Yesterday was my father's 79th birthday. Today we held his memorial.
Over 70 people came. Family, friends, old and newer. Business associates from 40 years ago. Both of the original partners from his beloved firm Stonefield Josephson. Two of three ex-wives! The tables were full, the flowers beautiful, the food abundant and tasty (from Canter's deli on Fairfax Ave. in LA), and a strong mid-night storm scrubbed the air clean to showcase the LA skyline and mountains covered with snow.
I did my dad proud. And now I can take a deep breath, sit back in my chair and relax.
Here are the words I opened the event with:
I don't know if you knew this, but my dad was a photographer. He absolutely loved pictures and taking pictures and he lined his bedroom walls with photos of all his beloved people, a constant reminder, like a group hug every time he looked at them.
When he was in high school, Dad set up a dark room in his closet and soon became known as the go-to guy for party photos. He often told me how much he loved that. Basically, he attained a certain popularity by being a sought-after photographer and because he was behind the camera he didn't have to navigate the tricky social terrain of the teenager. He got to be at the party without really being at the party. Clever, eh? Not bad for a shy stutterer...And he developed quite the skill with the camera. All these years later some of our most cherished family photos are the ones Dad took.
I knew my dad through the lens of the oldest child. Who he was, or who I thought he was and what I knew about him had much to do with my own lens, my own view of him. He was the man who stood at my door early every morning singing silly made up songs meant to encourage me to rise, he was the man who smoked a stinky cigar, who had a temper that flared unexpectedly and hotly, who listened when I talked but not all that well, who loved to sit next to the keel of a sailboat and breathe the salt air. He was the man who tagged along quite happily with my high school marching band and who walked me down the aisle on my wedding day.
I knew my father through the lens of his child, even as I moved deep into my own adulthood. I really only could see him through that lens.
As he aged, we aged, however, and our relationship deepened and grew. We did not have a fairytale relationship, it was not trouble-free. But, compassion and acceptance allowed me to appreciate that Dad loved me, us, with his whole heart. So, when he died our connection was whole and clear.
I cannot hope to encapsulate for you the highlights of his life all on my own. I cannot stand here and tell you about the man you knew, perhaps better in some ways and less in others than I.
And so I welcome you here today to share your stories and to hear some of his. For a brief time we can honor that avid photographer by overlapping all of our lenses to put together a picture of who Joel Stonefield was and to celebrate his life.