This Saturday, October 24, 2015, my husband will be accompanying his 92-year-old father, Fred Moritz, to Washington, DC on the Honor Flight Buffalo for World War II Veterans. This opportunity brings veterans to DC to see the memorials erected in their honor, all expenses paid. As veterans are not permitted to bring a spouse as guardian, my husband Derek gets to go with his dad. As part of the experience, Fred’s grandchildren were asked to write letters to him in which they express what he means to them. I’d like to take the opportunity to publicly honor the man who shaped so much about my husband and all five of his grandchildren.
I’m so very grateful for the opportunity to know you and to call you first dad and then Papa. As a nervous young college student, I came to Gowanda after dating your son Derek for a couple of years. Since Derek was my first boyfriend, I remember feeling very nervous about how to act when I met his parents. That feeling dissipated within moments of meeting you as your open, warm and generous spirit greeted me at the Palm Gardens. You then proceeded to take me on a tour of everything from the kitchen to the basement of the motel! From that first day, you treated me like someone special and what I most remember is always being able to sit and talk with you in those round chairs in the living room. You showed a genuine interest in me, my thoughts, and my career. You really listened to me, as you did with all of us. All of these years later, after almost 29 years of marriage to your son, your kind, caring and positive attitude continue to guide our family. Thank you, for every conversation, laugh, and dinner you bought. Most of all, thank you for being the man who you are–the man who so greatly influenced the man I married and love. Here are a few of the things I most remember from all of these years together.
You are generous to a fault. If you have $100 in your pocket, you find a way to give any one of us $120 if we need it. One of us can’t mention our own vehicle without you saying, “take my truck!”
Whenever any one of us messes up, you are the most supportive, loving parent we could hope to find. Before Derek and I were even married, I smashed that Capri I drove into a guardrail on Broadway Road. You and Derek showed up and instead of yelling at me as I was expecting (my own dad’s typical reaction), you both embraced me, asked if I was okay and told me it was just a car.
Even when Derek, Charisse, Bill and I were young and in our heyday, you could ALWAYS drink the rest of us under the table. We’d all wake up the next morning, hurting from the night before, and you’d be singing in the kitchen telling us, “you can’t soar with the eagles if you’re going to hoot with the owls!” But somehow you always managed to do so.
Thank you for teaching our children to dive, all five of the grandkids, with countless hours in that pool. A favorite family memory is definitely the day you were sitting by the pool, having cocktails with your friends and you suddenly decided one of the kids wasn’t diving quite right so you decided to show him how it was done. Fully clothed. Snookered. With $100 dollar bills floating to the surface around you.
Those chickens. I will forever walk through the yard with my head down looking to avoid the chicken poop thanks to the ridiculous number of chickens you kept in the yard. For the tolerance of this alone, my mother in law deserves a medal. No one ever has loved a pet more than you’ve loved those darn birds.
When my own father was absent from my life, you stepped in and treated me with kindness and compassion and love. Thank you for always being a father to me.
Because of your example, a valued family trait has always been chutzpah. Or in your words, “balls”–nothing worse than being a dunkie, right? I’m grateful that you helped us to instill courage into our children–the ability to take a risk and to stand up and do what’s right. I’m so very thankful that I’m married to a strong man who’s raised our own kids to be able to take care of themselves. I’m certain that even now at 92 years old you wouldn’t hesitate to use a quick right hook if needed.
Thank you for the great advice you gave me about how to drive in the snow on the way home from Forestville 30 years ago. I still hear your voice when I’m nervous on bad roads, “a constant speed Kim, slow and easy”.
Warning to Readers: There is some questionable language coming up–this post is intended to honor and memorialize Freddy for our family, which means including the expressions our children have grown up with. We have so many colorful expressions thanks to Papa, many that no one seems to know but us–our own family language:
- “they’re going to find her at the bottom of the bird cage”
- “tell him to go piss up a rope”
- “too many chiefs, not enough Indians”
- “big as a horse”
- “dumb as a box of rocks”
- “you can’t get a racehorse out of a jackass”
- “if I had a dollar for every time. . .”
- “he’s a real dandy”
- “SHUT THE DOOR!”
- “that one’s getting whippy”
- “next time, I won’t have my hat in my hand”
- “have a hot toddy”
- “they’ve got brakes, let ’em use them!”
- “too stupid to get out of the rain”
- “can’t find his a** with both hands” also, “doesn’t know his a** from a hole in the ground”
- “lazier than a white dog”
- And who hasn’t been called “joe balls” by Papa?
Papa, I’m forever grateful for the model we have of how much you and Omi have loved each other for 50+ years. This is your #1 contribution to our family. Even when you’re constantly busting her chops, telling us that you slaved all day to prepare a meal when you couldn’t make toast if necessary or yelling at her to “sit down!”, you both stand as a clear and beautiful example to the rest of us of how to love one another, to make a family together and to stand beside each other through it all.
I love you Papa. I hope you and Derek have a fantastic day on Saturday. You definitely deserve this honor!