My father has always been a large part of my poetry; the reason many folks have been attracted to my work. In the poems he is a literary character who is very sure of himself. I’m not sure that was my father, who tended to be an anxious man, who would reassert himself in the damdest ways. I hope what follows is a eulogy for the actual man and not the character. The two have become married in my mind, and that has been the heavy cost for me for writing so much about him. Here’s my remarks minus the tears and halting voice:
My sister has asked me to say a few words about my father. She also told me to make my remarks church appropriate. As those of you who knew my father know, these parameters cause a certain problem. Because Albert Berecka, a onetime merchant marine, could aptly be described as salty. But beneath the crust and bravado, he was a good husband who enjoyed two marriages that lasted over 20 years each; he was a good father, grandfather and a loyal friend. He was generous with his time and talents, often volunteering at St. George’s church, or helping friends and relatives with repairs and projects. During the summers, farmers would appear at our house to ask him to weld their equipment. He would go to the farms and refuse payment for his labor. He awoke often to find anonymous offerings of produce and libations on his front porch.
His life was guided by many rules. Maxims that Janis and I called the Rules of Albert. Among these dictums were never visit someone again, until your visit is repaid; don’t look for sympathy; go to mass on Sunday; the longer the sermon, the smaller the offering. Albert, don’t worry. This talk will stay in the money.
The most important rule was to be honest. To that end Albert lived a quest to reveal hypocrisy and prick at the pretentious. He often accomplished these tasks by saying the most inappropriate things at the most appropriate times.
He lived this way to the very end. While his health and memory failed in his last days, Janis would remind him daily that I was coming in from Corpus to visit. Each day he’d ask, “Why’s he coming?” Not wanting to say that I was coming to make sure I got a chance to say good bye, she would make up a different excuse each time. One day she said, “Alan’s coming because he misses me.” Albert gave her that look that only Albert could give and said, “I don’t think so!”
As you all know, Albert was not a saint, but was as unique and authentic as they come. And in spite of his flaws, he was a good man, who tried his best. And if we are really honest about it, what better thing can be said of any man.