|My dad and my daughter Ani - Christmas 1987|
His grandchildren were his pride and joy!
So I put together some things that I learned over the years....from being my father's daughter:
1. You never stop learning: My dad taught us that the sky's the limit when it came to learning. He was a true believer in the school of life, and he taught us - his four children - that the day we stop learning is the day you die. He had a natural curiosity. He loved to read. He knew a lot about all sorts of things. We could ask him any question and he'd know the answer...OR, if he didn't, he'd help us find the answer. We'd take trips as a family to the library every two weeks, each of us with our own library card. We'd check out the maximum 10 books and bring them home. We learned all about everything...and we learned the importance of reading. He was always trying new projects. One year my mom bought him a book about oriental rugs and how they were loomed. The next thing I knew he had me in the car and we were driving across town for the right wool for his project - weaving mini sample rugs on a frame loom he built. He learned all about natural dying of the wool, knotting techniques, even about carding wool and making your own yarn. Like I said, he was naturally curious.
When I was about 18, I saw an article in a magazine about stained glass windows. I thought, how cool would that be...to be able to cut glass and make something lasting with transparent color. Right off he encouraged me to try to learn the craft. The very next day we went and bought tools. He encouraged me to sign up for a class. He was always pro-education. Whatever you learned was to your advantage. There was no "useless information." Eventually, I loved working in stained glass so much that I started my own business for while designing and making windows. All because of that magazine and my father.
He was my duet partner. We were always working on perfecting Bach's double violin concerto in Db minor- dad on violin and me on the flute. Measure by measure we'd go through the runs and the timing. I'd get so frustrated because there was definitely a difference between blowing and bowing! And though his fingers could fly over the strings of his violin, I had a whole different sequence of breatheing and blowing to deal with on the flute. We played casuals for events around town - parties, anniversaries. We even worked one summer together at Ports o'Call in San Pedro, a little touristy fisherman's village. The management hired us as strolling musicians to add a little local color. Great memories.
On tipping street musicians: Because my father had been a struggling musician, we would help them as well. Good or bad...if they were playing on the street, he would always slip us money to put in their open case. He said they bring music to the world and they're playing on the street because they want to share that joy. We should appreciate them for what they do!
And lemonade? Who doesn't love lemonade...and who doesn't love children? We would pull over for lemonade stands to encourage the children that were selling. Not only would my dad buy the lemonade, but he would slurp it down, making the kids giggle, and he'd smile and thank the kids, and tell them it was really the best lemonade he had ever had in his life. He was all about making people feel good.
4. The kitchen is the soul of the house: I've told you about dad's violin playing. He would lose himself in his music. And his favorite room to do this in? The kitchen. In fact he would do almost everything in the kitchen including read, weave, and of course, play violin. This would drive mom crazy, because he would plant himself right in the center and play one of his concerti. She be trying to cook dinner, or deal with one of us and there he'd play. He loved the kitchen and explained it this way. The kitchen is the soul of the house. It's where we gather to eat, to pray around the table. It's a family place. What better place could there be to spend your time at home? We were lucky. We lived in a large California craftsman home that had a square kitchen layout. Eventually, my parents moved and the new house had a much smaller kitchen, the shape of which was long and narrow. One of my favorite photos is one of my dad holding my daughter Ani on his lap. She was probably all of 2 or 3 and by then . So in the picture, there's dad sitting on a chair smack in the middle of the narrow kitchen - not at the table or at the counter. Nope, right in the middle, with his granddaughter on his lap...reading her her favorite story.
And finally, 5. Don't be satisfied with a "C" This was an important one. We could never be happy with getting C's on our report cards. A "C" meant you were "Satisfactory". And while that was okay for some, it was not good enough for my dad. Getting a C meant that you weren't applying yourself. That you were just "okay". As a kid I only applied this to my grades, but as I grew older I realized there was a greater message he was getting across. Don't be okay with just being okay. Be the best you can be...do the best you can do. Try to do better. Always ask yourself, "Is that the best I can do." The idea was not to be afraid to be "uncomfortable" in your quest to do better. Push yourself. Apply yourself.
There are so many other things I can tell you about my dad. He was really an incredible person and a loving father. When he passed away at age 58, the loss was huge...but I felt an even deeper loss for my children who would grow up not knowing his love, his wit and not being able to experience is beautiful smile and his strong hugs. He taught me so much about life, about myself, and the older I get, the more I find that I have some of his same quirks. Like leaving my shoes laying around the house, playing my flute in the kitchen, whistling through my teeth. I can't pass a street musician without leaving a tip. I can't pass a homeless person without saying hello, and I always stop to buy lemonade.
His simple lessons are instilled in all of us kids, and in my mom as well. I'll close with a cute little story, because today would have been my parents 58th anniversary. Several years ago, on my parents anniversary, my mom stopped at the cemetary to put flowers on dad's grave. As she pulled up, she noticed the sprinklers were on. She sat in the car and after waiting a long time decided that maybe she would just say her prayer in the car, leave the flowers at the curb, and come back another time. As she was saying her prayer, she heard my father's voice. "Is that the best you can do, Anne?" She had to smile. And she knew what she had to do. She got out of the car, with the flowers, walked across the grass getting soaked by the sprinklers to go pay dad a visit. And as she stood there all wet, she just knew inside, that my dad was looking down, smiling!
So Happy Father's day to all of you Dad's out there...and all of you single mom's that fill dad's shoes too!