Richard Harding Davis
August 9, 1921 to August 29, 2007
January 23, 1922 to October 13, 2009
This page is dedicated to the memory of my father who died on August 29, 2007 and my mother who died on October 13, 2009.
My father died two years following the death of Jack who is the subject of this web site and the book entitled Finding My Banana Bread Man.
My mother died just over four years following Jack's death.
My father (shown above - Top Picture) lived a total of 86 years. Sixty three years of his life were lived with my dear mother who experienced the pain associated with the loss of her mate until her own death two years following his passing. My father was a good man who saw only the best in his fellow man. He watched his son suffer through the loss of his mate. He experienced my writing the book highlighted on this web site and wanted to receive the first two copies of Finding My Banana Bread Man. A gift that will symbolically be his upon completion.
In tribute to, and memory of my father, is the eulogy I gave at the Veterans Cometary in Phoenix Arizona on November 7, 2007.
My Eulogy - to My Father
I was not sure what words to speak today in honor of my father.
Sometimes silence speaks louder than the words we let slip from our tongues.
However, I felt it would be fitting to share with you the essence of the man who shared 63 years of life with our mother and all the years of each of his children's lives until his recent death.
I wondered how to paint this picture of him — for you - in a verbal message that would capture
Then I realized I had already written his eulogy - in a letter to his brother and sister-in-law (Carl and Betty) at the time of his death - which really told the story of my father and who he was.
- What he meant to his family
That letter read as follows:
Dear Aunt Betty and Uncle Carl,
It was so very kind of you to send me a message of sympathy when Dad died. I know that his passing is especially difficult for both of you and in particular for you Uncle Carl. How do you say good-bye to some one who has known you your entire life? The death of a sibling is indeed a special type of grief — someone your own age and who knows ever piece of your own being.
I miss him — as I am sure you both do — but I am also grateful for the long and generous life he had and how he shared it with us all. He was indeed the most kind, considerate, understanding and gentle father. Any man would be proud to call him father - and I had the good fortune to have him as mine. He always wanted to be perceived as a "tough old bird" — and in fact referred to that in the final days of his life. He found himself crying as he was preparing himself to leave us all — he would cry with each of us and then apologize for not being "a tough old bird". However, it was the fact that he was not a "tough old bird" and was able to cry — and was truly a gentle soul - that made him who he was and why I loved him so very much.
It is truly impossible to replace some of the people who have recently vanished from my sight. My father, like Jack, is an irreplaceable presence in my life. I miss them both — and always will — but I also will never forget either of them.
They live forever in how we live our lives - and in our memories. Just as the old Jewish saying states — "The only truly dead are those who have been forgotten". A fate that neither Jack nor Dad will ever have to face.
You both mean the world to me.
Please know that I love you too.
To this letter, I attached a picture taken at our home Christmas Eve 2003 — which showed Jack and me with our Dog Dusky, Jacks son, granddaughter and daughter in law and my parents.
This picture does not appear here.
I then told my aunt and uncle how life had changed so quickly in one short year — I said:
By the following Christmas (2004 arrived) Dusky (our dog) was dead and Jack was ill and dying — a process and sequence of events that greatly effected the gentle soul of my father. During Jack's illness, he stopped doing his woodworking — he became depressed — he felt the pain that I was feeling. He saw his child in pain — and he felt that pain. He also lived long enough to watch me begin to recover from the sting of Jack's loss and start the long process of moving forward but never forgetting. In the last two days of his life, he finished reading the final edited draft of a book I have written in memory of Jack. It was the last thing he read. He loved it. That is probably a good omen — that the book has a good message. He said he wanted the first two copies when it was published. Therefore, — when Finding My Banana Bread Man is published later this year — he will symbolically receive the first two copies — just as he had requested.
This was the end of my letter to my aunt and uncle
My father was a perfect example of a life well led.
We should all remember the beautiful manner in which he completed each day of his life.
"Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are. Let me learn from you, love you, savor you, bless you before you depart. Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow. Let me hold you while I may, for it will not always be so. One day I shall dig my nails into the earth, or bury my face in the pillow, or stretch myself taut, or raise my hands to the sky, and want, more than all the world, your return."
We miss you Dad — and always will - and you will receive the first two copies of Finding My Banana Bread Man.
My mother (shown above - Bottom Picture) lived a total of nearly 88 years. Sixty three years of her life were lived with my dear father. My mother was a good woman who was the proverbial "Runt of the Litter" and the best of the litter - by far. She watched her son suffer through the loss of his mate. My mother expoereinced the actual publishing of my book Finding My Banana Bread Man and received those first two copies of the book which I had promised my father.
