I was born with my eyes wide open and poetry in my bones. The poetry, I got from my dad, and I fixed my big eyes on him from the day I was born.
Here is my song for the asking
ask me and I will play
so sweetly, I’ll make you smile
this is my tune for the taking
take it, don’t turn away
I’ve been waiting all my life
thinking it over, I’ve been sad
thinking it over, I’d be more than glad
to change my ways for the asking
ask me and I will play
all the love that I hold inside
– Song For The Asking, Simon & Garfunkel
I was raised with the best poets of all fields. The poets of folk, like Simon & Garfunkel and James Taylor, the poets of film, like Humphrey Bogart and Grace Kelley, and the poets of literature, like Robert Frost and James Joyce.
There was poetry in the way we lived: it was quirky, deep, and bold…and we didn’t always follow all the rules. My dad and I went camping every fall when I was a kid, to Allegany State Park. We’d go for long hikes and see the beavers, read together, talk about our faith, talk about good literature. I’d get a tiny sip of wine and the smallest puff of a cigar as we sat around a fire on a chilly autumn night.
I think my dad knew early that I’d inherited his love for literature and writing, that I wanted to use words to express things and to use them well. He’d sing me the songs he’d written and ask for my 5-year-old opinion on his word choice. He treated me with the respect of a well-established critic, and his confidence in me fueled the artist inside.
As a thank you to my dad for everything he’s given me in life, for the inspiration he’s been to my pursuit of writing, I have a story to share about him today, about a vacation my family took over 15 years ago:
Our family of 5 had rented a small, two bedroom fisherman’s cabin in Old Orchard, Maine for our summer vacation. We had been there for several days and on this particular day we were lobster red from the beach. It was hot. Each room had a fan whirring and blowing the hot air around. We just couldn’t cool off. Dad was cooking a gourmet meal in the tiny kitchen. Smells of white wine, garlic, and heavy cream waved through the heavy, steaming cottage.
The vacation had been a lot of fun so far, but the heat, sunburns, and the typical drama involved when three sisters spend several days sharing a room, made for a habitat that was about to boil over. I remember laying on the bed in front of a fan, thickly smothered with aloe vera gel, waiting grumpily for dinner to be served.
The tension at the dinner table was sweltering, but the food was, as always, amazing. We tried to be pleasant, but there was an undertone of moodiness in the air. My dad was done. Done with the drama, the grumpiness, all of it. Never a person to let such a tone take over an otherwise great vacation, he raised his entire glass of cold milk and poured it over his head. In a hasty reaction, my mom let out a couple of “car accident words,” and we girls became hysterical over the combination of my dad’s stunt and my mom’s uncharacteristic language. The day stayed hot, and the smell of warm milk permeated the little dining nook which had rustic, porous wood flooring, where some milk lingered after the clean-up, but we were all smiling.
As a contractor, my dad has always said “the world is my toolbox.” Whether or not he has the tools conventionally prescribed for a specific situation, he tends to find some sort of unique or crazy way to make things better all around. He is not your typical contractor. He is a contractor that is also a poet, and sometimes the best answer to a situation, something only an artist like my dad would know, is to pour milk over your head and dare the world to stay grumpy.
Love you, Daddy! Happy Father’s Day this weekend to all of the dads out there, with a special note to those who were made to raise daughters and will do what it takes to see them smile.