What My Father Taught Me
Yesterday marked the three-year anniversary of my father's death. As I honored his memory last night, I realized the most important life lesson that he taught me. He was not always a happy man, and we didn't see eye-to-eye on many things. But he did shape who I am in at least one extremely significant way.
You see, my father was a lover at heart. And he threw himself into the people and things he loved wholeheartedly. You knew what he was passionate about the moment you met him. He would tell you about his favorite baseball players, Civil War generals, movies, restaurants, and songs. Sometimes, he would pull out a comb from his back pocket, put a piece of tissue paper over it, and play it like a kazoo, regaling you with renditions of his most beloved melodies, such as the classic "Whispering." After even the briefest interaction with him, you would come away with a pretty good idea of what he loved.
At his memorial, I observed that my father was a religious man in one sense: Love was his religion. There was never a bit of doubt about his passion and devotion to his wife, his family, or his most cherished pursuits, including games and puzzles; history and storytelling; food and travel; music and films. As he got older, he spent most of his waking time engaged in what I call "love play." This is when you give yourself to what you love fully, while taking it all in as fully as you can.
My father would sit for hours on his favorite recliner, with his beloved feline companion on his lap, while delighting in something he really cherished: a seemingly obscure baseball statistic; word problems; jokes; calculations; the best meals of his life; deals on vacations and cruises; or the news of the day. Until almost the very end, he read through the entire newspaper and listened to audio books steadily.
The last time I saw him, he had a headset in his ears and I assumed he was listening to another audio book. But then I noticed that the headset wasn't plugged into anything. He didn't seem to need the external stimulation anymore. In his head, there was an entire symphony unfolding: facts and figures, melodies and memories, treats and treasures. My sense was that he had taken his passion to a whole new level, where it had become like a continuous meditation for him.
The last few months of his life were rough at times. I certainly do not want to dismiss or underestimate the challenges that he, my mother, and the rest of my family had to face. But I also saw that my father had become unwavering in his adherence to this love religion that he had created for himself and had embraced consistently throughout his life.
My father was a true and devout lover. That makes him, in mind, something of a holy man. In honor of him, I remind myself daily to simply:
BE THE LOVER
Thanks for letting me share this with you. In love and joy, now and always.
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