For My Father

This was the eulogy for my father written by my brother.

In the early part of the 20th century a Peruvian sailor makes port in Europe and takes a wife from German soil.

On 9 March 1929, in the City of New York, a boy is born to the unlikely couple and imprints upon an empty canvas a name, Frederick Herman Saavedra. That canvas will be his life. Soon after, the Great Depression arrives, her husband at sea, the mother and son set out across the Atlantic for her return to Bremerhaven under a dark and rising cross in Germany. We have pictures of him there with his grandfather, with his mother, his father,.. his family, a German boy though dark of skin.

In 1935, at the age of six he is bundled away, again to steam the Atlantic, back to New York. As the years progressed the mixed boy completes City College and goes on to become a naval engineer. In 1952 he takes a wife from across the continent, steals her from a dream to transit the Panama Canal. Dorothea and Fred went on to have 9 children. From a meager start at the East 68th Street Dutch Reform Church to Bowie Maryland, he plied his chosen trade and rose in rank to positions of great respect. The man built battleships.

My Grandfather, my father, myself; our partners come from far off places. Where we began is far from where we end. A path of our own making requite with struggle, at times of our own making. We are men of water, of the sea. The sea is a difficult place, without the footing of solid ground. Perhaps that is the choice that made the most of who we are, of who he was. You are always alone in the water in a struggle defined by who you are now, not who you think you might be or what anyone else thinks you might be. A pure test of will, unremarkable to anyone but the tested.

I have heard my father described as a wonderful man, as a great man. Am I like him? Was he like his father?

Were they like me? I know myself better than I know them. I know my faults and my missteps more intimately than those of another though it be my own father. Were they like me? Imperfect, at times in the wrong?

Perhaps he was. Perhaps he was imperfect. He was imperfect. Over the course of 90 years, 5 months, and 5 days he knew many struggles.

My imperfect father lent strength to those around him. Gave confidence to try what others might call folly. He did this imperceptibly in his acceptance of another path. He may not agree with you and might even say so on occasion but the door to your own choice was always left open. His unlikely life made mine all the more possible.

On August 14th 2019 at 1605 hours Frederick Hermann Saavedra drew his last breath at home with family at his side and I will not miss him. He will remain a part of my canvas for the rest of my life as I have known him. The body expired, but not the man. Not in my lifetime.

There is an old marine toast to mark the merit of another, (before he died he asked for scotch.)

“Here’s to brother Frederick brother Frederick brother Frederick.
Here’s to brother Frederick he’s with us tonight.
He’s happy he’s jolly he’s f’ed up by golly.
Here’s to brother Frederick he’s with us tonight.
So drink my friend drink my friend drink my friend drink.
(I drink.)
Here’s to brother Frederick he’s with us tonight.

(The grand catalogue of his living family is near 75 today. It will keep on growing as will he.)