Wednesday, January 9, 2008

There are Years that Ask.

There are years that ask questions and years that answer
-Zora Neale Hurston.

Today is my father’s 86th birthday! My sister Alice wrote a beautiful ode to him on her blog, From the Frontlines. The words I would use to describe my father would be colorful, charismatic, and complicated. Although growing up with him was trying much of the time, his aesthetic genius continually amazes me. This genius was definitely lost on me while I was younger.

An excellent example of this was when we moved into a new house before my youngest sister was born. I remembering being so excited to move into the normal tract style home. I adored its normalcy, its perfectly delineated spaces. I imagined sofas and beds and doilies on side tables. I wanted a fence lined with flowerbeds to surround it.

My father quickly got to work tearing out walls and taking all the doors off of their hinges. He created, much to my dismay, a flowing, connected space that left little privacy or hope for convention. He built in our furniture and beds, as was his usual habit. I was hurt, but unfazed. I told him of my plan to plant flowers all along the back fence to show neatly where our yard began and the wild meadow behind us ended. This, however, was met with great opposition. Planting flowers along the fence would break up the view, explained my father. It would stop the eye from wandering. I did not know then how to explain to him that that was exactly what I wanted to do: I wanted to differentiate our family from the wild, I wanted normalcy, I wanted a tract house with doors!

As I got older, I came to love his aesthetic more than I could have ever imagined. I grew to see his genius. I admire his skill and viewpoint. We have not always gotten along, we have clashed, but I think that in that is a mutual respect. And I am no longer a six-year-old wishing for a picket fence, I am now an adult with my own fence. And it has flowers all along it!


Mary Alice said...

Oh, this was brilliant sissy. I remember thinking the same thing. Normalcy. A tract house. And if we could have had wonder bread in the cupboards and bologna like everyone else. Gosh, that would have been the best...oh and tee shirts with writing on them. Perfect.

Jo said...

Mary Alice:
And american cheese!

Lynne's Somewhat Invented Life said...

This was a beautiful post. Isn't it too bad that some of us never learn to appreciate our parent's genius or even to really know them as a person and not just as Mom or Dad? Thank you for your words today.

Life As I Know It said...

Great post and lovely words about your dad.
It is funny that it takes us until adulthood to appreciate the uniqueness in our parents that we thought was weird when we were kids.
My dad put built in desks and shelves in all of our bedrooms and we had hardwood floors...I always wanted wall to wall carpeting like all my friends had. It's funny now..

Jan said...

A great tribute. Sometimes it takes time and/or distance to gain perspective or learn the lesson. You are lucky to have a wonderful Dad.

AuthorMomWithDogs said...

Jo, I also enjoy your writing. I've added you to my sidebar so other people can find you too.

My dad died 10 years ago when he was 73. I also considered him a genius and great philosopher. I miss him every day. So remember to enjoy your 86 yr old dad every day while you still can.

Mrs. G. said...

This post rings a few bells with me. My grandmother was a self professed "healer", not in the new age healing tradition, but in the we don't have sny money, so I'll handle all your health care needs tradition. So I suffered root teas and mustard plasters and horrific amounts of cod liver oil. All my little kid heart wanted was some bright red cherry Robitussin and grape Flintstone vitamins.