People can come and go in our lives and we don’t always fully realize how much we don’t know about them until they’re gone.
My father was a quiet, strong man who loved his kids, even if we still don’t all like each other, who did his very traditional part in the family of making the money to support us and building/fixing (or trying to) things around the house. I knew many things about him, but only what he divulged. He was a WWII Vet, he loved NCIS, was an Eisenhower Republican (so, actually socially Liberal in many ways), and rarely swore around others. There is a lot more than that, but that’s a very quick summary. He was a Civil Engineer who got his B.A. in pre-Law, then decided to switch to Engineering at the last minute before law school. He was an incredible photographer as well. He was a member of the Oakland Camera Club, in the SF Bay Area, back in the ’50’s. He met my mother while leading a backpacking trip for the Sierra Club in 1964.
Upon going through some of his things, much of which is still in CA awaiting transport up here to me in PDX, I found something that made me wonder more about him. I’ll never get to ask him now. Among the few things I managed to bring back immediately were his high school diploma and some B&W pictures. In the middle of those items were two pieces of paper. Two poems written by him.
I never knew.
It explains a few things to me, though. I’ve often described him as my cheerleader. He refused to read my first book until he could buy a copy of his own. He loved reading my meager booklet of poetry, angsty teen poems and all.
I never knew.
Whenever life got in the way of my writing, he knew. He always asked me, “are you still writing?” And if I hadn’t been, I’d hem and haw and say I’ve been busy. His response every time, “Don’t ever give up on your writing. You’re too good at it.”
Now I have maybe a little understanding of why.
He sacrificed his writing for the real world. He sacrificed his photography to spend time making the house better for his family.
He sacrificed a lot.
I never knew.
He passed away 11/8/2014. I was dealing with grad school, finances, life in general, and trying to write yet another first draft for NaNoWriMo. I stopped writing for several days after he died. My word count stood at 15,000 words for nearly two weeks. Then, as I sat in his house, trying to go through things and sort out my own feelings and come to terms with him being gone – my cheerleader being gone – I starting writing again. I finished NaNoWriMo, despite everything else going on. I did it for my dad.
Never stop writing. Never stop doing the things you LOVE because society tells you to. Do them. Improve on them. Grow with your passions. Never. Give. Up.
He did. He gave up his creative passions for that “normal” life. I don’t know if he regretted it. I will never know.
I will have his negatives and slides. Soon. While it’ll take me a while, amidst everything else, I plan on scanning everything in and sharing it with the world. I want his legacy to shine, even though he won’t be here to appreciate it. He gave me his love of writing, music, and photography. The three things I love the most. While he wasn’t musical, he loved music anyway. I got those talents from my mother. While I didn’t know he wrote, he still passed on and strongly encouraged a passion for writing in me. Growing up, I was his “mini-me.” I followed him everywhere. To this day, I feel more comfortable in a hardware store than a high-end clothing store.
He was my mentor, my father, my hero.