Sunday, June 15, 2008

for pop, ultimately

Bloggos! I'm back. We're finally moved into the new house and we have internet access again. When you haven't had internet for a week or two, you start to feel like an old-fashioned person. I drove to my laptop in my Model T, and got lost several times along the way! Oh, boy, they don't mark those roads like they used to. I need a sarsparilla. When we find our camera, we'll take some tintypes of the house for you.

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Tim Russert! What the hell?! I'm telling you, I'm way more broken up about his death than I could ever have imagined I would be. There's been a lot of weeping around these parts. Who knew he was, like, the best guy who ever lived? I always liked his journalism. He was such a trusty and fair presence, I thought, and I always felt confident that I was hearing someone just about as objective as can be when he was commenting or conducting an interview, and I always felt like he was going to ask the question I wanted asked. Rare feeling. (Take notes, Wolf Blitzer, you big marshmallow.) But then to hear about what a fabulous friend and mentor and father and son this guy was -- inspirational. I really mean it. Tim Russert, in his death, is making me want to be a better person. WHO. KNEW.

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Happy Father's Day, everyone. We've had a lovely one so far. We've eaten pancakes and wept at Tim Russert's empty chair on Meet The Press. (Finn took in in stride.) Now Dave is at work and Finn is asleep.

I found this when I was unpacking a couple of days ago, and thought I'd put it up here for my dad today. He already heard it at his memorial. YES HE DID, SHUT UP. This is what I wrote and delivered three years ago for him. The writing could be better but I'm going to put it up just like I wrote it because this isn't the kind of thing you edit to make cooler. Anything you wrote for a memorial you have to just let be.

All righty.

Hello, everyone. A lot of you might know that my dad was a fantastic photographer. He had an amazing ability to snap the photo just at the moment when something fresh and real and revealing was happening on the other side of the lens, when the subject was in that split second showing him or herself in some essential way. I didn't inherit that skill with a camera. I ended up with the gene where you never fail to get some part of your thumb in the shot. But I'd like to take a few moments to try and create some verbal snapshots of my dad. I don't know how skilled a verbal photographer I'm going to end up being here, but it's my hope that I will have chosen some shots that reveal something essential about his character, without too much thumb in them. These are a few pictures of him that I really adore, and I think they're telling.

The first snapshot of my dad finds him standing with his feet apart, his head bent forward and his hands on his hips. His face, if we dip the camera beneath it, is registering pleasure. There's a person next to him telling a story. It's a man, it's a woman, a stranger, an old friend. My dad is listening. He's not waiting to speak. He's listening, and he clearly loves it. He loves that you want to tell him your story. He can relate. I guarantee you he can relate, and it doesn't even matter what story you're telling him. If this photo were in one of those frames where you can record a few seconds of speech to play along with it, if you pressed the button, the sound coming out would be my dad's voice saying, "Yalh, yalh, yalh, yalh, yalh....."*

*Okay this is the one little addition because I'm not in person delivering this to you. That yalh-yalh-yalh is like cross between "Yeah" and "Yup". It's the "Yup" without the 'p'. And he's saying it super fast while shaking his head and smiling.

The next photo shows my dad facing the camera, bent over in a slight bow. One hand is resting behind his back, and the other is coming out towards the camera, proffering a book. This is a book that you're interested in, that means something to you, a book that means my dad has been paying attention to you. There are so many versions of this snapshot in my memory, and probably in the memories of anyone who was close to him. And just like he did when taking a photograph, my dad knew how to choose his moments. Without going into great detail, I'll just say that on one occasion he handed me a copy of a biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder, complete with real photographs of her real family, and on another occasion years later he presented me with a copy of Uta Hagen's book, Respect For Acting. Both of those offerings were presented at the perfect moment, in the perfect style, and both hit home just how I'm sure he hoped they would. To say that my dad knew the joy of a good book is a dramatic understatement. He had a book with him wherever he went, sometimes to the dismay of his dining companion. Hello, Mom. But to his credit, my dad wanted to share the wealth, and he did that. Nothing made him happier than enabling a loved one to blissfully disappear into the page.

The last snapshot of my dad doesn't start with his face, or his image at all. The photograph is all dark, and represents the inside of another person, the hidden part of a person's consciousness where decisions are made. The story behind this enigmatic photo is specific and real. A friend of the family found himself drawn to drop everything and go down to southern California and join the Church of Scientology. He was going to begin by going down for an exploratory weekend. Now, opinions may vary as to to the legitimacy of Scientology, or the cult-like feelings around it, but those close to this man felt a little bit worried for him. And my dad gave him one of the most elegant pieces of advice I've ever heard. I can't relate it to you word for word, but the essence of the advice was that at some point during the weekend, it was likely that a moment would come in which our friend would make a decision. It wasn't going to necessarily be a big moment, or a particularly noticeable moment, but whatever the size, it would be the moment. My dad's advice was that our friend shouldn't let the moment go by without stopping and noticing it, that the moment should be recognized and given its due, and not hurried or glossed over. Well, our friend went down for his weekend, and that moment came for him when he found himself with the proverbial rubber stamp in his hand. He remembered what my dad said, and allowed the moment room for its importance. It doesn't matter so much in my mind that he ended up deciding against joining the church as it does that my father's words resonated for him; that my dad was in essence there with him as he made an enormous life decision; that my dad was, as he always deeply hoped to be, useful.

5 comments:

girlysmack said...

Your dad sounds amazing. The apple, as they say, doesn't fall far from the tree.

I've read this post several times, and it just gets sweeter.

grammy said...

That's just fantastically gorgeous and moving and thank you for sharing it with us, TR. I would normally be gruff with you for making me cry, you know, being the impassive Asian that I am, but I'm already sodden with tears for Russert, so what's a few more between pals, eh?

Eve said...

Those snapshots are unbelievable, Tina. That is THE speech that one would hope to have given about them at the end of their life. Wow.

Ash said...

That is beautiful.

Diesel said...

I think that being able to step out of a situation and see it for what it is, rather than just being carried away by events, is wisdom. He sounds like a wise man.