My father was a toolmaker. Trained in Germany when CAD, computer-aided design, was in the distant future, he made giant aluminum molds that were tetrised together, fitting so tightly another tool was needed to pull them apart. So you can imagine his precision and eye for detail. Thank you, Dad, for passing these traits along to me!
He also has a curious and playful side. Here he is many years ago with all the neighbor kids piled on his back.
When we were little, he spent hours making a car for us – but when nobody was looking, he took it on a joyride for himself. I remember how he used to spontaneously hopscotch or skip rope with us. He’s always loved playing.
As I got older, I came to understand and appreciate his dry sense of humor. Once during a ski vacation, we stood at the top of a steep slope covered in deep moguls. It was late in the day and we had a choice: to take the tough way or the easier, but much longer, way down. I asked Dad, “so which way are we taking?”
He stood there quietly for a moment, surveying the landscape in front of him, likely weighing his age and feeling a little fatigued from an already full day of cutting turns. Finally he spoke, quoting a line from one of his favorite Clint Eastwood characters, Harry Callahan. “Claudia, a man’s gotta know his limitations.” I laughed all the way down the hill as we both skied the longer, winding path. “You have to lighten up and not take things too seriously,” he said.
Today, dementia has claimed his language, yet at times I still see the glint in his eyes or hear a chuckle when he thinks he’s saying something funny – or wants to say something funny but cannot find the words. He can still express his playfulness by making a serious face and then suddenly growling at me, causing me to jump! I laugh and we both smile knowingly. Inside a body and mind that often won’t cooperate, he’s still himself, still playful.
He reminds me each time I see him that there are some things that never change, even as so much continues to change around us. The essence of who we are and where we come from, the parts of ourselves that are indelibly written upon us from the many chapters of our lives…these are the things I hold precious and I’m so grateful for the many memories of how my father shaped and molded me, helping me become the person and artist I am today.
Wishing everyone a Happy Father’s Day – particularly those who keep a playful attitude, especially when life gets a bit bumpy.
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