A number of years ago, my father—I won’t say reluctantly… well, yes I will—reluctantly joined me for a session with my therapist. Bless that guy. As you might imagine, there truly was no place on earth that he’d rather NOT have been than in a shrink’s office, the inner sanctum of which he had effectively avoided for decades. And with ME no less? Forget about it!
Yet there he was: arm casually draped on the back of the chair, legs loosely crossed, the all-too-familiar, all-knowing smile across his lips, as if to say, “Okay, bring it. I’m ready.”
Hours… months… years had brought me to this point, and I was prepared. The great Fred Frost was going to be my captive audience for one, 175 dollar hour.
Ha! And he thought I was emotional in real life.
It won’t be surprising to anyone here that he maintained perfect composure. And mine rapidly deteriorated. I’m sure you can picture it. Him, firmly committed to his draped-arm-crossed-leg-and smileyness, and me, blathering on and on… and on… arms flailing, speech impatient, and a ream of used tissues in my lap.
Even in the face of my chaotic, emotional rant, he did not interrupt. He did not roll his eyes. And he never once looked away. Damn those freaking intense blue eyes.
As the meter ran out, the doctor asked, “Fred, what do you feel when you hear Lucy express herself.”
He thought carefully before replying, “Her emotion runs so deep, and she wears her heart on her sleeve. Honestly, she scares the shit out of me.”
And you know what I replied? “Believe me, the feeling is mutual, for the exact opposite reasons.”
And there it was. Two peas at opposite ends of the same pod. We laughed.
Man, what a breakthrough moment for us both: He wasn’t me, and I wasn’t him.
I know. Understatement.
To you, this might have been a big duh, but for us—clearly a little slow on the uptake—it really was at the moment when our respect and admiration for one another as we ARE was set free…free to enjoy one another’s perspectives, pursuits, and— most of all—company.
We’ve heard from so many people about the impact dad had on their lives. One of my absolute favorites came in a note from a long time family friend. He wrote… “Your dad was a bit like James Bond to me. Cool, adventurous, a bit mysterious. But he was also a no BS observer who would drop in a funny, astute comment on whatever topic was on hand.”
Don’t you just love the image of dad sidled up to a swank bar in a dashing tuxedo enjoying a martini?
Dad lived passionately – and carefully – and enjoyed a rich and impressive life. He worked hard, relished the fruits of his labor, and bestowed great privilege and a deep sense of security on everyone around him… most especially on his family.
And when it came to living large, we all know how well and passionately he did that… tennis, fishing, Hope Beer, Chianti wine, Razzmatazz, South County Hospital, the latest technology gadgets, dogs (so many dogs). And even with his love for Narragansett, the Dunes Club, and our beloved Eleuthera, he never stopped moving around the world on one adventure or another, getting to know people and places very different from his own.
At the core of his character, dad was deeply curious and had a seemingly boundless capacity for acceptance. Not the resignation kind of acceptance, but the kind that suspends judgment and makes you feel safe and at peace.
Dad used to say, “There’s no point in worrying about something over which you have no control.” And he practiced what he preached, carrying Priscilla, Peter, me, and our families through the tragedy of our mom’s death, inviting us in to share the joys of the love he shared with Katie, and everything before and after.
He never, ever played the victim, unfailingly forging ahead with his hallmark steely confidence, always with integrity and unwavering commitment. And he peppered it all with a seemingly endless supply of quips, puns, and dreaded dad-jokes, which always kept us smiling, even if at the corniness if it all.
So, while I am flailing a bit here in this life without dad—and I am flailing— I am comforted by the very vivid, powerful memory of that arm-draped, leg-crossed, smiley Fred sitting across from me, with those unforgettable, laughing, knowing, loving, sparkling, blue eyes.
I love you, dad. Rest in peace.
My father died on April 15, 2020. I read these remarks at his burial on August 4, 2021.