My father was not the kind of father that had a bunch of sayings, lessons or maxims that he repeated, as if he had all the wisdom of the world. In fact, in regard to lessons or things he explicitly stated, he said very little. He used to tell me to ‘never leave my wallet on the counter when buying things’, or in other words, never leave your wallet out in public. And, he is a huge proponent of locking doors and always remembering your keys and I have adopted that paranoid compulsion in my own life, for better and worse. Lastly, he would constantly reinforce the idea of financially preparing for the future and, to this day, he still makes comments in this vein. Since there has been minimal inspiration from quotable words of wisdom, then I will illustrate the implicit and unsaid wisdom that I learned from my father instead.
There are many lessons I learned from my father, but I am only going to share the three that I feel contributed the most to the person I became.
My father, for the most part, cooked with whole foods and used to say, after preparing a home cooked meal using whole ingredients, “a meal like this would cost hundreds of dollars in a fancy restaurant.” And, although my father is not classically trained in French cooking techniques or does he serve food with awe inspiring presentation, the value of cooking with whole foods has significantly dwarfed any fine dinning experience. And for this I am thankful.
I learned that family is not defined by blood, but by action and intent. My father did not have a very large family and would commonly refer to his brother as an asshole, but that is mostly because he is one. My grandmother passed away prior to a catastrophic flood in my father’s hometown and my dad and his two siblings all flew home to take care of her affairs, but also to move all of her possessions from the basement and first floor to the second floor in preparation of the flood. My father’s brother devoted this time to rummaging through her books in search of valuable first edition books and anything else of value, instead of laboring to protect things of sentimental value. From this I learned that love is not an expression, but an action. If you love somebody, then express it with action, not just words- words are meaningless without action. Family is also defined by action and not just blood. I have many friends in my life that I consider family, because, in action, they are. And for this I am thankful.
At some point in my childhood I wanted to be a chef, and then a fireman, and then a racecar driver, and then a scientist (or more specifically a paleontologist), and then an architect, and then a baseball player, and then a lawyer, and then join the peace corp. to build bridges and then, finally, a lighting designer. He never responded to these dreams with comments like: you can be whatever you set your mind to, but instead he responded by simply validating my desire to dream and be free in thought. My father never pushed religion on me and always warmly catered my random inquisitions on topics of spirituality, faith and doubt. And, as a semi-rebellious teenager, I would question the law and talk to him about it and if I made a valid point about my grievance with the law, he would respond with, “that’s a good point,” and he never tried to press upon me the idea that the law is the law and we need not question it- morality is learned, not dictated. Giving me the freedom to dream and the freedom to question religion and the law, learning how to be my own man and that it is ok to question things and not to accept assumptions on face value. I learned how to question ideology and dogma; in other words, this taught me the true meaning of freedom: Freedom is a state of mind. And for this I am thankful.