My father is a man who came from a mill town and by the power of his mind, his imagination, and his work ethic has traveled the world, met authors and artists, and impacted the lives of scores of people.
He taught me to love music and beauty, to work with my hands, to care for my surroundings and the environment, to eat good healthy food, to grow what you can, to recycle, to compost, years before it was in vogue; he was growing his own food, composting his kitchen refuse, he was rebuilding his home, rehabbing abused and torn down spaces, while he did the same for the worn down and tired psyches of his patients.
As a psychologist, he has sought to apply the tools of science to quantify the workings of the human thought, as multifarious and complex as any organ can be. He’s used this understanding to help tailor education to its maximum benefit, so that supports may be given according to people’s needs.
In exploring psychology he sought the interface between brain and behavior, through thousands and thousands of conversations, placing these experiences into a framework of neurobiology, joining the tradition stretching back to ancient Egypt.* He has introduced the field of psychology to students through many courses, introducing them to this discipline which seeks to comprehend man, as he is, in the world.
He has sought to strengthen his own body through exercise, and promoted for his patients the proper balance between the mind and the body, recognizing that we are not brains on sticks, but instead are dynamic creatures who are most alive when engaging with a three dimensional, vivid outdoor experience.
He has worked with hundreds if not thousands of people to understand what they’ve been through, how it relates to their lives, to fight with their demons, to mend relationships when they can, and to save themselves when relationships cannot be mended. He has worked with the grieving, the widowed, the powerful, the broken, the addicts and alcoholics, murderers and psychotics, and has been confessor, the priest listening to the worst things which humans can do to one another, and in every relationship he’s formed he has sought to bring compassion, helping, a positive spirit, a light in the darkness.
He has worked for so long giving them encouragement in the darkest nights of their souls, teaching them that the world may beat you, curse you, mistreat you, but all the while you’re braver than you know, stronger than you seem, and it’s not over. That you shouldn’t throw yourself away, because it’s never too late to change the road that you’re on, that God does not make junk, and that he who has begun a good work in you will see it through to completion.
My father has worked with the church to help the train their leaders, to evaluate them and give them the support that they need in order to understand themselves, to understand the role of the church, and though imperfect, he has supported and given to the church, recognizing that the true church lies among its people in the hearts of its worshipers, even when their leaders fail them.
My father is someone who has cared for music his entire life. He has dedicated himself and his sons to the preservation and the practice of the greatest works that humankind has ever developed, Mozart, Beethoven, and Bach, recognizing that even as NASA recorded these works on golden records to be sent into space with the Voyager probe traversing the Galaxy,** so too should they be encoded within the minds of the young, especially his most precious sons, his emissaries into the world.
He’s dedicated himself to the craft and the discipline of learning a demanding instrument like the piano, and even as he nears seventy years of age, he continues his dedication to sharpening his mind and increasing the dexterity and swiftness of his fingers, that his music may communicate the fierceness, gusto, and warmth of his own zest for life. He tends his Petrof grand piano like he tends his garden, recognizing that an instrument is a living creation, and one which is a gift to be protected, modulating its humidity, having its strings tuned, and playing it often. He recognizes this as work of art, a testament to the beauty that we can create if we work together.
My father has three sons, three incandescent spirits to light the night, five bright smiles of grandchildren, three platinum blonde, one strawberry blonde in curls, and one brunette.
My father has sought to inculcate within us a love of language, of travel, of storytelling and mirth and fine food and culture, he has raised us so that no one would look down on us, but instead we might raise up many.
My father is someone that I can be proud of for what he’s done and for the example he’s shown to me and my brothers, of how to contribute to community, how to build something beautiful that lasts, how to tend and nurture relationships, when and how to admit you’re wrong and reconcile, when you prize the relationship more than the issue.
He is someone we’ve depended on through all the stages in our life like The Giving Tree; when we were children he gave us the apples of time and his laughter, and his encouragement; when we became older and went out to make her way in the world, he gave us the branches and wood that we could make canoes to voyage down the river of life, and to build homes for our families and our children, and now as we raise children of our own, he seeks to have us sit beside him for a while that we may share the moments.
It’s difficult to grow up, and it’s difficult to understand who you are, why you are, and what you’re supposed to do in this world, a world which does not often reward goodness or recognize kindness, which does not care for the weak or the broken; my father has taught me is when the world will not do these things, we may do them for one other, we might light a candle rather than curse the darkness.
I’m thankful for my father every single day for the guidance and the strength he’s provided, and for showing me then there’s better ways to live than what most people content themselves with, that the life of the mind is something real and to be nurtured, and all that is beautiful never truly go away.
I love you, Dad, thank you for always being there for me.
*hieroglyph for the word “brain” from the Edwin Smith Papyrus, 17th century BCE, Egypt.
** A full listing of the musical works encoded on the voyager records may be found here: http://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov/spacecraft/music.html