My Eulogy to My Mother
The Runt of the Litter
The word Runt according to The American Heritage Dictionary means, "An undersized animal of a litter; A person of small stature." Further definitions elsewhere describe the runt as "Small, stunted, weak; an undersized offspring" or the one who is "the member which is smaller and/or weaker than the others." In the wild, " a runt is less likely to survive infancy." A further explanation of a Runt goes something like this, "A runt may be a parents way of 'hedging its bets' — if food is plentiful, it gets an extra offspring, if not, it lets it die having only invested little in it in the first place."
My mother was a Runt. However, that is certainly not the end of the story but rather the beginning. Let me take you back in time. Let me make you wish - Let me make you desire - Let me make you ALL want to be the offspring of a Runt.
My mother was born in Parma Italy in 1922 the second child of three offspring of Julia and Primo/John Lusardi. Being the middle child she was not the oldest - and not the youngest. There is something know as the middle child syndrome. That child is often described as having a sense of not belonging as well as being ignored or dubbed off as being the same as another sibling and they fight to receive attention from the parents - resulting in insecurity. Furthermore the middle child is often described as lacking drive and looking for direction from the first born child. Sometimes a middle child feels out of place because they are not over achievers and like to go with the flow of things.
My mother was not your typical middle child. Yes she was the middle child - without a doubt. And yes she probably possessed some of the characteristics of the middle syndrome child, most notably not belonging and a sense of insecurity. However, she most definitely did not lack drive and she did not look in the direction of either of her siblings for direction. In addition, there is no one who would describe my mother as not being an achiever. She produced much more with much less - as the runt of the littler.
Let me tell you why - by telling you about her life:
On the voyage from Italy to America - at the age of one and a half - on a Streamliner named the Julius Cesar she became ill with Romantic Fervor. My Grandmother was informed that she was so gravely ill that she would be dead by morning and buried at sea. By morning - and through a night of prayers by my grandmother - my mother was well - and she avoided an early dead in a watery grave. Perhaps this was the beginning of that fighting spirit which dominated my mothers existence and ripped apart portions of the definition of the middle child that many would want to apply to the child in the center. She was about to show the world great achievement from the "center cut" of her family. She was about to show us all that you can take less and make it into more - that you can take the runt and make it the best. She started the process by turning death into life on the high seas.
Her family was financially devastated, as many families were during the depression. Poorer that the proverbial church mouse on Manhattans east side my mother would graduate with honors from Hunter College High School watching her mother scrub floors and do work as a seamstress to hold a family together, while enduring the burden of an absent father during a child's most informative years. She endured - and she achieved - in spite of poverty which would make each of us give up. The Runt - the middle child - marched forward.
At a Christmas USO dance in 1943 my mother and two of her friends were contemplating - from across the room - which service man to dance with. They referred to each of the three possible men to dance with by the name of the state they were from. There choices were Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Michigan. The other girls selected who they wanted - and that left my mother with the man from Michigan. Some would see this as my mother not standing up and being first in line to select which state she wanted. I see this as an act of kindness to her girlfriends and a willingness to "go with the flow" - and "go with the flow" is exactly what she did. One of those negative descriptions of the middle child syndrome - "going with the flow" was about to produce big dividends. The other girls - selecting first - did not find a husband that night - but my mother did. The Runt had found her soul mate - Richard. A little more "going with the flow" may be in order for all of us.
Two poor children who had nothing but love would produce three children, Barbara, Cate and myself. By the way - please note - I am the middle child. Financially my mother and father were poorer than her siblings, however they were rich in every other way. My mother was the perfect example of wealth not being the precursor to happiness. I remember how poor we were - how little we had in comparison to others - how hard this duo of Luciana and Richard worked to make sure their children grew into kind and caring individuals.
The Runt and her husband, through the years, were able to forge a modest and comfortable life through hard work, sweat and tears. No life is without struggle. They struggled to put food on the table, gas in the car, wood in the furnace. They went with out to ensure that the offer of a higher education than they had had - was offered to each of their children. My mother sacrificed her own career. She gave it all up and raise her family - and then returned to the work force years later. She was one of those pioneering woman who would reshape the work place when woman of the 1960's began to return to work following the rearing of her children. As she did all this she was redefining some of the old stereo types of the middle child - If middle children lack achievement - she had just proven them all wrong. Bravo for the runt.
