Wednesday, November 06, 2013

the most important thing I wrote this year; or, why I haven't been blogging much lately

mon papa, ma maman, et moi
It's hard to find the emotional energy to sustain an online journal about your children when your father is slowly dying; it's just as hard to pick it up after he passes as if nothing has changed.

But I'm going to try.  Although my dad only knew enough French to deliberately mispronounce hors d'oeuvres as "horse devours," he fully supported my efforts to raise Griffin and Gwyneth bilingually.  And that's only one of the hundreds of amazing things about him.

My brother and my mother and I composed his obituary; read on, if you're interested, to see what I mean.

CBD, Professor Emeritus of English, passed away on September 15, 2013, at the Mayo Clinic from complications following open heart surgery. The son of Charles and Mabel, CBD was born on August 30, 1937, in Gary, IN, where he spent his formative years developing a love of books and music, intriguing his younger sister with his magic tricks, amazing his parents with his talents, and as the drum major, leading his high school band to the state championship. As a first-generation college graduate, he double majored in music and English at DePauw University.

After earning his Masters degree in English from Indiana University and his PhD in English from the University of Nebraska, CBD taught literature and composition, where he caught the eye of his fellow teacher MKD. He always said that marrying her was "the smartest thing I ever did."

B and MK, who shared 44 years of marriage, raised two smart, caring children. After 25 years at the University, where he first chaired the English Department and later headed its graduate and creative writing programs, B and MK returned to their Midwestern roots.

mon papa et moi, 34 years later
Their retirement in Wisconsin brought them great joy as they taught classes for seniors, did volunteer work, traveled around the US and to Europe and Canada, played thousands of hands of bridge, delighted in their grandchildren, reconnected with friends and relatives, and rooted for the Packers.

Who was CBD? A peerless husband, father, grandfather, brother, son, and friend. A scholar, a storyteller, and a peacemaker par excellence. An enthusiastic racquetball player, a multi-talented musician (saxophone, clarinet, piano) and classical music deejay, and a long-suffering Green Bay Packer fan. A bibliophile who relished a good WWII spy novel as much as his beloved 19th century classics, he was always looking forward to his next book. 

Dad with Griffin, his first grandchild
They don't make 'em like CBD any more—he did things the right way because that's the way they were supposed to be done, worked hard because that's the way you're supposed to work--but he also wasn't afraid to play the rogue to get a rise out of people (especially his wife), and he loved to eat and could take a nap like nobody's business. 

Missing him deeply but cherishing his memory are his wife MKD, his daughter Sarah (husband E) and son M, his grandchildren Griffin and Gwyneth, and his sister L (partner C). CBD is survived by not just his family and friends, but the thousands of students whose lives he touched, the community organizations he supported, and all the others upon whom his wit, wisdom, and work ethic had an impact. 

Dad with Gwyneth, his second grandchild
He had a rich and meaningful life, and we are all better for the legacy of equanimity and compassion he leaves us with. As a colleague once overheard a student say, "Dr. D is a really decent person."

Even after weeks--months--at the Mayo Clinic without being able to speak, he used sign language to tell us he loved us.


  1. Hello Sarah,

    I am so sorry your father passed away and I sincerely hope you are holding on. His obituary is very touching, he seemed to be a great father, grandfather and husband.

    Toutes mes condoléance, I hope you and your family are given a lot of support and love in these difficult moments.

    Hope you will feel a bit better soon.

    I look forward to reading your future articles when you find the time, desire and strength to write.


  2. Sarah, beautifully written obituary and you have my deepest sympathies. Your father seemed a very decent fellow indeed. Sending you and your family wishes for peace.

  3. Beautiful, Sarah. My heart is with you. May the happy memories of your amazing father give you comfort in these difficult days.

    Incidentally, we are now Louisville, CO residents - moved from San Diego in September. I look forward to hopefully connecting with you soon!


    1. Carol! I would love to meet you! Send me an email with your contact info and we'll figure out a time to get together. babybilingual @ gmail com

  4. I'm so sorry. I was very touched by your post and send my sympathies to your family. Your father was lucky to be loved so much.

  5. Sarah, I have been enjoying your blog for several years and I am so sorry to learn of your family's loss. Sounds like your dad was a wonderful man, and it also sounds like his kindness and love of books are still alive in you and your children.

  6. Thank you all for your kind words. I miss my dad like crazy.

  7. I am so sorry to hear that Sarah. Toutes mes condoleances.

  8. I am so sorry to hear of your loss, Sarah. What a beautiful obituary and tribute your amazing Dad. Mes plus sincères condoléances.

  9. Oh! Your post brought tears to my eyes. What a lovely tribute to your father. It really gave me a sense of the generous, loving man, father and grandfather he was.