Sunday, July 16, 2017

Happy Birthday, Dad!!

Today is my Dad's 60th birthday, so this is for him:

From your birthday in 1988

Happy Birthday, Dad!!
I wanted to celebrate by writing a post for you that could encompass as much of your life as I could capture; but when I sat down to write it, I realized that yours has been and still is a deeply detailed, intricate, and adventurous one, and I don't stand a chance of summing it all up in a single post. And of course, whatever I put down would be from my own perspective only...but then, so much of you and your life has become much of me and mine.

In case you were wondering where I get it from...

Stories you've told me about your childhood have painted vivid images in my mind - I told my own kids the story you shared about your dad grabbing the Cheerios to explain why you should relax during a shot.  Hearing stories of Grandma carrying you still mostly sleeping to your Aunt Shirl's, playing with Bill and Marybeth...The story about the time you were told you couldn't go out to play because the only available clothes were girls' you went outside to play in a dress.  For some reason that story always reminds me of the time you played Lady MacBeth in the Laundry piece. It still bothers me when someone leaves a kitchen cabinet open because it bothered you-old habit that stuck, because your dad couldn't see them.  The loss of your dad while you were still a kid, and how you always seem to have an aggression against hornets and wasps that I never see towards any other animals because of their role in that.

Vivid images of what it must have been like to watch your high school burn down, and the gym class that ended up being about how to butcher a pig...working on your uncle's farm, stomping hay down mostly unable to breathe thanks to hay fever.  And the time when you tore the porch off of the house with a tractor...

Not this one though, of course.

All of your adventures in College, friends, theater, shenanigans...meeting mom in Rome, getting into CalArts but turning it down to stay with her, Nursing school - and the found poem you and mom shared from the class list there.  The collapsing loft bed...Hiding the fact that you were living together from her mom. Meeting Pamela in Jamaica. Rescuing Coriander. Finding Jezzy. Stealing Ashley away to a better home.

My earliest memory is of sitting on mom's lap while you were outside the picture window on a ladder, painting the house.  I talked to mom about it - she was pretty sure that was when you were fixing up the Minneapolis house to sell...

This is one of those tasks that I am almost afraid to start because I already know that I can't possibly include even a noticeable fraction of what I would want to put down...Obviously all of the times we shared over the years, classic stuff, but also things like how you rescued my 8th grade class when a field trip gone wrong left us on the wrong mountain, and having come prepared, you were able to lead us back to the correct one, even carrying one girl who fell.  Or how you took me to see your production of Antigone, and when I asked why they were treating her like that, you explained patriarchy and specifically men's fear and mistrust of the fact that women menstruate, which was an angle I had entirely not considered but sparked a through line of looking at both history and contemporary culture that has this awareness.

I don't know why it's such a poignant thing to me, but I remember that after one of your students (Rick, if I recall, who I believe had played foxy loxy in the production of Henny Penny my elementary school class had come to see) was struck by lightning on the beach and killed, you spoke at his memorial service and ended your eulogy by diving into the water -Lake? Pond?- behind you, and lost your glasses.

Spending late nights at the New Moon, loading in and loading our all the sound equipment, painting the box you made for it all. Getting to see you in concert (and almost always requesting Onion Skin even though I knew it was not something you really wanted to do).  When we got Jomo and found out he was the only cat in the world that you were violently allergic to...and how we would be reminded of that every time you went to Carol Allen's house after she took him in.

I remember being in the car with you when we passed one of your students on the street, clearly high on something -you guessed heroin- about to walk into traffic on 125, so you stopped the car and talked him down, making sure he was safe before we went on our way.

I have always appreciated the fact that - even when I was a tiny kid, you never treated me like an inferior.  I feel lucky to have come from a family that values honesty, and didn't shield me from reality.  I felt prepared going off on my own, in ways that I didn't even know someone could lack (until I lived with a bunch of freshmen college students who could barely care for themselves).
I have always loved and am increasingly grateful for the full, diverse cultural experience I had as a kid thanks both to conscious efforts and simply the way you and mom lived your lives.

I see so much Kelly in you in this one...

You have now had 60 years of amazing adventures - boating through the grand canyon, skydiving, going to Russia (and getting sick on bad cream), being a nurse, being an actor, being a director, being a writer, being a dancer, being an outdoorsman, an intellectual, a martial artist, a researcher and deep thinker, a hero, a villain, a musician, singer, songwriter, an administrator, a rebel, a teacher.  You are a trickster, warrior, caregiver; and your self deprecating style only aids in making you a strong leader, and I have no doubt that you have many decades of adventure still ahead.

I love you, Dad.
Happy Birthday!

1 comment:

  1. I totally remember commenting on this, but don't see it here, so again, for those of you in the back: Thank you so much Kiddo. This completely nailed me sobbing to the wall. I don't deserve you. I couldn't love you more, or be more proud of you. Of all the titles I've had in my life, none of them come anywhere close to the very very best one: dad.