Eulogy for my father, Albert Fialka by JANICE FIALKA
November 25, 2015
On February 25, 1944, 71 years ago, my father sat, perhaps in his army uniform, at a table or desk somewhere in Germany and wrote his very first love letter to my mother. Let me read a page from the letter.
Perhaps you may not remember who I am, but I hope, after reading this letter, that
you may recall, even tho slightly, a few of the short minutes that we met.
I first saw you a few years ago at one of the small parties we had, downstairs at Dom
Polski. I didn't dance with you, although all evening I wanted to . . . I was pretty bashful
at the time and thought it too bold, much to my regret. I saw you a few times after
that, but never was introduced. . .
Then about November of '43, I went home on a short leave before sailing, and I saw you again at a dance at the I.M.A. Glenn Miller's brother's band was playing . . . I asked you to
dance and you very politely obliged. You said you were about to enter a nursing school in
Kalamazoo. I asked if I might write to you, but unfortunately, I never asked for your
address. . .
I would certainly enjoy hearing from you, if you don't consider me too forward in writing to you. . . I will close for tonight, with hopes of hearing from you soon.
This sweet letter embodies my dad in so many ways. His penmanship is perfect. Each letter of each word is neatly and carefully formed. Each line is flawlessly spaced and straight. Even at the age of 93 when he signed his name or wrote "I love you" on a birthday card to his grandchildren, his writing was deliberate, even, and orderly, as was the way he lived his life.
In this first letter to Dolores, I hear his shyness, humility, gentleness and his "head over heels" rapture for my mother. As they use to say, he was smitten. His reference to dancing and Glenn Miller band were the prologue for our parents' 66 plus years of dancing "cheek to cheek."
What also struck me in this letter, and in the way he lived his life, was his exquisite ability to balance his gentleness and easy-going nature with his persistence and will if he wanted something. And indeed he wanted my mother. And as time moved forward, he wanted to give his family a solid foundation of love, enjoyment, and security.
I am grateful that he wanted our mother, grateful that she said "yes" (though knowing her, she wavered --because it was her nature to waver!), and I am so grateful that my mother kept this letter and over 25 others he wrote during the early years of their relationship.
As evidenced in this letter, my dad had a keen sense of who he was and was pretty accepting of who he was. "I am bashful" he says. "I forgot to get your address," he admits. . . No bravado....This is who I am. Maybe Frank Sinatra's song "All of me, why not take all of me" fits here.
My dad was proud of serving in the Army in WW II. He never tired of asking "old geezers" as he would say, "What branch did you serve in?" And yet, he never forget the horrors of war. In 1970 when one of my classmates was applying for Conscientious Objector status during the Vietnam war era because of his religious and personal beliefs, my dad, with his rank as Army Captain and Purple Heart medal had a conversation with my friend to better understand his thinking. After that conversation, my dad wrote a letter of support for my friend's application to obtain his C.O. status.
My dad respected that there were many ways to be in this world. He listened, learned and always remained curiously respectful of others.
Albert saw the dignity in the ordinary moments of life. While our children, Micah and Emma were growing up, mom and dad traveled once a week from Flint to our home to help in the raising of our kids. They picked them up from school, took them to soccer practice, made lunch, mowed the lawn, and in many ways became the grandparents to many of our kids' friends.
During their weekly visits, Dad would do errands for me. Once I asked if he could get a battery for my watch. "Of course." Later that day when I returned home from work, he greeted me with one of his marvelous hugs. He thanked me for asking him to get the battery. "You're welcome dad." ---- thinking ---only my dad would thank me for completing this mundane task. And then he offered, " I had the nicest conversation with the salesperson. We talked for a long time about our families." Again, only my dad could make "getting a watch battery" a sacred moment---a tender opportunity to connect with another human being at Kmart.
He had "innocent awe" about everything. He marveled at how roads were built, phones could hold so many photos, and especially in his later year, how his children knew how to drive him to a restaurant. (How do you know how to do that?). He thanked us over and over for helping him through this final year and a half without mom.
Patience....that man had patience. I recall sitting in the small bedroom at our home on Genesee St. when I was about 7 years old, diligently trying to learn how to spell all the colors. I mastered "red", "blue" "green"....but when it came to purple, I failed. I couldn't accurately line up the letters: u, r, l. It was futile. But there my dad sat, in the wooden oak rocking chair as I fretted and fumed. He never flinched or became frustrated. With the calmness of Buddha, he respectfully waited, encouraged and believed in me. Total faith that I would master p-u-r-p-l-e.
