My dad died on January 21, 2010.
I'm still in shock.
But yesterday was his memorial service. I wrote a eulogy and I've included it here for those who may wish to read it.
Everything I learned about life can be traced to lessons that my dad taught me. I'd like to share with you a few things I've learned, growing up with Brian Quinlan.
The Importance of Family
Since my dad grew up in such a large family, his brothers and sisters were very important to him. When I was a child, I used to ask him about growing up on the farm. Every time he told me a farm story, I would cry.
Especially when he'd tell me, it was a really special day, on your birthday because Hope and Bill would give you a $1.00. I remember his stories about Christmas, how each kid would get one present, One year, dad and Tony each got a chicken that laid eggs when you press its back. Which in retrospect, is an odd choice for kids who grew up on a farm, with actual chickens, but anyway...
Each chicken was supposed to have six eggs, but my dad told me that Tony got all the eggs, so his chicken couldn't lay any. Dad claims that Tony wouldn't share any of his eggs, but dad tended to exxaragte.
Like my dad, my brothers became not just my family, but also my friends. Cool people I'd hang out with on purpose. One look at dad and Uncle Joe and you'd know that was true. Those two could finish each other's sentences. My favorite thing to do was to watch them interact.
I was having one of my many cars fixed at Joe's school. My dad and I were getting ready to leave, and dad in his painstaking slow way, explained to me at least twice, how I was to pull over and wait for him at the Clio exit.
As my dad started to say the same thing for the third time, Joe leaned over the car and says: "Kook, you are not hard of hearing, right?" I laughed and said no.
Joe said, "She got it Tubby. Clio exit. She's not stupid.
My dad told me the story of when he decided to enlist in the Vietnam War. It was 1966. Dad and Bill Haney were studying for a test in the OCC cafeteria. Dad looked at Bill, and said, "Are you thinking what I'm thinking?" Bill and dad shoved their books in the garbage and they went to enlist in the Marine Corps.
He spent 13 months in the jungle, and saw horrors the rest of us could only imagine. Vietnam changed him, and he never slept well the rest of his life. Choosing most nights the comfort of his Lazy boy over his bed.
Later in his life, that same war ravaged his body with cancer and it was then we realized what a fighter my dad was. He was tough. He beat cancer twice.
He fought hard for nearly seven years.
Find True Love
My parents met in 1965. Their mutual friend, Bill Haney told my mom that my dad didn't have anybody to write to him, when he went into the Marines, so my mom started writing letters to my dad every day when he was at boot camp at camp Lejoyne. She had no idea that my dad had 11 brothers and sisters.
When he got out of boot camp, he asked my mom out on a date and they were inseparable ever since. The letter writing continued while my dad was in Vietnam. And when he came back from the war, Hope asked if he was going to marry her? Dad said he didn't know, and Hope in her gentle way, said you better marry that girl. She is good to you.
My dad drove up to ask my mom to marry him while she was at Michigan State. He showed up in the middle of the night in a borrowed Corvette. They got married on April 19, 1969 in Orchard Lake.
Learn a Trade
My dad taught us how important it was to have a skill or a career. He was an entrepreneur and an excellent salesman. He started Quinlan Tree Service in 1969, and grew the business from a one-man business that cut lawns to a company with a fleet of trucks to become one of the biggest tree services in Oakland County. When he got sick with cancer, Shane and Jeff abandoned their own tree company to take over and run Quinlan Tree Service for my dad.
But BQ was always quick with the advice.
In the summer of 2000, Jeff hurt his wrist, and Shane and Jeff were stressed about what to do:
BQ said, "Just cut more trees."
As his only daughter, his little Goil as he called me, I was exempt from tree work. But the same couldn't be said about Shane and Will. As he taught, Shane Will and Jeff, Shane's best friend that he treated like his own son, the tree service trade, he stressed the importance of college and career for me.
I went to Ferris State University for my undergrad degree and the best part of that experience was often the letters, I'd get from my dad.
He'd go through periods of great hardship, only to rally again. But during one of the lean times, he'd written to tell me, not to be embarrassed that your dad is currently living in a camper. In fact, he'd stressed, that I shouldn't mention it, as some kids might be jealous because their dads lived in a car and he didn't want people to think I was bragging."
I graduated with a B.S. in Business with an Advertising Major. Dad asked me, " What can you actually do with that degree? Can you be an Accountant?" I said, "God, I hope not."
We both laughed. Advertising copywriting is a very competitive field and when I couldn't find a job, I went to work in property management. When I realized, I was better at writing copy, than collecting rent checks, I went to grad school for copywriting in Atlanta.
At that time, my dad's tree business was booming and he paid for my entire education while I was there.
Know when to take Advice
Dad gave me love advice too. Telling me, "Plumbers need love too."
And, " Don't be a beaten women. Speak up."
To Will after he moved into his first apartment: (who'd bought a whole palate of Mac and cheese to subsist on.)