Children raised - and on their own - retirement meant sunshine and Arizona for my parents. My dad always said that my mother was the most wonderful money manager. They lived what appeared to be a wealth life in a very very nice neighborhood in Scottsdale, Arizona. They were actually the poor people in the neighborhood. How could they afford to live there? Most of this was do to my mothers uncanny ability to make a dollar stretch. Just has she had done during her entire life she continued to turn a nickel into a dime, a dime into a quarter and a quarter into a dollar - at least it seemed that way. My mother could spend $25.00 dollars in the grocery store and leave the place with the employees shaking their head as they paid her to take groceries from the store. I can still see her checking her grocery slip after every check out - seeing if there was a mistake - then finding one - taking the item to the customer service counter - and because of an error getting the item free - and sometimes free plus your money back. Now you know one of my mothers secrets - just how she did what she did. How she allowed her and my dad to appear to live beyond their means. There was a lot of smoke and mirrors going on behind the scenes. Once again - Over achievement from the middle child - the runt.
When my life partner Jack died of a brain tumor over four years ago he was ill and blind for 10 months. I cared for him the entire time. There were moments when I was not sure if I could endure one more day one more hour of the pain and sorrow of watching the love of my life taken from me. Through out this entire ordeal my parents - my mother - visited Jack and I every other day - without fail. They watched as their own son struggled with loss - with death. They suffered each step of this journey with me - because that is who they were as people. My mother and my father were instrumental in ensuring that I was reborn again in the years following Jacks death. It appears my mother gave birth to me twice. How many children can say this about their mother.
I wrote of my parents in a book I wrote following Jacks death. Of my mother and father I said "They are the strength of my soul, the teachers of my 'self' the wisdom of years lived. You are the essence of how to live, and you've done so well. You are what parents should be to a child. I love you."
On the morning of Tuesday October 13, 2009 my mother was nearly 24 hours into the final moments of her life. The runt that had nearly been tossed overboard on a voyage from Italy to America was about to finally break the bonds of this life and enter whatever life has to offer us beyond these earthly ties. She was about to walk across that dance floor again and grab the hand of that man from Michigan. She was about to leave me too. I struggled to let her go. I did not want to. I wanted to keep her close - but I knew that was the wrong thing to do. Surgery would most certainly kill her - and if not it would alter her life so dramatically that my mother would not remain the same. I knew surgery would end her life or end life as she had lived it. In the end I let her decide. I told her what surgery would entail and what was the likely outcome. I asked her if she wanted the doctors to perform this surgery. She shook her head "no." It was a strong negative response to surgery and what it would do to her. My mothers last act was to relieve her son of this life and death decision.
This was my last conversation with my mother. Yes I told the doctors to take away her life support. Yes I signed the papers. And then I sat. Ray and I sat with my mother for five and a half hours - the room quite with music playing softly and my mother breathing slowly. In the final half hour her heart rate fell from 100 to 80 to 60 to 50 and finally at 45 she stopped breathing. It was 4:32 pm and she peacefully greeted my father on the other side of that dance floor.
So what has my mothers life taught me - what has it taught not only me but Barbara and Cate as well? What has it taught her grandchildren - John - Jessica - and Joshua, and her great-grandchildren? What has it taught all her family and friends now that you know the rest of her story? I see a remarkable story. I see a life well lived. I see determination, persistence, energy, open mindedness. I see intelligence, love and kindness.
Beyond that I see the dichotomy of both the definition of the Middle Child andThe Runt.
Perhaps insecure and a sense of not belonging. However, not and over achiever? And lacking drive and direction? - Here the analysis's have missed the mark entirely. My mother had great drive, direction and achieved much more with much less than anyone I know.
Perhaps undersized and small in stature - surely she was both of these. However, "smaller and/or weaker than the others," or "less likely to survive infancy?" Once again wrong - so totally wrong.
My mother took the position of the Runt - of the Middle Child - without choice -and turned it into gold. She turned it into something other family members envied. She was in fact the strongest, the kindest, the most compassionate the most intelligent the most enduring and the most endearing - of her family. She was rich - rich as defined by the Middle Definitions of that word in the American Heritage Dictionary which says, "Extremely productive, containing a large amount of choice ingredients, Pleasantly full, and warm and strong in color."
I am grateful that life was given to me - given to my sisters - by the middle child - the runt - of Julia and Primo Lusardi - I would have it no other way.
Mom - With all my heart - please let it be known - how much you were loved by your three children.