Sunday Gratitude: Dad
Today, my father Henry celebrates 82 years. He and my mom are elsewhere today, enjoying the freedom that comes with retirement and health, and a car tank full of gas. We Owls were lucky to have them visit us for three weeks recently–a gratitude that was particularly deep after pandemic separation.
My dad doesn’t read this blog anymore. After the meanness of this spring and some folks were unkind, he simply lost the joy of it. And therefore I get to say a few things that he won’t read, but hopefully knows. From him, I have learned many important life lessons and I am grateful for them. Here are my top three.
The first I learned was to not be boxed in by where you are or where you grow up. A few years ago, we did a geneological research project about his side of the family. I will sum it up to say that the Dutch Calvinists, from whence my parents both came, were not a barrel of laughs. Both my parents had very restricted upbringings–no dancing, no alcolhol (that part may be obvious for kids, of course), church twice or thrice on Sundays–and my dad never worried about club soccer vs town soccer on the weekends. He was working the fields on the onion farm. But he got out through hard work and cleaning floors at night so he could pay for college. He became top in his field–yes, finance, which obviously didn’t rub off on the Owl, but is in private equity Owl brother. He got out. If you’re not happy where you are, get out.
The second was the deep appreciation for the woods and walks. We hiked most weekends in the Hudson highlands–Storm King, Breakneck Ridge, the annoyingly difficult Turkey Mountain for Thanksgiving evening with the light dropping low. This appreciation has lasted through neuropathy and back issues–though he can’t walk as far now, he will put “his sticks” in the trunk and we’re off down whatever path we find. A couple of days ago he sent me a New York Times book review for books that tell us what we already know–take the trail. It’s good for you.
The third and most important to me at this point in my life is one I did not fully get until more recently. My dad taught me (unintentionally) that you need to treat people gently, because you don’t know what they are going through. My dad has struggled his whole life with depression though it was not a diagnosis until the 1980s. All we knew as kids is that my dad simply disappeared from time to time. He would not want me to talk about this, and so I’ll just say that mental health issues are real and they are difficult for everyone involved. Be kind, be gentle, because you don’t know. You simply don’t know what others go through. And so you will see that I have zero ability to deal with mean people and cruel comments.
Also dogs. Dad does love a dog. Me too. I think I’ll go off in the woods with mine now. My Sunday Gratitude: my dad. Happy Birthday, Henry!
May the road rise to meet you!