20 June 2013

Remembering Dad

My dad and my daughter Ani - Christmas 1987
His grandchildren were his pride and joy!
This past Sunday was Father's Day here in the States.  My father passed away over 20 years ago. When you have your own children you still feel the loss of your father on this day but because you are busy creating Father's day for your own family, those memories end up getting set aside.  My children are grown now and are now including us in their own celebrations.  As I saw all the posts on Facebook of friends with their fathers, it made me really miss my own father.  And it gave me time to reflect on some of my memories of him and how much he influenced who I am today.
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.

2.  Play a musical instrument!  My father  was incredibly musical, and he made sure to pass this love of music on to his children.  We all had to pick an instrument that we wanted to play. He sent us off to music lessons when we were young.  It wasn't a luxury.  It was a necessity.  Music was very important.  It was not only an escape but a discipline.  He himself  was a fantastic violinist, self taught. He was a pharmacist by trade and while in pharmacy school, he helped pay for his college by working as a gypsy violinist at a restaurant.  He'd wear a scarf, a clip on hoop earring, and his shalvar pants from his armenian dance costume.  And he'd set out to play dinner music on his violin.   My mom told me he was quite the romantic. But his musical talent  didn't stop at the violin. He played the mandolin, the oud, and the duduk as well.

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.

3.  Be kind to the homeless; tip street musicians; and buy lemonade from lemonade stands!:  I had painted this on the wall of my kitchen in my old home because I think this really gave me a sense of who my father was.  He was a softy.  Kind and compassionate.  He is the reason that I am involved in our homeless ministry.  Because as a child we were told to be kind to the homeless.  To care for them...provide for them.  On holidays we would deliver food to our community's homeless...on bus benches and behind stores.  My father taught me that the homeless are "just people, like you and me," and that we should be kind to them because other's aren't. My mom reminded me of the time we had all gone to the Canter's, a local deli for dinner.  We had just ordered our dinner when a homeless man walked in and asked if he could please buy a cup of coffee.  The management refused to serve him.  My father was insensed!  He ordered us all to get up.  He refused to eat there if they wouldn't serve the man...and we never stepped foot in there after that.  At the time, I remember how embarassed I felt because we had made a scene.  Now, I feel so proud that we took a stand and more so of the valuable lesson he action held.

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!


e.tippit said...

What a beautiful story about your dad. What an amazing and beautiful man! He taught you so many things. You articulated it so wonderfully. I am crying while I am typing this. You really touched my heart. I also miss my dad especially on Father's Day. Your story makes me understand how creative, loving and giving you are. I also played the flute so I can relate to what you said about the breathing. I was not very good at it. Thank you for sharing.

Pomegranate and Eye said...

Thank you, Ellen! Hugs to you. I'm sure your dad is looking down from heaven and smiling on you for the wonderful person you are.