I usually don’t like to get too personal on my blog but, I have been partially inspired by Laura who recently delved into her past to share reasons why she is not a scientist. So on this Father’s Day I would like to take the time to thank my dad, celebrate his life and reflect on what he has taught, and still continues to teach me.
This is now the fourth year where I didn’t get to say “Happy Father’s Day” and buy a necktie, cd, or card. The passage of time has made such days easier and memories bring more smiles than tears now. As Barbara Ganley so eloquently said in her Faculty Academy talk in reference to the recent passing of her own father, “…my relationship with him has not ended but has shifted into memory conversations and flashes of understanding I never had the time to reach because I was so busy in my relationship being with him in the present”. Leave it to Barbara to beautifully state the relationship I have had with my father for over four years now. I continue to learn from my father and have recently felt his presence more acutely as I begin to understand his own methods of teaching me.
My father appeared to be quiet man to many people but, his warmth never failed to come through, he taught through his actions rather than words. Those close to him were blessed with the opportunity to hear him speak at length, sharing his wisdom that seemed to come from a mysterious place far beyond my own understanding. I was so used to these conversations with my father growing up I didn’t realize their rarity until my Aunt pointed it out to me a year or so ago how special my relationship with him was.
I have learned the value of being active from him. He taught me how to ride a bike, swing a golf club, throw a baseball, tend to a garden. My father and I share the same natural athleticism that drives us to be competitive on the field and even though he grew up loving the game of baseball he easily made the transition to soccer coach when I expressed more interest in it than baseball. From 1996-2002 when I played on the inter-city travel soccer league he was the assistant coach. We must have made hundreds of trips in his Saturn to games and tournaments and some of my fondest memories of him come from those rides together. It wasn’t until after his death that I realized how he was a constant in my soccer life and for several months I could not bring myself to play. He did not grow up playing soccer but, he studied, watched, and played so he could learn the nuances of the game. The bond we shared over soccer wasn’t just a mutual love of sports but, went down deeper to the bonds between people that form over shared experiences.
When I went to California for the first time in 2004 I wondered what he would have said to me, having spent a good part of his young adult years on the west coast. I even climbed Telegraph Hill trying to imagine where the shop he had was, hoping I could reach across time to contact him there. Hiking through the Sierra Mountains I thought about the stories I had heard from my Aunt about him spending weeks with people hiking out into nature and those people being amazed by his knowledge and love of the outdoors. I think I understand where my wanderlust comes from now.
It comes as no surprise that he was an avid gardener. Maintaining a large plot of land in our backyard with such ease that the rest of us still haven’t figure out his secret. Now the garden has been overrun with weeds but, naturally weeds that grow quickly and abundantly. My father had a spiritual relationship with nature and he felt most at peace when he dug into the dirt, creating life with a well practiced dance of watering, weeding, and trust in mother nature herself. Even at his grave when other plants nearby are dying his stone is almost obscured by the plants growing around it, it is truly an amazing sight to see.
In his own way he supported my curiosity to learn. In elementary school when I wanted to be an astronomer he went out and bought plastic glow-in-the-dark stars and books on constellations so we could set up an accurate night sky on my ceiling. It wasn’t until my freshman year in college that I uncovered a lesson my dad had been teaching me my whole life. In his pursuit of knowledge and new experiences he taught me the value of being able to have an open mind and to be open to change. When my father became a manager at a factory where most of the workers spoke spanish he went ahead and learned spanish. When computers and the internet were starting to take over my dad took classes on computer programming, he knew that computers were the future. I have no doubt that if my father were still alive that he would pretty web 2.0 savvy, perhaps even dabbling in blogging. When he became too ill to work and was subjected to lying on the couch most of the day he would watch the food network and would learn to create elaborate meals that would have even impressed Emeril.
My family nickname that he created when I was little still carries on and has been more widely used by family members that are perhaps trying to keep memories of him (and my cousin Ryan who also used it) alive. I respond to the nickname like a second first name and each utterance is a testament to my fathers influence.
In his death my father has taught me the value of life. I have learned to love the small things and the small moments that seem so ordinary but, are the times that add the richness and depth to our lives. My small post on the internet does not do him justice but, in the vast realms of the internet I dedicate this small space to his memory. As I think about it his memory isn’t restrained to what I can put down on paper or on a blog. Even though memories of my father will fade, his lessons will continue to carry on and even one day influence my children who will not even know him except through what I share.
My father’s life and death have influenced me in so many ways that I’m not sure I’ll ever fully comprehend it all. Even though I have lived a fourth of my life without the physical presence of my father, every garden that grows and soccer field filled with noise is a subtle reminder of his love, a love that transcends time.
Happy Father’s Day to all dads. Your importance and influence may go unnoticed at times but, your children are forever changed by all those moments spent with them, no matter where that time is spent.