This scene of 'dad being patient' was repeated a hundred times in our family, at his work, and with his friends.
Even in his death, my father wanted to reassure us that all was okay. Shortly after my father died, I sat next to him, holding him while his body was still warm. As I had done with our mother, I played a few songs sung by Fred Astaire. Not knowing exactly which song I punched in on my phone, I was rewarded with "Dancing cheek to cheek." The first two lines of that song are, "I'm in heaven. I'm in heaven." There was my dad, comforting us, reassuring us, caring for us as he had done throughout his years as our dad.
There are so many stories of my father. I will continue to tell them to anyone who will listen.
My final story is also about my dad's letter writing. On September 24, 1969 my dad wrote me a letter----the first letter sent to me, in my first month of college. It begins, "Dear Jan, I love you and I miss you. I find myself thinking about you quite often, in hopes that you're fine in all ways."
He goes on to give updates about each member of our family. He signs it in his neat handwriting "Love, Dad."
He then adds a very important P.S. A 'P.S.' that speaks louder than any pep talk, wise words, or long lecture. He simply, in the elegant, wise Albert George Fialka way, spells out P-U-R-P-L-E.
Everything I know about my dad is in that P.S.
And so I invite all of you who are so kind to be here today, to spell out, out loud "purple." At the count of 3, please join me in remembering my dad's unwavering patience, encouragement, and elegant confidence in each of us.
1, 2, 3....... P-U-R-P-L-E.
"For my DAD" by Gerry Fialka
What if you forget to die?
I want to thank everyone and especially Janice, Nancy and John...and BIG AL, who nurtured heightened awareness. Let us all (on the count of three) take in one conscious breath 1-2-3 and relax. Now relaxed,please share HUMAN TOUCH (with my MOM it was a hug). My DAD would gently rub our necks every evening after his day of work at Buick - so do the same, stand up and rub the neck of the person next to you. Let us celebrate Albert's wisdom (like the Occupy Movement's Human Microphones) in the tradition of the call and response of Gospel and Blues music... I say "LIVE AND LET LIVE" and you all repeat it loudly with gusto.
YOU LOOK GOOD
KEEP THE DOOR OPEN
I NEED ALL THE PRESERVATIVES I CAN GET
I'M STILL ON PROBATION
Thanks, my DAD taught me to embrace contradictions - how to turn a rejection into a redirection, flip a breakdown into a breakthrough, turn a weakness into a strength. We spoke about God on a walk ten years ago. He told me that by what he experienced in World War Two, there could not be a God. God would not allow that to happen. Then 5 years later, on another walk together, I told Al what he told me about God. He responded, "I said that?" I was not holding him to it. He was able to embrace the duality. He was open to many viewpoints. He taught me that having suspended judgement leads to comprehensive awareness - THE BIG PICTURE. Understanding is NOT having a point of view. Always find good in others. He learned from the Hopi Indians, that your enemy is your best teacher.
Thanks DAD for making the word a better place. And you helped me realize this important aspiration... BIG AL was an artist...and ARTIST OF LIFE...I must be about my father's business.
Lets do one more call and response...THANK YOU ALBERT...WE LOVE YOU
His favorite writer, Sydney J. Harris said, "The time to relax is when you don't have time for it."
Thanks ALBERT FIALKA
Reflections on my father Albert Fialka by Nancy Fialka Chilcutt.
My father was a real inspiration to me, our family and others he met along his path in life. He was a caring, supportive, genuine and loving man. He was a joy to be around and had a marvelous sense of humor with a positive attitude. There are many stories that I could share but one simple one that I reflect on is when my father drove me to my first day of college. We talked on the way to Eastern Michigan University and I knew that my dad and mom provided me with a strong foundation in life. He believed in me with his optimistic outlook and told me to follow my passion of teaching. I felt confident. I was wearing bell bottoms and he told me "You Look Good". My husband Mike of 35 years and I were blessed to have him be such a wonderful PaPa to our children Kyle and Leah. I would like to close with sharing a poem written by my dad from his book "Nobody Ever Told Me" LIFE Life begins and we breathe
Life goes on and we grow and we learn and we try and we fail and we worry and we change and we succeed Life goes on and we die LIFE goes on. My dad and mom are once again together dancing- as they should be!!!!!!! I LOVE YOU DEARLY!!!!!!