"You know, BJ, there is nutrition you can't get in macaroni and cheese."
Have a Hobby
My dad loved to bass fish. Shane, dad, and I used to spend hours fishing. Always starting at dawn with orange juice and Snicker bars. When I was about 8, my dad took me fishing by myself and he bought me a bamboo pole. As we sat in the boat in a narrow channel, with riverbank on either side of us, I tried to cast my pole, only to hook it into my dad's back.
I giggled and giggled. My dad didn't yell at me, but calmly told me to get his fishing knife, so I could cut the hook out of the back of his shirt. That was our last solo fishing trip.
When Shane, BJ and I were little, my dad would buy us kites on Easter Sunday and then he'd spend the afternoon, showing us how to fly them.
Stand Up for Yourself
And I used to stand up to him all the time. When I was living with him after he was first diagnosed with cancer, we had a rough go of it some days. Both of us cooped up in that little condo. One winter day, I couldn't stand it any longer and since I didn't have a car, I suggested dad and I go to look at Christmas decorations.
Dad said: We can't go out. It's 8 O'clock at night.
Me: So. What's your point?
Dad: " Well, if we leave now I won't have a parking space. And besides I am 57 years old.
Me: I'm 30. So what? You can't live and die by a parking space.
Well, apparently you could, as we stayed home that night.
Show Compassion/ Kindness
Dad was so generous with his gifts and his money. He was the type of person, that even if he were down to his last $20.00, he'd give you $10.00, if he thought you needed it. He have rather picked up a hitchhiker and fed him, than he would have gone out and spent money at a fancy restaurant. Whatever he had, he shared it. I once asked to borrow money to repair my car, and I had wanted to pay him back in installments:
Dad: Is it a good check?"
Me: Yes, why would I write you a bad check?
Dad: "Don't be a hero."
Dad shared everything, including food.
Once when I was at his house, he insisted that I take home some of his chicken salad he'd just bought at a gourmet store. I finally agreed, so he gets out some plastic wrap and puts a giant ball of chicken salad in the middle of it, hands it to me, and says,
"Here you go.
" I said, dad, how am I supposed to drive home with a ball of chicken salad?
Dad" I suppose you need a container.
He grudgingly gave me a travel coffee mug to transport it home in.
He loved Hawaiian shirts. The crazier the print, the better. The only person who loved random assorted shirts, as much as my dad was Uncle Joe.
My dad was brutally honest about everything. A few years ago when he got a bad report from his doctor saying that the cancer was in his spine, my dad called and we had the following conversation:
Dad: Well, Kelly. That's it. I'm gonna die." Cancer is in my spine and that's it.
Me: Crying. No, dad I don't want you to die."
Dad: It's ok. You had a hard time getting started with your life, and better me, than you."
Me: I don't think so, dad. I don't want you to die." Me still crying."
Dad: "I can't listen to you cry any more. Can you go call your mother so she can console you? "
And then he hung up.
Last year when we were at Joe's funeral, dad saw Casey outside and dad says, " "Well Casey, it's only gonna get worse from here."
Don't Be Afraid to Start Over
After my parents divorced, Dad found love again with Nora Jones. Dad told me once, that he "wasn't a whore." And that he'd only loved two women. There was a long pause, and then my dad said, "One of them was your mother, you know.
Post divorce my dad would pick us up on Sunday, and we'd go to Nora's house and watch Paul Newman movies. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Sometimes a Great Notion, The Hustler, Cool Hand Luke. When we weren't watching movies, he would take us to Chuck E Cheese or to putt putt golf on Dixie Highway.
Learn New Things
My dad attempted to embrace technology with email and texting. But he is the only person I've ever met, who ever paid for his Yahoo email account.
When I was living with him, Tony sold him his first Mac laptop, and dad started complaining about his computer being low on memory.
I said dad, "It looks like you downloaded an entire Harry Potter novel. Twice."
Dad said, who the hell is Harry Potter?"
"Smoke em, if you got em.
"Happy Cinco De Mayo. You're not Mexican."
I wrote back and said, " Neither are you."
Dad: Yeah, but I've been to Canada."
Dad sent me a text, when we on a girl's weekend in Nashville:
" Ernest Hemingway said, " All good stories end with a drink somewhere."
Celebrate your Heritage
My dad used to surprise us on St. Patrick's Day. We'd wake up in the morning to find our front porch decorated with paper shamrocks and piles of potatoes, with notes, "Erin Go Braugh" and Top of the Mornin to you." He loved story telling and he relished in his Irish heritage.
I remember one Christmas, I unwrapped a present to find, a Quinlan Tree Service sweatshirt.
Dad says, "You don't seem very excited.
Me" Well, you got me one last year."
Dad" Good thing your name is still Quinlan then."
Love is Everlasting
Even though my parents have been divorced, for the last twenty years, their love never left. We spent every holiday together and through it all, my parents remained life long friends.
Dad: Shane, Will, and I will take care of each other.
We love you.
See you on the other side.