Saturday, February 6, 2016

Back in the Saddle

I have really missed writing. I have been having a long-term affair with Facebook, which has led to many fruitless hours spent on posts no longer than 3 or 4 sentences, with no arc but too much snark. I am resolved to throttle back on my Facebook activity and spend some quality time writing and getting reacquainted with the blogosphere and, more importantly, my own voice.

A catalyst in all this was being faced with the task of writing my father's eulogy. He died on January 2, and his funeral is next weekend. I was crazy about my dad, and though this task caused all my waterworks to burst open anew, I typed and edited through tears and in the end it was really cleansing for me.

So here it is, along with a picture of my dad, handsome and debonair as he was:

I want to begin by thanking all of you so much for being here. Our family is so touched by the outpouring of support and comfort we’ve received. And thanks to modern technology, there have been many people who have been able to reach out from all over to let us know how special Dad was to them. Your kind words have meant the world to us.

Today we say goodbye and sweet dreams to my beloved dad. It was such an honor to know him. Where do I begin to sum up Frank Serresseque? He was so many things—Father, husband, teacher, singer, actor, director, bon vivante. raconteur, son of French immigrants.

I’m sure most of you will remember that Dad was an amazing host. A dear friend mentioned recently that being at 306 West Midland Street was like being at the Round Table at the Algonquin. Our household was rich with a steady stream of lively, intelligent, creative people. Dad loved a good party. If you were a guest in his home he would never let your beverage reach the empty level. He would say “Let me freshen your drink my dear” and if you said "oh no just a half a drink!" He would level his gaze at you and say, “I don't make half drinks. If you want to drink half that's your business.” On warm summer nights he’d hold court on the front porch. Friends and neighbors would pass by, popping in for a quick hello, and slinking home hours later.

And no gathering was complete without music. It poured out of the piano and the giant speakers in the living room. Dad’s taste in music was extremely eclectic—and his record collection was—and still is-- massive!

   He had a passion for travel and culture. He created the Humanities program at Central High School. He was brave enough to take groups of teenagers on trips to places like Washington DC and Colonial Williamsburg. He would have been so delighted to read all the online comments last month from scores of people whom he’d taught. He would have loved knowing that he instilled a sense of curiosity and a love of travel in so many of his students. He and my mom went on many wonderful trips to Europe with friends and family.  One memorable summer, he lugged the four of us, plus his parents and his sister all over France, taking on the roles of tour guide, interpreter, chauffeur and activities coordinator. All this in a VW bus that had to be pushed down a hill to start. It's a wonder he didn't need another month’s vacation after all that. But he loved travelling and especially loved France with all his heart! He was so proud of his French heritage.

Never was there a man with more exemplary manners. One could almost say that he was obsessed with good manners. Even at 88 years old, He would stand at an open door and wait until hell froze over rather than walk through that door before a lady. He would even insist on walking on the outside of the sidewalk, towards the street, and if you didn’t oblige he would stop and move you over to the correct side of the sidewalk. Dinner time was a nightly test of our p’s and q’s. While it was sometimes challenging to grow up under the watchful eye of “Politeness Man”, we kids have gone on to be forever grateful for such good training.

For a man who made an honest but fairly modest living as a teacher and a church musician, Dad had a love of beautiful and expensive objects. Where he got his taste for Waterford crystal and Rolex watches, I will never know. But he had a love for fine and beautiful things. He lavished wonderful presents upon my mom. In his later years he ended up giving away a lot of those wonderful and shiny things, because his taste for fine objects was only surpassed by his generosity. Being generous gave Dad a great deal of joy.

   I would be completely remiss in this eulogy if I did not speak to what a spectacular singer my father was.  He didn't just sing a song. He would build a song in layers like a painting with color and direction and emotion. He had so much soul when he sang. He had the sort of gift that could not be taught. It was hard wired in him and he shared it widely, filling theatres and concert halls with his rich bass baritone. We will never forget his Emile deBecque, his Tevye, his Don Quixote, his Gianni Schicchi. He brought the world to us with his voice.

   We will miss Frank Serresseque immensely, but we carry him in our hearts. All the very best of him lives on in all of us who knew him. Dad, you put on a great show! This is your final curtain call. Thank you for gracing us with your presence. Now take a much deserved bow!

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