My poor Father’s birthday falls on the day before your taxes are due. This is like having your birthday as a child be the day before your huge science project is due each year in school. It’s not catastrophic, but it’s a bit annoying. What isn’t annoying is having a Dad you think of as more of a friend than anything else, a friend that brought you into the world, and essentially taught you everything you know.
Italian novelist Umberto Eco said, “I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren’t trying to teach us. We are formed by little scraps of wisdom.”
Mr. Eco has managed to describe a small portion of the role my Father has played in my life much better than I ever could. Here are just a few examples of those odd moments and scraps of wisdom.
I remember in the heat of Phoenix summers my Dad narrating as he drove. He knew that my sister would soon be 16, and I would follow a few years after. He would explain why he was yielding, or why other drivers were so unfit for traffic. He would use his horn in an almost graceful and pedagogical way.
Even to this day my Dad will pause a movie or TV show we are watching to explain a certain actor’s pedigree, or a certain director’s lack of creativity. Growing up this never felt like a lecture on cinematography, or an annoying adult projecting on those less educated. It was sharing. It was knowledge. It was togetherness for us.
I remember hugging my Dad after my final high school basketball game. I was crying cause we lost, and cause I knew it was over forever and unlikely that I would play at the next level like I had dreamed about for so long. He knew no words could really console me at that moment. But his eyes told me that he got it, and that he loved me. And his timely silence meant everything to me, cause it was proud silence.
One high school afternoon my Dad came home from work and called me out to meet him in the driveway like something was the matter. I ran out, and he just said “Hurry, come listen.” There was a Pink Floyd song on Serius Radio that he didn’t want me to miss. Probably without outwardly trying to, my Dad taught me about passion, taught me how to love lots of things and find beauty in art and the small things around me.
Ultimately, along with my Mom my Dad taught me something so simple but so missed by so many people. In her memoir, Patti Smith preaches the same wisdom, “To be an artist was to see what others could not.”
Love you Pap.