MY DAD by John Fialka
Reading and listening to all the remembrances of my dad, gratitude is one theme that came through. My dad was grateful for every day. Growing up during the depression and fighting in World War II were influencing factors that shaped his positive attitude. My dad was from the greatest generation and he was the greatest dad. There are so many lessons he taught me that made him great. The day before he died, my son Steven came to say good bye. We were joking how papa never told anyone how much money he made. Stevie joked that when people asked him how much he made as a life guard; Steve would reply $2/hour. This is what my dad would always say and Steven did not realize it came from papa. My dad taught us all that it does not matter how much money you make. Love is what matters. My dad also taught us that family is the most important thing in life. He dedicated his life to loving his wife, his children and his family. For me he drove me all around the state to play hockey, he drove the boat for my waterskiing up until he was 85. He always did it with such love and devotion.
One of the greatest abilities may Dad had was to keep a positive attitude. He claimed it was from living through the war, waking up cold and hungry with the only thing to look forward to, was to be shot. We were all so curious how such a horrific, gruesome event could make him so positive. I often asked him to go with me to Normandy and we would tour the D-day beaches and enjoy a father and son trip. My dad would say let’s go ……….to go get gas for the boat. Later, I took my daughter Alison on the trip to Normandy. It was a memorable experience to imagine my dad at age 22, jumping in the water (remember he can’t swim) and walking up the beach. But it was the trips to the gas station that filled me up with love.
Philip Simmons was a successful author and professor who died of Lou Gehrig disease wrote the book “ learning to fall; blessings from an imperfect life”, in which he states “ I have spent my whole life in the pursuit of knowledge and happiness only to find they are both overrated”, the one thing he found that was not over rated was …..love. My dad showed us love his whole life and That is the greatest lesson my dad taught me. I am lucky and grateful every day to share that love with my kids, my siblings and the Love of my Life, Donna. My dad shared a beautiful love with my mom. He often joked that he was on probation for the 66 years they were married. I am sure that when Saint Peter opened the pearly gates, mom was the first to end his probation and welcome him with open arms. Towards the end, when my dad could not always find the words, he was able to bring his positive loving attitude to make people smile and light up the room with joy. He was fond of telling everyone “you look good today”. My dad was from a special time in history. He was from the greatest generation AND he was the greatest dad I could have ever wished for and I will miss him dearly. His positive attitude and love will live on inside of me and all of us forever.
Albert G. Fialka
May 2, 1922 - November 15, 2015
FIALKA, Albert "Al" George of Flint, age 93 died Sunday, November 15, 2015 in Farmington Hills surrounded by family love. A "Celebration of Al's Life" Service will be held at 11am Wednesday, November 25 at the Swartz Funeral Home, 1225 West Hill Road, Flint. VISITATION: Tuesday 2-8pm and Wednesday 10-11am at the funeral home prior to the service. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to Flint Institute of Arts, Alzheimer's Association, or TASH (www.tash.org - an advocacy organization for people with disabilities). Albert was born in Flint on May 2, 1922. He married his sweetheart Dolores Lefanowicz on September 11, 1948 (deceased 2014). Mr. Fialka served in the U.S. Army Infantry for 4 years as a captain during World War II, stationed in Europe. He fought in the D-day campaign, was wounded in Cherbourg, and received the Purple Heart. In 1950, he received his Bachelor's Degree in finance from the University of Michigan and began work at Buick Motor in the Financial Department. In 1980 he retired as Senior Staff Administrator. Mr. Fialka celebrated the ordinary moments in life through his newspaper column, "Observations on Life" published in several newspapers in Michigan for 15 years. Al and Dee, married for over 66 years, graced their world with their beautiful dancing, warm, welcoming spirit and love of the cultural arts. They attended over 25 ElderHostels. One of Mr. Fialka's best place to be was at the family cottage, driving his boat, being with family, teaching water skiing to friends. He was a loving and devoted father and grandfather who knew the importance of listening, paying attention, and enjoying life. His favorite saying was "Live and Let Live." Albert accomplished many things in his life; perhaps one of his strongest legacies will be his ability to make people smile. He loved saying to people, "You look good!" Surviving are his 4 children, Janice Fialka (Rich Feldman), Gerry Fialka (Suzy Williams), Nancy Chilcutt (Mike), and John Fialka (Donna Thomas). 7 grandchildren: Micah, Emma, Kyle, Leah, Alison, Andrew and Steven. 1 sister: Virginia Eaton He was preceded in death by his wife, Dolores and their son, James and 9 siblings. http://www.swartzfuneralhomeinc.com/memsol.cgi?user_id=1705959