When someone of an advanced age passes we often hear the phrase “they lived a full life.” It’s a way, I think, of suggesting that, Dayenu, it was enough that they had lived however many years it was.

As I’ve spent the last few weeks thinking really deeply about my Dad’s life, there is no question that it was, by any definition, a “full life.” It was a life worthy of celebrating, of contemplating, of studying. Because it was not always easy. Nor was it always happy. It was, in fact, full of wild ups and horrible downs. But it was always, always full of love and laughter and family and friends and all the things which make life worth living.

My Dad had what he called a difficult childhood. He was wild (my guess is today he would be thought of as ADHD) and although he didn’t like to talk about it, it is clear his relationship with his parents was fraught. And, yet, as they aged he worked closely with my Uncle David to support and care for them both personally and financially and was proud of the fact that he did so. He also supported my Mom in taking into their home his mother-in-law, my Grandma Bea at the end of her own cancer battle.

My Dad was the first member of his family to go to college, a fact of which he was (correctly) incredibly proud. He was a lifelong proud Spartan, and while he was thrilled when I (and later Molly) graduated from UofM, attending Eryn’s graduation at MSU was a uniquely special moment for him.

At the same time he was quick to dismiss talk of his military service where he had a lot of fun while stationed in both Carmel, California and Paris, France, because it was nothing like that experienced by Uncle David who served in Korea during the war. His relationship with my Uncle had its moments (they were brothers in the truest sense), and he loved him deeply and one of his primary motivators in wanting to get back to Michigan before he died was to see and talk to him one more time.

He had a cup of coffee of a marriage before my Mom, one that for a long time he didn’t want to talk about (at least to me) and more recently he laughed about as the mistake of a “dumb kid.”

He was a great salesman and had a lot of success, and also laughed about how he changed jobs because he was a headstrong employee who often thought he knew better. He was proud of earning his big VP job for H.I.S. and the perks and leadership that came with it, and also regretted ever taking the job (which he called a failure of ego) as it made him work many more hours, keeping him away from home much more often.

He left that job to come back to Michigan and buy a business, which failed for reasons both in and out of his control forcing my parents to start over financially and in other ways as well. Instead of going back to sales where he could easily have made a great living, in his 40s he followed his dream and went back to law school at night. After some really difficult years of toughing out commercial real estate sales for a bad boss during the day, taking classes at night, and studying most of the rest of the time, he became a lawyer, a career he pursued with great pride and success for the remainder of his working days.

My Dad was an emotional guy, writing beautiful letters and giving moving toasts. And he was demanding, with high expectations which could often feel difficult to meet. I remember in virtually every round of golf I ever played with him that on some hole which wasn’t going well for me he would characteristically wring his hands to keep them warm and say “pick it up, that’s enough.” While he wasn’t wrong, it was consistent with his sometimes impatient nature which has always acted as a push for me – whether I needed it or not.

My Dad was a history buff and always interested in both politics and the news, but when I asked him about the radical act of choosing to have a child in the chaotic year of 1968, he said “eh, we weren’t paying much attention to that, we were just living our lives.”

His musical tastes were consistent with being a man of the 50s instead of the 60s, running much more to Diamond, Streisand, and Lightfoot, than the Stones, Zeppelin, or The Who. His midlife crisis brought us an Urban Cowboy phase complete with boots, cowboy hat, Alabama and Charlie Daniels Band records, and a little orange sports car which now sits in my garage.

He was awesome with Dan’s and my friends both when we were young, and later as adults, whether coaching baseball, donning his “Big Al” persona to be pretty much the only call-in listener to Scott Meach’s high school radio sports talk show, to him and my Mom still attending Rick and Shannon’s wedding when Deb and I missed it because, you know, Molly was being born, to regular poker games with Dan’s friends. Even this past November, just days after we got his cancer diagnosis, he came to my “Good to Be Alive” party and ate BBQ and drank with everyone, holding court at the table in our kitchen.

We shared a love of sports and he took us to so many Tigers games and to the end was very excited about Opening Day and the upcoming season. Even more, we shared a frustrating love of the Lions. When he passed along the season tickets to me almost 30 years ago he said memorably, and correctly “Son, they’ll break your heart.” And he’s yet to be wrong, although he took a lot of joy in the Lions finally being truly good this past season. It’s deeply sad that he won’t get to see them play in a Super Bowl after all.

He loved Debbie so much, and that love extended to the beautiful relationship he built with her parents (her Dad especially), but he also loved the family dinners with Leonard and Nancy, Karen and Craig, and all the nieces and nephews. He told me frequently how much his own relationship with his nieces and nephews meant to him and how watching us with ours made him happy.

Molly and Eryn were his heart and every minute of his time with them was his favorite moment. They’ll have their own stories and memories to share, and these last few difficult weeks he and I spent more time talking about the two of them and their lives and happiness and his pride in them then just about anything else. Seeing their faces and hearing their voices were his best medicine.

Most of all, and in its own separate world from all of that, was his relationship with my Mom. To say that she was his world is an understatement in a way that only those who knew them truly understand. His frame of reference began and ended with her on any subject, and his first concern in any situation was how it would affect my Mom.

My Dad thought a lot about his own parenting in relation to the path Dan ended up on, but mostly when we discussed it, he thought about how it all affected my Mom. The fracture of their relationship with Dan truly broke their hearts, but his heart broke even more for what my Mom was going through. When Dan died last summer, even in his own grief he asked me repeatedly how I thought my Mom was doing and made requests to me of how he thought things could be made easier for her.

My parents laughed, they loved, they fought, they bickered like sitcom characters, and were the couple that everyone who knew them envied for how connected they were at all times. Their friends were friends they had together. Their decisions were decisions they made together. Their success and their failures and their in-betweens they had together. They were and are role models for all of us of what a successful marriage looks like even in the midst of all the pain and challenge life can throw at us. When they got remarried to celebrate their 50th anniversary in a joyous celebration at our home, they were no different than newlyweds in their passion for each other and their excitement for their future together.

In those rare few moments over the last weeks when we could get my Mom away from his bedside to take a much needed break, he always talked to me about her and his gratitude for her, his love for her, his worry for her, his desire to continue to fight for her, and about all the things they had yet to do and how he wished he had more time just to spend with her.

My Dad lived the very definition of a “full life.” Great success and failures, family and friends surrounding him with love, laughter and tears, pain and loss. And most of all an epic, great love story with my Mom which we will all always remember. And there is no Dayenu. It wasn’t sufficient. It wasn’t enough. Not for us as we wanted and needed more of him. And not for him as he wanted more of this amazing life he and my Mom built together.