Beat Notes

About My Father.

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My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person: he believed in me. 

-Jim Valvano

My dad reads encyclopedias. For fun.

When I was a kid, I would ask my dad about a history question I had nearly every day. Depending on his mood and how much time he had free, he would do one of two things: Give me a very long history lesson verbatim, or ask me if I had looked in the encyclopedia.

We have an actual set of encyclopedias. Maybe I’m crazy, but most of my friends never had huge tomes (in large print, no less) from the 1970s that detailed every (for a 10 year old girl) imaginable piece of information I wanted to know.

Often I would come home from school, read a book or play for a few hours, and then my dad would arrive home. Sometimes the first thing he would do was go to the encyclopedias, run his fingers down the spines gently, and then finally land on “H” for “Hiroshima” or “C” for “Cuban Missile Crisis.” He would take the book over to his desk and sit down. Then, depending on how his eyes felt, he would either smush the book as close to his face as possible or put the book under his large magnifier.

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Oh, yeah. My dad is legally blind, too.

I grew up knowing these intrinsic things about my father: You could pretend to hide from him on his left side, but he would always know if you were up to something. You could read a book, and it would be 10 to 1 odds that he had already read it. You could convince him to take out his glass eye for your friends if you were very good that day. You could be assured that Frank Sinatra, Palestrina, and the classical composer biography series (on tape!) were always in the stereo waiting to be heard. You would know the difference between “Mom and I” and “Mom and me,” and understand that it was a cardinal sin to use the wrong one. You would know that saying “I’m good” was not nearly as polite or correct as saying “I’m well, thank you.” And you could count on him to work incredibly hard, support every endeavor you chose to pursue, and make you memorize poetry.

Some people say that school teaches a love of learning. For me, it was my father’s intent listening to NPR, whether it was a cooking show or the daily news wrap up. It was how he went on every field trip to Astoria or camp or Europe or just the Seattle Art Museum, and always had more fun than me. It was in the days when he was so tired from practicing law that all he wanted was to listen to an audio book. And it was in the spark in his eyes when he learned something new––and wanted me to learn it, too.

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My dad is an incredible singer (I know, how many redeeming qualities can someone have? But really, he is). Some of my favorite Saturdays were spent in my room with a book, listening to my dad sing along with the Irish Tenors or the Kyrie from Missa Papae Marcelli. My room is down a long hallway from the living room, and he would specifically move one of the large, 4-foot-high speakers and face it toward my room so that I could hear, too. He would come back every few hours and say, “Jaimie, do you want to come sing with me? Do you want to sit with Mom and me? How about taking the dogs for a walk?” On the days when I felt like all of that was too much bother, he would look disappointed, but say, “well, maybe in a few hours.” On the days when I said, “Sure, Dad, sounds like fun!” The whole house lit up.

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My Dad is not perfect. My Mom is not perfect. But I have been blessed with two parents who love me, who love each other, and who are both passionate about making the world better with their love. I could say so much more about each of them; I could tell you about how my Dad became a lawyer against the odds of his eyesight, or how he told me to let go of fear and sing or write or read if I chose. I could describe the letters he sends me on a near weekly basis, each card with a picture of a slobbering french bulldog on the cover. I could tell you about when my mom used to sneak me out of school to watch a movie or how she taught me to drive even though it was clear that she was afraid I might kill us both.

I could tell you all sorts of things about my Dad. I could tell you all sorts of things about my Mom. But for now, knowing how vast my love for them is is enough.

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Thanks for stopping by.

All photos by me, from as far back as 2006 and as recently as this spring.

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This entry was published on May 28, 2013 at 9:51 AM and is filed under About..., On Love. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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