Today’s Music: Pete Seeger – Turn Turn Turn
Days Til Spring: 73
This is a remembrance of my father in law, who passed away a few days ago.
An ordinary man. There will be no epic novels written of him. His name won’t be remembered in the history books. But a man, nonetheless, who lived a full and happy life, and who enjoyed himself all along the way.
Dinosaurs caught the imagination of the man. The fossils, the movements, the history. He studied them and grew intimately familiar with them. As a result, for many years, he served once a week as a Docent (someone visitors could ask questions about dinosaurs of) at the Museum of Natural History.
Music caught the ear of the man. He was already familiar with music, especially all the great folkies of the 50s and 60s. He already knew how to play piano, but this time he picked up a guitar. He forced his hand into the shapes of chords, again and again. Then, pushing on, he learned the positions on the neck and began doing more intricate finger picking.
He discovered middle-age and medieval music. On any given night, you could find him puzzling over obscure music notations, trying to figure out how that translated into English, and to the guitar and lute, which he taught himself to play. He delighted in picking out a tune for the first time, then realizing how similar it was to something he already knew, by a completely different name.
The lyrics too were a doorway to a world long gone. The ballads of the bards told a stylized history of life back then – serfdom, the actions of nobles, the difficulties of daily life. All these discoveries enriched his own life.
The birds caught the eye of the man. They entranced him. He already knew what a camera was, but now he went out and got serious equipment – cameras, lenses, filters. A high end printer so the physical copies would do justice to his digital images. He studied composition, light, color, all to bring his pictures closer to what his eye and his imagination saw.
On the wall behind me are five ultra-close-up images of flowers, a riot of color and swirls, that he took.
The last car he bought, a beat up standard transmission Jeep, was so he could get out to the marshes and preserves and photograph the wildflowers and birds he loved.
The sun caught the eye of the man. In a room of his apartment, with floor to ceiling windows to let the best light in, is a drawing table festooned with pens and brushes and inks. There are dozens of drawings and paintings of birds, of the sun, of dinosaurs.
The man had once studied at seminary to enter the priesthood. It didn’t take, but it had a heavy influence on his spirituality. In the end, he came to Buddhism…perhaps because of the meditative aspects, perhaps because of the inward focus. In time, he led groups in the practices of Buddhism.
The man was concerned about the well-being of others. For many years, he worked as a social worker. In later years, after he retired, he worked in an outreach program for helping people learn English as a second language.
He was going to work in another program to encourage and help foster children to go to college.
Despite having a severe bad reaction to sugar, the man LOVED cookie, with CookieFest being a highlight of his year for several years. There was no one he wouldn’t approach and strike up a conversation with, and no one who wouldn’t engage with him.
He was married for several years. And he raised the most wonderful girl in the universe.
They say that when someone dies, they’re gone, and all we’re left with are the memories of who they were. But sometimes we’re left with an example, of how someone can live their lives, working every day, and still find time to enjoy every day – whether discussing arpeggios with his son in law, or sailing a styrofoam sailboat in the bay (and getting a wicked sunburn), or simply sitting quietly with a pad, trying to draw the reptile skull on the shelf
And we realize that someone who was just a man hasn’t only left us memories.
He’s left us an example we can follow of a life well lived – a life lived with the companionship of close friends, the security of high ideals, and the unabashed love of family.
And puns. Good lord, did that guy love puns.
And he will be missed.