movies started whenever we got to the theater. The fact that the movie was halfway over did not prevent us from buying a ticket. We would typically watch the end and then stay for the next showing to see the beginning. We rarely understood the plot until the second show.

Although, almost every movie I saw with my Dad was seen in this backwards manner, it taught me the most valuable lesson of all.

LESSON NUMBER SEVEN: Endings are not finalities. They are merely preludes to beginnings.

Perhaps life, just like our movie experiences, never ends. Maybe it just rolls right back into the beginning shortly after the credits roll.

I like to think that my Dad is now somewhere beginning anew – youthful, handsome and free once more.

Now, for someone who never felt the need to be on time, ironically, my Dad was always in a rush – well at least while driving. Nothing angered him more than being behind a slow driver.

This brings me to the number 25, also known as the number of times that my Dad drove over curbs and sidewalks just to pass a slow driver. And, when I mean, “slow”, I am referring to a driver going the speed limit.

LESSON NUMBER EIGHT: There is always a way around obstacles – even if it entails getting a few scratches.

There are so many lessons that didn’t make this list. But, I have officially run out of tissues. And frankly, I am wearing short sleeves.

With 0 tissues left, I’m going to end with the same number of which I began: 18,192, also known as the number of times I said, “I love you, too” to my Dad.

While I am comforted in my ample use of “I love yous”, there are 2 words I know I never said nearly enough: “thank you.”

Thank you, Daddy, for all of your life lessons.

Thank you for your generosity.

Thank you for your humor and sometimes, your lack of it.

Thank you for the pride I saw in your eyes every time you looked at me.

Thank you for your love.

And, most of all, thank you for not being like all of the other dads

Below is the front and back of a picture (taken at camp visiting day) that I recently found in an old wallet I used to carry a long, long time ago – back in the olden days when people kept physical pictures in non-digital wallets.

The inscription was penned 33 years ago, but the sentiment remains timeless.