Recently I attended my daughter’s spring concert. Included in the program was the middle school jazz band. While I was certainly looking forward to my daughter’s choral pieces, a big part of me was also intrigued by the jazz band. You may be scratching your head saying “huh?” Jennifer likes jazz? No, not really. I don’t dislike it, but I also don’t go out of my way to listen to it either. My father on the other hand is a jazz aficionado. In fact, he loves this style of music so much that he started a jazz band in the middle school he taught at in Long Island.
I recall attending his concerts on a regular basis throughout my childhood years. I can distinctly remember the stage, the chairs in the auditorium, and the students running here and there getting ready. I remember my dad, dressed in a suit at the conductor’s podium, looking quite dapper and speaking to the audience about each piece. I remember the multitudes of people who would approach him afterwards, as if he were a rock star, commending him on yet another outstanding program.
When I say it was standing room only on the nights of his band’s performances, I tell no lie. When I say, the music was impeccable, I tell no lie. When I say his daughter sat in the audience bursting with pride, I tell no lie. I’ve always been proud of my dad.
I’ve always tried to be like him. While I favor my mom in my looks, I favor my dad in personality. He’s got musical talent that is unmatched (in my opinion anyway). He is smart as a whip. He’s a risk-taker, having created many entrepreneurial ventures from bars to music stores. He has strong family values. He’s sensitive but also has a sharp wit. He’s got a great smile and warm eyes.
These great qualities are countered with some not-so-great ones. He’s stubborn as a mule. He’s got a quick temper. He’s impatient. He’s selfish. He’s proud. His words can be hurtful, though his intention is the opposite. In a nutshell, he’s human.
As my dad’s age advances, I see him more as a human being, not just my dad. I see the struggles he had to overcome raising a family of six on a teacher’s salary. I see perhaps an even bigger struggle as I wonder if his dreams of being a famous musician traveling the world with the likes of the Count Basie orchestra had to be put on hold as his family grew. I see that the way his life is coming to an end is most likely not how he envisioned.
As his memory slowly deteriorates, I wonder if he can remember all he’s accomplished. Does he know how many lives he touched through his music? Are his many higher education degrees coming to mind? Does he know that he once was an outstanding music teacher and string bass player? Not likely.
I was angry about this at first because he has much to be proud of. His accomplishments and achievements are many. Now, none of them mean anything except to his children and those who remember them. Seems unfair to work so hard your whole life, only to forget it all.
Like my dad, I’m an “accomplisher”. I get things done. It serves me well in my job and in my life as a single mom. But if I reach the end of my life and that’s all people can remember me for, or worse, I can’t even remember, what were they for? I can’t take my college and MBA degrees with me. My various job titles are meaningless. My achievements are but a moment in time.
What’s most important is how I impacted others. Did I show them love? Did I support them in times of need? Did I give back to those who have little? Did I inspire someone? These are the real accomplishments.
Today is Father’s Day. I honor my father in my heart today. I will call him and chat about silliness because deeper conversations are long gone. I will relish that I can still hear his voice, that he still knows mine. I will possibly consider recording our conversation so that I can play it back when the time comes for it to be heard no more.
My dad didn’t do everything right. But he also didn’t do everything wrong either. He’s human and despite my attempts to think him otherwise, I know that is just a daughter’s wanting her dad to be a superhero. Well, in my mind he is and always will be.
So, to the kids in the middle school jazz band at Ponus Ridge Middle School in Norwalk, thank you for playing the music of my childhood. To the very talented conductor, thank you for reminding me of a time when it was a much more familiar face I saw at that podium.
To the fathers celebrating your special day, remember always the impact you have on your children.
And to my dad…Thank you for being human and for being my superhero.