Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Farewell Dad

The last two days have been spent saying our goodbyes to Dad with his funeral mass for family and friends yesterday and a private interment at the cemetery today. We have been well supported by everyone as we go through this difficult time of mourning. My brother James and I took turns delivering the following remembrance of Dad at the funeral mass:

Our Dad was born and raised in the Sunset in San Francisco as the only child to Ralph and Cathryne Ellis. His entrepreneurial spirit kicked in during his high school years as he bought old cars, fixed them up and then sold them. This entrepreneurism continued during his life as he built an apartment building on the lot of his parents’ house after they passed, and started his own business out of our garage, Motion Enterprises, which sold welding products.

Dad and Mom were married in the early 1970s and moved from the City to live in Marin. Dad married into a large extended family, and I wonder what it was like for him to all of a sudden have all these new brothers and sisters-in-law (and later nieces and nephews) and the many cousins on both sides of my Mom’s family who referred to him as “The Big E.”

I was born in the mid-1970s and James came along four years later. Since Dad worked in San Rafael, he was the one who would pick us up from school or day care in his old orange Chevy pic-up truck, which we could hear coming up the street. Dad also cooked the family dinner most nights as we were growing up, since Mom worked in the City. Dad loved to cook and was always searching for new recipes to try out, with the ones that worked well marked “keep” and making repeat appearances on our plates. He loved a kitchen gadget, from barbecues to various kitchen utensils and tools that would make food preparation and cooking easier. The internet made finding these gadgets and devices quite easy, and as a result finding places to store them all in the house became a long-standing challenge.

Dad’s love of cars meant there was usually a project going on in the garage or on top of the driveway. I was fortunate enough to be able to work alongside my father in tricking out my vehicles. When I was a teenager we worked together on an El Camino and a Chevy S10 pick-up truck. Dad’s latest project was his 1934 Ford roadster, which he built from scratch. Unfortunately, due to his declining health he was unable to completely finish it, but don’t worry, I swore to him that I will get it done.

One thing I am going to miss is cruising with Dad to the Goodguys car shows in Pleasanton. It was so fun looking at all the cars and trucks with him. After the shows he would take me to In-N-Out Burger for a special treat, as that was his favorite burger place.

Dad and Mom both loved to watch sports on tv and we would often spend our Sundays watching the 49ers play football. They were also big fans of the San Francisco Giants and Golden State Warriors. Dad was a huge supporter of my youth sports career as he attended my soccer games and helped coach my CYO basketball team. He was also in the stands each week to cheer me on in high school when I played football and basketball.

Dad did like a drink or two. His favorite was red wine out of a box or the “red paint” as it would be referred to at family parties. When Dad was in hospital James messaged me to say that Dad wanted a bourbon and 7UP – I told him to give Dad the drink (although I don’t think the hospital staff would have let that occur). When we brought Dad’s urn back to the house last week we thought it was only fitting that it be placed on the bar.

We have learned many things from our Dad. He loved watching car races – from Formula 1 to Indy cars to drag racing. He taught us life skills such as how to swim, drive and take care of our cars, do home renovations, cook, and manage our money responsibly. Dad always encouraged us to pursue what we loved and were interested in, as his only concern was our happiness. He supported us every step of the way through our education and careers, and always said we could return home if we needed to. He got so much joy from his daughter-in-law Simi and grandchildren, Logan and Kylie, and the time he was able to spend with them.

Dad’s health had been in decline over the past decade, and I know that it frustrated him that he couldn’t do all the things he was used to doing. Mom did an amazing job looking after him and taking him to numerous doctors’ appointments, which I would get to hear about when I called from Australia to talk to them on the phone. Over the past couple of years Dad’s health had been pretty stable, so it was a surprise to us that he suddenly deteriorated so quickly. Dad appreciated the full life he had led and was ready to go. We are grateful that we were able to say our goodbyes and be with him at his bedside as he passed on. Dad, we love you and will miss you so much, but are happy that you are now at peace.

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

Jojo Rabbit

One benefit of being in the States at the moment is that I had the opportunity tonight to go with my friend Lynne to see Taika Waititi's new film Jojo Rabbit, which doesn't open in Australia until Boxing Day. Billed as an anti-hate satire, it is based on the book Caging Skies by Christine Leunens.

The movie is set in Germany towards the end of World War II and centers around young boy Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis), who is being raised by his mother Rosie (Scarlett Johansson). Jojo becomes part of the Hitler Youth, and is cheered on by his imaginary friend, Adolf Hitler (hilariously played by Taika Waititi). As the movie progresses Jojo discovers that his mother is hiding a Jewish girl, Elsa (Tomasin McKenzie), in the attic of their house. Jojo realises that he needs to keep this secret to protect himself and his mother, and ends up becoming friends with Elsa as time goes on.

While the movie has some absurd and funny parts, it also has some quite dramatic moments, and is a more serious film than people might expect from Taika Waititi. Both Lynne and I really enjoyed it and it will have you thinking about the correlations to the present times we are living through as you leave the movie theater.

Friday, November 01, 2019


My Dad's health has not been the best over the past decade after he had his first heart attack and was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. There was a point a few years ago where he was entering hospital every couple months with fluid build up. But the doctors managed to get his medications working to a point where his body stabilised and he was doing much better than in the past - so much so that I figured I wouldn't travel to the States this year for Christmas.

Unfortunately two weeks ago Dad took a sudden turn for the worse. His AFib starting acting up again and Mom took him to hospital. They attempted to stabilise him but after a few days his blood pressure dropped and he ended up in ICU, where they did a cardioversion to try and restore normal heart rhythm. His heart was weak though and the rest of his organs were starting to fail. I can tell you that this is not the news you want to receive when you live half way around the world. It was a wait and see game for a couple of days of whether I should fly home as they tried kidney dialysis to see if that would help. However, after a few days of doing that Dad had had enough and decided to stop treatment.

On Wednesday I booked a flight to San Francisco and was on a plane six hours later. Dad had been moved into step-down care and was still alert but tired by the time I arrived. He felt he had had a good life and made the call that he was ready to pass on. We were all able to say our goodbyes and be with him as he was unhooked from the machines and moved into comfort care to ensure he wasn't in any pain. It took longer than he or us probably expected, but he finally took his last breath this morning with me, my Mom and brother at his side. I am grateful I was able to make it back home in time to say goodbye and spend these last couple days with him. I know he is in a better place now and I will miss him greatly.
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