Goodbye, Papa

Paul David Faw

Born December 24, 1934

Died May 24, 2012

Rest in Peace

My dad was a real character.  In everyday conversation he might use a funny accent, a sound effect, or a silly face.  In fact, he would probably do all three in quick succession, which made him a great story teller.  Reading stories to us when we were little, he would do all the different voices.  He had a repertoire of children’s songs and stories performed with imagination and gusto: There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly is a classic and so is The Three Billy Goats’ Gruff.  And who could forget Little Rabbit Frou Frou?

My sister reminded me of his “not quite straight up variations on nursery school songs”.  Two that come to mind are Put Your Finger Up Your Nose and My Bonnie Has Tuberculosis.

He felt called to the ministry as a young man but ended up deciding it wasn’t the right path for him.  Later when he got into community theater we said that his urge to be a pastor had really just been an opportunity that gave him an audience every Sunday.

He had such a wonderful experience doing Fiddler on the Roof, the first show he was in, playing, what else, one of the papas, that he was hooked.  He had a beard and my brother encouraged him to audition,  saying he would be  perfect for the part. He kept it ever since, except for the times when a part in a show called for the character to be clean-shaven.  When he played Santa later he didn’t need a fake beard.  He lost some of his hair and beard during chemo but it was growing back in.

Lines from dialogue, show tunes and jokes have woven their way into our family language.  He was happy to introduce his kids or grandkids with a line from Fiddler saying “This is mine.  And this is mine.  And this is mine.  And …this is not mine”.  If anyone makes a negative comment about someone’s cooking, the response is likely to be “But good!”  I think all my siblings could probably quote at least the opening line of his big monologue from Inherit the Wind: “I come to you on the wings of the Word!”

In addition to his acting he had other gifts.  He was very creative; from the little snippets of country songs he crafted, to his distinctive handwriting.  He wrote such funny notes when one of us was late to school or had a doctor’s appointment that the school secretary looked forward to them.  He was an artist and enjoyed sculpting wood and rock – pieces that are a pleasure to touch.   He sang in many different choirs throughout his life.  I remember hearing how he would carefully arrange his dress pants between the mattress and box springs of beds every night to press out any wrinkles while on a choir tour as a teenager.

Papa was a great cook who loved feeding crowds and with a big family he had that opportunity often.  From preparing hot breakfasts that we would find in the oven or on the stove before school to packing dinners into foil pie pans to drop off for a family member at rehearsal, my parents gave us the message that home-cooked meals were important.  He made breakfast things like waffles or pancakes for Sunday suppers when we were kids and he enjoyed making different ethnic dishes from won ton and stir-fried rice to tacos and posole for special family dinners.  Gradually he took over all the everyday cooking which continued until his treatment started.

Dad loved people.  He was an extrovert who was energized by his interactions with those around him.  He would start a conversation with anyone especially pretty women and even while he was battling cancer he would flirt and joke with nurses and technicians.  He had a great sense of humor and loved telling and hearing jokes.  Though I sing with the Threshold Choir he made it clear that he didn’t really care to have me sing for him.  He did ask for it a few times, but what he really wanted was for me to make him laugh.  I visited often and it was my goal to get a laugh out of him.  I’m happy to say that I managed to most of the time.  I think every laugh that is generated today is a tribute to him.

All of this is not to say he was always easy to get along with.  He could be pretty sarcastic at times, his feelings were sometimes easily hurt and he could pout for days.  He was extremely stubborn in some situations and I butted heads with him fairly often when I was younger, standing up for siblings that didn’t always appreciate it.  I’m sure the fact that I’m so much like him played a part in this. In his last 24 hours he kept insisting he had to get up to use the bathroom but he wasn’t strong enough to do that.  I had the feeling that he would rather die than pee in a diaper, and in the end that is exactly what he did.

Most importantly, Dad loved all of us, his family.  As if six kids weren’t enough, we started naming some friends “Temporary Honorary Faws”.  He was proud of his kids and grandkids and our accomplishments. We grew up knowing that family was all-important and we had parents who modeled a beautiful, loving relationship with each other for 57 years.  He adored my mom and said so loudly and often.  He would ask us “do you know I love this woman very much?”  There was no question about this on any of our parts.  It is heartbreaking to see a relationship like that be disrupted by death but I have no doubt that the love has not ended.  I know Papa lives on in all our hearts.

As I’ve mentioned, 30 days of Creativity starts on June 1.  The idea is to create something every day for 30 days.  I am planning on participating because it is good therapy for me and I think it is a better way to honor my father than it would be if I canceled my plans.  I am dedicating my efforts to my dad, David, a huge, creative influence on my life.

Thank you for your visit.


Filed under Life

50 responses to “Goodbye, Papa

  1. Beautiful post, so glad you are going ahead with your June plans. He sounds like an amazing man and will always be remembered by the beautiful family he loved and nutured. I’m so sorry he is gone. I love you.

  2. Tracy

    What a wonderful tribute. I look forward to your 30 days of creativity, and I know it will be a cathartic experience.

  3. Your Papa sounds like an amazing man, what a blessing it must have been to have had him for so long. I am so sorry for your loss and hope you find peace in the journey.

    • Of course we would have liked to have him longer, but not in the shape he was in. Before he was diagnosed he’d been very fit and active, riding his bike for 15 mile rides. But we did have him for a long time and for that we are grateful. Thanks for your comments.

  4. Beautiful post. I am crying, Dianne. I was in Fiddler and Inherit the Wind with him (I was 11 and 12 or 13 years old) and I will never, ever forget him.

