“He didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.”

~Clarence Budington Kelland


Happy Father’s Day to all you fathers out there. I would be remiss to not speak of my father on this day as he’s been quite an influential person in my life. He is the other half of a dynamic duo that twinkled me into existence. I’ve always felt that my father is the hero, while my mother is the saint. Looking back as an adult, my view has broadened and I see my parents as more than simply ideals, but whole people reflecting the art of being human. Today being father’s day, I thought I’d share a few things I learned from my father; the lessons he embodied in being himself.


Dad playing the drums


1. Choose your own adventure. Life is happening now. There are no guarantees, so take nothing for granted. As an adventure seeker turned responsible adult, it took a while for me to truly realize that adventure isn’t something you patiently await, it’s something you seek to live. So make time for the wild adventures that have germinated in your childhood mind, the ones you carry with you still, the ones you turn to daydreaming of what if when the default settings of life don’t cut it anymore. How we define adventure, what quickens our pulse, is as unique as we are, however, adventure is around every corner, waiting for each of us to rise to the occasion rather than sit back, letting the opportunity pass by. I know that I consciously choose how I journey through life, it is not chosen for me; I am the master of my fate and my choices the ladder to the stars.


2. Music is meant to be felt. The above picture is the best example of my father and his love of music. He’s a self-taught drummer and dabbles in playing many instruments. He has even hand-built a few. I fondly remember him playing his musical saw or banjo at our church services just as much as playing drums with his band at the local Moose Lodge. Whether listening to the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, or The Stones in the basement, loud the only volume setting in our home, I realized that music is a form expression. It’s a way to tap into how I feel, a vehicle to let it out rather than holding it deep. With two previous church organ speakers wired up to the sound system, my dad literally would dust the light fixtures when he cranked it up. It was in these moments that I fell in love with base and how it courses through music like the blood in my veins, feeling it for what it issound is life in motion.


3. The only true obstacles are the self-imposed kind. I usually shy away from sharing that my father is completely blind, mainly because I don’t ever see it as anything other than a part of who he is, rather than the result of something done to him. I feel that way as despite losing his sight at a young age, there truly isn’t anything my father has held himself back from trying and, in his usual fashion, conquering like a superhero. He taught me about my minds eye and that seeing is believing, not so much external sight, but holding a vision of myself until I live into it. Half of the battle is believing and seeing with internal sight taps into the wellspring of potential that resides in us all.


4. Everyone matters.  My father is an advocate for people with disabilities or those that are differently abled. Which truthfully includes us all, for the thing making us all the same, is that we’re all different. I believe that beauty resides in the differences, not in the common denominator of sameness. Many may not realize they’re differently abled but there is a difference in the needs of lefty versus right-handed person, the size of an aisle for someone using a wheelchair or two abled legs or a double stroller, to the color blind shopper unable to see red lettuce from green to the shopper unable to read the sign for red lettuce versus green; all use what they have to do what they need to do, all have an internal or physical set of circumstances for which to navigate this external world. When going to a new businesses or traveling, my father would always check out the light switches, elevators, the sinks and hallways to discern if accessible. When we create and hold spaces that are not welcoming and able to be used by all, we give the impression that all do not matter, which is not true and a slippery slope, for who decides who matters? Everyone matters. Period.


5. Don’t throw the first punch. This has been some of the most practical advice as my father always taught me to never throw the first punch. Violence is not condoned, however, if hit it was considered more than appropriate for me show that though I am little, I am fierce and will protect myself and those I love. This holds true for blows that are not of the physical variety. No need to go looking for or creating trouble, if I have a negative feeling to sit with it and examine why I might feel that way, anger lets one know of boundaries being breached, and in breaching such, stirring the opportunity for awareness and expanding my boundaries to not result in the same response a second time.


6. Find your passion. This wasn’t something that was verbally shared with me. This was a pearl I had to elicit from stepping back and looking at how my father spent his time away from work. Music is a passion that he translated into many outlets. Playing music, experiencing music, building instruments, reading about the history of music and lastly, restoring older music making machines. Around the time I was thirteen, my father used a scanner to read books about phonographs. The old victrolas, cylinder and diamond disc players fascinated my father. He soon found that after reading about the machines, he could tinker with broken ones and use his minds eye to help fix them. He could breathe new life into a piece of history becoming part of a new history. He would scour junk shops, garage sales, thrift stores and antique shops for the remnants that he would put together creating a whole, his passion being the renaissance he was living while fixing each antique and then enjoying the old fox trot in our living room or the rare political speech discovered on a cobalt blue cylinder.


7. We’re wired for story. My father used to listen to books, his appetite for literary nourishment never quenched.  From history to the classics, to neuroscience, to music anthologies, he would eagerly move from book to book taking it all in. One of my favorite memories, however, is of his nighttime stories. Before bed my sisters and I would gather around and he’d begin to tell us a tale, often one he was making up on the spot, which made it difficult when we asked to hear it again. He would weave morals from the days happenings, or cherished tales and flip them around a bit. Some of my favorites were the ones he let us build with him, he’d begin telling the story and then let each of us add whatever we wanted, nothing was considered too silly or nonsensical. Our minds were allowed to expand and wander as we went around our little family circle continuing to weave the story until it was time for slumber.  Through telling our story, we were taught that we matter, what we believe is important and that we’re part of the living story unfolding through time.