These are my words from the memorial service for my father, Lansing E. Tryon, on December 5, 2013. They were among the most difficult words I have ever had to speak or write. But they are good for me to remember, because even here is to be found the gospel if only we have the ears to hear.
What do you say at the memorial service for someone you have deeply loved all your life when you know there are others who have very good reason for being glad to have him gone?
I was always thankful for the fine father I had. After I became an adult — and a father — in my own right, I told Dad that, often.
I only wish he had been as good a father to his daughters. As many or most of you already know, since Dad and Mom moved out to assisted living in Wisconsin, we all figured out that Dad had in the past sexually abused two of his daughters, and possibly the third. The last four years have been exceedingly painful for the entire family.
So, was Dad a terrible person who somehow managed to do good things, or a good person who somehow managed to do some really evil things? I don’t know, and I’m glad that the Lord doesn’t keep score like that. If he did, we’d all be in trouble. But with you is found forgiveness; for this we revere you.
At any rate, I am convinced that the Lansing Tryon you knew and loved here, with all his wonderful klutziness, was not faking it. I always figured Dad was pretty transparent; what you saw was what you got. It turns out I was not as right as I thought, but I still think I was pretty close.
I am still proud to have named my firstborn after him.
So, what do you say? I can’t tell you about the Dad I didn’t know. I can only tell you about the Dad I knew.
Dad was never the warm-fuzzy, emotionally-effusive type. I don’t think he knew how. I gather he didn’t have much of a model to work from. It seems his own father was quite a number. Dad was an oops lastborn, largely raised by his sisters (whom he adored).
But Dad loved to show us stuff. He loved to involve us in what he was doing.
I sing in choir because Dad started bringing me along as soon as I got into high school. That doesn’t happen any more. It should. It was Dad’s trumpet I played in grade school. Getting his alto recorder back in service is to be one of my post-retirement projects.
I wrote my first computer program in high school because Dad taught me enough cookbook Fortran to work up the geometry puzzle I was playing with. “That’s what computers are for. Computers are fast idiots.” He took my code into work with him, punched the cards, and left them overnight for ops to run. He picked up the output the next day and brought it home to me. We all learned at an early age how to count to 31 on the fingers of one hand. Counting in binary is actually a rather useful parlor trick. I’ll have to show grandson Wesley.
Athletics? Forget it. Dad was the wimp of his family. But he loved to walk. He loved being outdoors. He loved the Adirondacks and, especially, Letchworth State Park. He took the family camping every summer. He took me sailing on Canandaigua Lake.
And cameras. You don’t know Dad if you don’t know his photography. He did a lot more with Chuck and Ken after he got an enlarger and all, but he and I developed film and made contact prints. He taught me how to look through the viewfinder and think about what I was doing.
Before he and Mom moved out to Wisconsin, Dad gave me his collection of old cameras, including this pre-World War II Welta Weltur. It’s the camera he took to Letchworth sixty five years ago on his and Barb’s honeymoon. It’s the camera that got me back into shooting film and taking my photography more seriously.
Dad once told me that in high school he was very interested in both cameras and electronics. He knew he had to choose one to follow professionally and one to leave as a hobby. He chose electronics, and went on to major in Physics at Cornell and become an electrical engineer.
I have often wondered whether he made the better choice. As a photographer he would have made less money, but I think he would have been happier. I am convinced that, at heart, Dad was an artist.
In the fellowship hall is a print of the photograph I posted the day he died. Lansing Eugene Tryon. Because Dad loved trees and loved taking pictures of trees. Rest in peace, Dad. This one’s for you.
Thank you all for coming.