Painting by our cousin Keith Eveland
This is one of my absolute favorite pictures of my father, Jack. I took it myself. There he is in his favorite perch in the world I think…or at least right up there. At the head of the table in our dining room at the Monkeyspoon cottage at Wells Beach Maine. My father has been going there, literally, since he was in the womb. I’ve been going there nearly as long, maybe shave off 7 years or so.
In this picture my father is wearing his then favorite hat. A “Hobie Cat” hat he found in tatters on the beach during a beach walk. It already had a hole in it when he found it, which obviously could be the reason it was discarded in the first place. But my Dad patched that hole up with something–some kind of fabric he found somewhere else- and wore it for years. I mean, for years. Until it just disintegrated. That little story sums up many things about my father. I only wish I had a clue of what they are.
You can see the twinkle in his eye and his sky blue eyes. My Dad has the most unusual color of eyes I think I’ve seen. They are this light blue that somehow is a color right in between the ocean and the sky. Which in itself in descriptive of my Dad as well.
My father’s life has been touched by more tragedy than I think anyone I will ever meet. By the age of 35 he’d lost both his father and wife, the mother of his three children, to Cancer. His first born was murdered and his youngest succumbed to Schizophrenia. Yet my father has always maintained his childlike spirit.
I think that photo kind of sums it up, especially the two pairs of boxers. I’m sure the one peeking out underneath was equally as festive. My Dad has one of the most playful spirits and the biggest laugh of anyone I know. Cindy and he really played off each other in that way. I remember how heartily she would make him laugh. I miss that.
My Dad grew up in NYC, an only child and, like us kids, lived in a household with his grandparents (Buddha’s parents). My Grandfather who I only met when I was a baby, was very successful and my Dad went to Ivy League Schools and prep schools. Here is a photo of him on a cruise at what looks like age 3 maybe? He still has those same legs!
Although he was raised in a life of pretty distinct privilege, he taught his own children much deeper values. Thank God for that as who knew we would need that sustenance through this life. I would say the biggest lesson my father has taught me has something to do with resiliency and not losing your spark. And that he’s taught me by example.
I can’t think of a situation or event or conversation where I’ve felt my father ever judged me. Ever. Sure he was disappointed in me at times, who isn’t? But I feel safe to say I’ve not for one minute ever felt judged by my father. I’ve always felt like he saw the best in me. That in itself is a very rare gift a parent offers a child, I know. He clearly taught this to my brother as he’s exactly the same way with me. How fortunate I feel right now just writing this out.
I’ve always found it kind of unusual that my father raised me but we pronounce the word orange differently. He says “ah range” and I say “oar ange”. How did this come about I wonder?
I remember going to Sunday School in early grade school and asking the teacher what made Jesus different from my own father? It was an honest question. I remember the room I was in when I asked it, probably the 2nd grade class room. I just distinctly remember her describing Jesus and thinking “so what, my Dad is exactly like that”. No offense Jesus, just keepin it real.
When I was the only kid in my 3rd grade class to raise my hand to volunteer to take the bus to “the black neighborhood” at the advent of integration, I couldn’t wait to get home to tell my father I was going on this adventure as I knew he’d be so proud of me. And he was.
I felt the same way when I announced just six months after graduating from college and getting a good job, buying a new car, that I was moving to Mexico on a whim for love. I just didn’t feel afraid he would try and talk me out of it. I got so many heart felt letters from my father, quoting Gibran and sharing his innermost thoughts while I lived in Mexico. Maybe there was something about me taking that crazy risk that he wished he’d done himself once so was living vicariously through me.
This picture was taken on my 40th birthday. My father and I also went on this wild and amazing culinary/wine tour through Quebec for my 50th birthday. I couldn’t imagine anyone I’d rather have been with than my father for that milestone. I remember the day we landed in Quebec City and he was concerned about his ability to walk all around those cobblestone streets and was just telling me to go off and he’d wait for me in this gorgeous hotel there. But as we rose up on this contraption like a sideways elevator, this is what we walked right in to.
After that informative and fun horse drawn carriage ride all over the city, we stopped for hot chocolate here:
My Dad isn’t a big wine/foodie like I am in the same ways I am but he embraced the whole trip. I have to say though by the end of those seven days of 4 course meals, all we wanted was a big hamburger and some fries.
When I reflect on my father I think of a person who almost never complains. He gets frustrated at things like technology not working, losing keys, bad drivers but the real things that matter, he just doesn’t complain. I wish I had more of that in me. I sometimes wish I still called him Daddy. I’m glad I tell him I love him in every phone conversation.
He calls them “Heavens”. Not sure where we got that one going. It’s worth it to always see this expression on his face when you hand him a plate of Heavens right from the oven. Note the glass of cold milk in my other hand. I feel sure Cindy took this photo as she’d have been totally involved with this surprise, it was probably her idea.
It’s hard to know what to get my Dad now for presents. He lives very simply, still mostly on the road and out of his RV. So stuff is kind of a nuisance.
I was thinking yesterday that I think I’m giving him the best Father’s Day gift he could ever get. The promise that I will take care of John for the rest of our lives. It wasn’t always like that. I can only imagine how it felt for my Dad wondering what would become of John over time. Now I hope I’ve taken that worry from him as I will not ever abandon John and I will hold vigil over his well being as best I can.
That and Tollhouse Heavens that are on their way. That and this love letter I’m composing right here.
Thank you Dad for teaching me more about heart and less about things. Thank for crafting me in to the sentimental fool that I am who will always see you like Jesus in that way I did in the second grade for the duration of this life.
I will do my best for the rest of my days to make you proud.
I love you.