My father did not want a funeral and so my family honored that. But I felt I needed to do something for myself to have some sense of closure. On Saturday October 4th some of my friends met me at Baker Beach where I read something I wrote about my Dad and then threw a bottle out into the ocean with a photo of us in it and a copy of what I wrote. My friend John Goldie took photos of the whole thing for me. It was a very emotional experience but also very needed. I can't give enough thanks to my friends who came out to the beach with me and my friend Jules for putting on a wonderful brunch afterward, full of loud talking and drinking and laughing which all were as needed as the memorial.Eulogy for my father, Gilbert Walter Ohnesorge
May 20, 1941-September 29, 2008
I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to start this, what to say first about my Dad, a man I’ve known my whole life. How could I come up with the perfect first words or sentences? I started to write several things and then erased them. And then I realized it’s impossible to find the perfect words to express something as intangible and profound as the impact my Dad’s love and presence has had on my life.
I wish I could say that my father was a happier man in his 67 years on this planet. He often struggled with deep depression and it colored so many aspects of his existence. But in spite of the sorrow that seemed to cling to him he was one of the most loving and loveable people I have ever known. Anyone who met him, from the waitress taking our order at restaurant to a friend of mine meeting him for the first time, fell in love almost instantly. He was a charming, warm and engaging man, quick with a laugh and a joke and armed with an encyclopedic knowledge of everything from competitive sports to wildlife to architecture and many subjects in between. He gave so much love and support to those close to him, even if he would more often turn away from those same people when they tried to provide comfort or insight into his many personal, inner battles.
My mother and father divorced when I was two years old and from then on I only saw my father on alternating weekends, holidays and my birthday. From a young age I could tell he often struggled with his ability to be a father. As a child I often misread this as him not being able to handle having me in his life. As an adult I came to realize that he often didn’t think he was a good enough person to even be a father. And yet, when I spent much of my childhood and adolescence performing in local and school theatrical productions, my father was always there to cheer me on, whether I was playing the lead in a musical or a talking animal with three lines in a staged fairytale. I remember one time, although I don’t recall which play, that he told me he liked my performance that night but thought I was stronger in a previous production. Some people might think this to be cruel on the part of a parent. But I remember being so excited that my Dad was taking what I was doing seriously, even at such a young age. He was giving me constructive criticism as opposed to patronizing me and talking down to me, the way so many adults do with children.
When I was twenty-five my Dad went through a brief spell of trying parent me as if I were still a teenager: telling what to do and not do and trying to impose rules on my life even though I was living in a completely different time zone as him. We argued about it a great deal until, during one heated phone conversation, I told him that it was too late to be this kind of father to me. He expressed regrets and guilt about things he felt he should have done or said when I was younger. I stopped him saying that there was no magic spell or time machine that would allow him to fix the past so, instead of trying, why not just try to have a good relationship with me now, as adults. I don’t know if he ever fully let go of his guilt, it’s impossible to say. But I do know that he listened to me about trying to have a good relationship with me in the present. From then on I noticed a change in the way we related to each other. We had much more honest, adult conversations and I came to feel like I could talk to my Dad about a lot of things that I never could in the past. And he’d listen and be more honest with me than most people in my life.
But one thing that never changed about my Dad, no matter my age, was the way he said “I love you” to me at the end of every phone call. It was always the most genuine, emotionally true expression. I could feel it and hear it – his voice would change when he said it. It never had the false ring or call-and-response feel that it can have with some people. It was always pure and conveyed so much by saying so little. And that is what I will truly miss the most about him. I would give anything to have one more phone call with him just so I could hear those words one last time. But I know that even that would never be enough.
I love you forever, Dad.