My five siblings and I lost my dad, Louis Ottone, Jr., this last week. Below is my talk about my dad the night before his funeral.
My dad was a great man. He worked hard and served his community. He was a good son and a good husband. Most importantly to me, he was my dad. You couldn’t ask for a better one.
One of my earliest memories must have been when I was three or four. My siblings and I would be in church with my parents. My dad made it a habit to play a little game. He would hold our hands and take our thumbs and push on them. It was gentle. But he would keep gently bending them back until we would laugh. At that point, we would get a stern look from my mom. I think that was the point of the game. I don’t know. I just knew it was hard to be serious when my dad was around.
Some of my memories had to do with my dad’s work.
I can remember going ‘smelling’. Once upon a time, there must have been complaints from the residents living in the vicinity of the rendering plant. So every once in a while, we would drive out to the neighborhoods just upwind of the plant and stick our heads out out the car windows and breathe. It was a little weird, but that’s what you did when your dad did what he did. Good times.
Another time I remember when Royal Tallow, a rendering company in San Francisco, went on strike. I was about 10. So my dad spent an entire Saturday picking up grease from the restaurants on their route. I got to go with him and it was a really special day, having him all to myself, riding along in the truck.
I looked up to my dad and when I was a child, I often thought that I might some day be involved in the family business. But somewhere along the line, I decided to focus on working with LIVE animals instead.
Later on, we spent many Saturdays together as he rented a horse trailer so I could go to play days with the horses. I didn’t realize at the time what a sacrifice of his time he made for me. He did it because he loved seeing me involved in something active and he would always encourage us to do anything with sports. And he just gave of himself. He did everything for us.
Dad loved running the Bay to Breakers race way before it became the big street party it is now. When he got all of us involved in the 80’s, it was really fun. I ran with him then, until I had my first son, Trevor at age 30. Then I stopped for a while.
When I decided to come back to running at age 47, my dad was encouraging. But he didn’t seem at all enthusiastic that my goal was to run a marathon, which is 26.2 miles. I couldn’t quite figure it out. I did know that the longest he had ever run was 20 miles. After a while, I chalked it up to the fact that he hadn’t experienced the distance and didn’t know how to advise me. It wasn’t until several years later, that I learned on the day of the 20 miler he did, a run from Salinas to Monterey, he had forgotten his running shoes. He ran the whole thing in dress shoes. Now, if I had run that far in dress shoes, I’m pretty sure that I wouldn’t have ever wanted to run a step farther than that. Ever.
No tribute to my dad is compete with about talking about skiing. I am a solidly intermediate skier. I will never be the skier my dad was, and I’m ok with that. I know to stay on the intermediate hills. One time, my dad pretended it was by accident, but I don’t think there was any accident about it. He got me up to the top of a Black Diamond run…those are the hard ones. I started to say that I couldn’t get down it, but he assured me that I had enough skill to work my way down. He insisted that I could get done any slope there if I took it slowly and carefully. It wasn’t pretty, but I got down that hill. He taught me well.
He believed you were never too old to learn something new, I don’t know how old he was, but he took Japanese classes before traveling to Japan on a trip.
Dad, I just want you to know, I was missing French class Thursday night to attend your celebration of life.
As I mentioned earlier, I decided to make my career working with animals. And that has been the case with every job I have ever had. Except one. Well, it did involve dogs. Hot dogs. Although I credit meeting my future husband with Joanne’s job at Burger King, I worked at Der Weinersnitzel. In spite of the fact that the store was held up at gun point just two weeks into my employ, Mom and Dad let me continue working there. I didn’t like the work every much, but I made a commitment to stay for four months until I graduated from high school. One day, in May, I was scheduled to work 5-8 pm and I just didn’t want to do it. I was just about to call into the store to tell them I wasn’t feeling well, something I had never done before. Somehow, Dad caught wind of that plan and he wasn’t very happy about it.
There was a look of disappointment in his eyes and I remember that I didn’t ever want to see that look again. He proceeded to tell me that life doesn’t work that way. There were plenty of times he didn’t want to go to work but he did it anyway, because it was the right thing to do. I will never forget the words he said to me. “It builds character to do things you don’t want to do.” It was the biggest lesson he ever taught me. I got up, I went to work, and I was glad that I did. I never pulled that nonsense again.
To this day, when I have an internal struggle going on and I have to make a decision, I often go back to that day. What is the right thing to do? What would my dad do? And often it becomes clearer.
He was an amazing man and he taught us a lot.
He was great man.
But most importantly, he was my dad.
Someone mentioned that we are hoping there are ski runs in heaven. While I have no doubt my dad is skiing up there, it reminded me of a bumper sticker I used to see…”When hell freezes over, I’ll ski there too.”
Yeh, that was my dad.