I Believe in My Father
Like many sons, I believe that most of my formative moments and attitudes are a result of my father’s parenting, and I believe that my father was the best of all possible fathers. Let me just add that I wish no disrespect to my mother, who taught me other valuable things, but nobody can hold a candle to my dad.
Although I now abjure willfully causing pain to living creatures, my father taught me how to hunt and fish, so if I should find myself in need of those skills, I believe I will survive. In so doing, he taught me a respect for nature that, although I have ever since been a city-dweller, makes me feel secure in the woods and hills.
My father taught me a love of opera, classical music and jazz. My earliest ‘musical memory’, if such it be, is of my father, asking me on the telephone from his office in the Big City, if I wanted to attend a series of concerts of Bach’s chamber music. I was about five or six years old and I didn’t really understand what that meant. I had a vision of being sealed off in a box / chamber with my dad, where musicians would play wondrous sounds for us alone. To this day, I hear the word ‘Bach’s’ as ‘box’ and ‘chamber’ as an appropriately enclosed space. It will always be such for me.
He bought me a trumpet & set me up — in the cellar, of course — with his recordings of Louis Armstrong and let me blast away, trying to match Satchmo note for note. I failed miserably, of course, but Dad never discouraged me.
Dad took me to opera matinees. I will never forget the first time I couldn’t get up from my seat in a theatre; he had taken me to a Saturday matinee of Britten’s ‘The Turn of the Screw’ and I was pole-axed emotionally. I literally couldn’t stand up. It was then I decided (I can recognise this only with hindsight) that I simply had to have a life that involved being in the performing arts.
My dad introduced me to his favourite authors, taught me an appreciation of good food and fine wine, was my tutor not only for driving a car but for piloting a motor boat.
And he gave me a strong sense of morals: he reprimanded me so frighteningly after I committed a petty theft that I have never even considered taking something that isn’t mine since then.When adolescence hit me, my father never censured me for my collection of erotic magazines. ‘Just remember’, he would intone, ‘these photographs are not about love. Don’t confuse this.’
As I write these lines, my father is riddled with cancer that will take him from me in a matter of months at the longest. Despite the terrible pain he’s experiencing and the fear and anger he must be feeling as his life ebbs away, he has displayed an outward courage and fortitude that I find simply astonishing.
My father has never stopped showing me human qualities that I can only hope to begin to live up to. He is the greatest dad a son could hope for. This I believe.