    • Thank you, Ericka – There will be a memorial on June 12th at 2:30 in Mill Valley at Fernwood. I don’t know if you can come but please know we’d love to see you. I will be sharing essentially the post I wrote as my eulogy. Your email yesterday was lovely and I printed it for my mom.


      • Dianne, it is now on my calendar, and barring strange emergency, I will be there. (Three of my grandparents and my husband are buried at Fernwood. It’s a special place.)

      • My folks and I went to a memorial service there a few years ago and were impressed by it. We were even more pleased after our visit on Friday – it really is a special place. I hope for all our sakes there are no strange emergencies and look forward to seeing you.

  5. I’m so sorry for your loss Dianne. But it sounds like he isn’t gone at all the way you speak of him. I think he left so much of himself in everyone he met throughout his life that he will always be there…in your laughs, your remembrances of silly things, the way you and your family do things or things you say. Next time someone says “But good!” you’ll know Papa is there. I’m so sorry for your mom’s loss though especially. Please know we will keep you in prayer. Thank you for sharing Papa with all of us. Those pictures were wonderful.

    • It’s true, there is a lot of my dad in all of his kids and grandkids. My mom took my youngest nephew upstairs today and they came back down with a pair of Grandpa’s shoes for Sam to wear to his high school graduation. What a wonderful metaphor: he’ll really be walking in his Grandpa’s footsteps for his graduation!

  6. Heather

    I am sorry for your loss Dianne. There is nothing like a Father/Daughter love. Your Papa will live forever in your heart <3. What a wonderful way for you to honor him.

  7. mamacarriemakes

    So sorry for your loss. What a blessing to have such an amazing parent.

  8. Faw Faw,
    What a beautiful tribute to your Pop. I think about the year you went through with him, and the talks and laughs you would tell me you had. What a blessing to have that time with your Dad. Obviously it wasn’t always easy, but you laughed and you shared so much together. What a wonderful daughter you are.
    Love you my friend.

  9. Beautifully written by a loving daughter for her beloved father.
    I am sorry for your loss, but glad you had each other in your lives.<3

  10. Sharon

    Dear Dianne,
    Beautiful sentiments. What a wonderful father and citizen of the world he has been. Healing thoughts. Love, Sharon

  11. Jessica Madole

    Thank you for sharing this

  12. Annie Ricciuti

    Dianne, I’m so sorry for your loss. What a beautiful tribute. I’d say your dad was pretty lucky to have you for a daughter. I’m sure he was always proud of your amazing creativity and kind and funny and generous spirit. I’m thinking about you and here if you need anything.

    • Thanks, Annie. He was a wonderful influence. One time we were joking and teasing and he was being kind of bratty. So I returned the favor and wrote “Bad Daddy” on his knee. He laughed! He was proud of it and when he went in for chemo and radiation that day he showed it off to the nurses.

  13. Thank you so much for sharing this amazing story of your papa. We at the co-op are grateful for him and the entire Faw family for our legacy. Much love to you and all.


    • Ahh, the Co-op! Thank you, Chantal. Some of my earliest memories are coming in to have Mrs. Rahl (sp?) look in my throat to see if I was sick or ok to come to school. Thank you for your warm wishes and support.

  14. Alexi

    I loved your post. Your dad sounds like he was a wonderful man. I recently lost my grandfather due to rare cancer. On another happier note, I am planning on doing 30 Days of Creativity this year on my blog! Your crafts from last year have inspired me.

  15. A beautiful tribute to a wonderful person! And such a full life — we should all be so lucky. Sending love to the Faw family from Hong Kong.

    • He did have a rich and full life. Thank you for your good wishes from Hong Kong. I feel touched by messages I’ve received from Jerusalem, Thailand and the Philippines. Love and support from around the world.

  16. Julie

    That was just beautiful Diane!!!

  17. Andy

    Dianne, the messages on Facebook have been appearing and I keep not knowing what to say there, but am so glad I came here for what I knew I’d find. What a lovely eulogy. Pressing his pants between the mattress and boxspring. Telling others how much he loves who he loves. Sharing creativity. What wonderful morsels. I am so sorry you and your family lost him too soon. Much love to you.

    • Thank you, Andy. There is something wonderful about memorial services and tributes because even people who never met the lost loved one get a sense of him from the stories that are shared. I appreciate your love and support.

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  19. Mary & Burt Dietel

    Beautiful, Dianne! I’m sorry we had grown apart from your family the past few years, but know that I always loved your Dad and Mom and all of you kids. David was a very special man and perfect for my sister’s love and devotion. Our prayers are with all of you. Aunt Mary and Uncle Burt

    • Dear Aunt Mary – Thank you for your warm comments. It’s good to know that so many people are thinking of us during this tough time. Take care.

    • Dear Aunt Mary – I read the beautiful letter you sent to mom. It was so wonderful to read about when they were courting and married, and just starting their married life. You captured it so well. What a wonderful tribute. Mom was so very touched, as we have all been as we share it.

  20. Dear Dianne,
    Tonight I was doing some catch up reading as lately I’ve bowed out of blog writing and reading, and was so sorry to read of your dad’s passing. What a wonderful post you’ve written about him…your father as an individual who influenced you so deeply. Hugs to you tonight and throughout your crafting month.

    • Thank you, Nanina – I’m glad to see your name here and I appreciate your lovely remarks. I hope the decision not to write a blog is a positive one for you and that you are ok.
      Take care,

  21. Just stumbled on your site. Don’t know you, didn’t know your Papa. My loss. Thanks for writing such a lovely tribute. Sorry I didn’t know him.

    • Thank you, Virginia. Thanks for the comment. We had a wonderful memorial service for my dad on Tuesday and it was really beautiful. Folks who came said they really felt they had a good sense of him from what they heard from me and from the other speakers. He was quite a man and is really missed.

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