On top of everything that happened before, my father passed away a week ago Sunday.
I wanted to post the eulogy I delivered at his service here, since if not for him I would never have the passion for cinema that I possess and this blog would not exist. Writing has been therapeutic during this time, so hopefully this place won't go with out an update for too much longer.
Michael Philip Devine
February 19, 1947 – August 15, 2010
On Christmas Day, at the age of four years old, my first pet, a cat named Bo was fatally hit by a car. Obviously, this was a traumatic moment for me at an impressionable age. My father would go on to tell the events of that fateful day, not in solemn hushed tone, but rather as a joke wherein we’d ask the driver responsible for the feline slaughter if he had seen the cat, to which the driver responded: did he look like this? The punch line being a contorted face of impending death. This was my father, no matter the circumstances or the state of things, he always offered comfort in the manner of a smile and a joke, regardless of how bad the joke might be, actually strike that, preferably a bad joke.
In his sixty-three years, my father suffered many hardships: he was twice divorced, lost his own business, struggled with weight issues, lost his father and sister Mary to cancer at a young age, and endured an everyday battle with diabetes. While I know he had his moments of despair and sadness, either alone or amongst his peers in OA, he would never show it to either my brother Sean or myself. My dad did not have a lot, but what he did have he would gladly sacrifice for his sons’ happiness. At the age of nine I don’t think I fully grasped that my father was not, in fact, a rich man. He was a manager at Toys R Us, a job that to our eyes was second in prestige only to Joe Montana. He always made sure that we had the latest and greatest toys and the time he spent with us was full of trips to the movies, arcades, comic book shops, fine dining establishments like Burger King and Denny’s, and most importantly laughter. Every summer the three of us would drive to Los Angeles for our annual trip to Disneyland, Universal Studios and a visit with our uncle Dennis and aunt Karla, and later their two daughters Emily and Julie. It wasn’t until I was older that I realized how much and how long he would have to save so we could have that vacation and time together.
At the age of 18 I was accepted into San Francisco State University and my father offered to let me live with him in his one bedroom apartment in Daly City so I didn’t have to spend money on rent. I am sure his assumption was this would be a temporary arrangement as I found another living situation or campus housing, so he let me have the bedroom and created a makeshift bedroom for himself in the living room. Six years later, I was still there and he endured years of his son coming home at all hours of the night, blaring his stereo and inviting friends into the already cramped apartment rent free without one single complaint, all the while sleeping on a futon in the living room. I’ve had several living arrangements and roommates since then, but besides my wife, he was the best one. He kept sacrificing, even as I moved out, even as Sean and I started working full-time, and even after my wife Amy and I bought a house. I could always count on a 100 dollar check from him at Christmas and my birthdays usually inside a card where he would write “I wish I could give you more”, even though I knew he had to scrimp and sacrifice for what he could give.
My dad had three major passions in his life. The first was his family. Besides Sean and I he loved deeply and without limits his parents Phil and Carmela, his siblings Patrick, Mary, Kathy and Dennis, his in-laws Paul, Karla and Amy, his niece and nephews Bryan, Emily and Julie, his son Sean’s girlfriend Katie and his sister Kathy’s boyfriend Spence, not to mention his countless cousins, aunts and uncles. The last time I saw him was in July, and it was a typical Devine gathering: food, jokes, games and valuable time spent with his family.
His second passion was sports. Appropriately enough one of his last outings was a trip to the ballpark to watch the Giants with his surviving siblings. Growing up in Detroit he was a staunch supporters of all the local teams, but primarily the University of Michigan football squad, the Detroit Tigers and the Detroit Lions. After moving to California after his service in the Army, he soon adopted the local sports teams like the Giants and the 49ers as his own. His love for sports and heart was big enough to root for several teams simultaneously, and besides in the 80s and 90s wouldn’t you rather be a 49er fan than a Lions fan?
His third passion was for movies. He had a wide range of taste, loving the schlockiest of horror films and the frilliest of musicals equally. I remember after watching the film adaptation of Sweeny Todd with him, I turned to him and said something along the lines of “this film seemed to have been made specifically for you dad, it combines your two favorites elements: gore and singing!” If I had to guess the number of movies my father watched in his lifetime, I’d venture something along the lines of 500,000. Though that number would be reduced to about 100,000 if you count the films he actually stayed awake for the entirety of. He began watching films at double features at the local cinema near the house he grew up in Detroit with his parents and siblings. It became a source of bonding amongst them and an experience he treasured. He passed that passion along to both of his sons. My father may not have been the richest or most successful amongst my peers growing up, but I didn’t see any other kids who were let out of school early to catch Return of the Jedi on opening night!
This may not be the appropriate venue to admit this, but I am not a religious person. I like to consider myself spiritual though, and I realize and value the importance that going to church with his mother and sister Kathy and spirituality meant to my father. And I am certain in my knowledge that wherever he is, he’s with his parents, sister Mary and nephew Bryan, perhaps watching a movie, and most definitely telling bad jokes.
There’s a line in the Godfather where Don Corleone says “A man who doesn’t spend time with his family can never be a real man.” In that respect, my father certainly qualifies. Thank you.