RIDDLE ME THIS

What is one of the benefits of having a better-half?

Answer: After almost 28-years together, Rick has learned when, where and how to challenge me. With me putting in some serious work to become a better listener and catalyst that he is, he proposed an interesting experiment. Put simply, every time I was about to verbalize a new thought, begin instead by couching the idea in the form of a question. Who knew I’d fallen in love with a clone of Alex Trebek?

Questions? Even now, after all these years, I’m agog at how foreign the concept of questioning was to me as a kid. Questions were conspicuously absent from my emotional tool box back then. While some may have had ‘why?‘ cycling through their days like the sadistic sound-track at Disney’s ‘It’s a Small World’ (Can anyone ever get that tune out of their head?), my modus operandi was simply ‘to do’. If you haven’t read my earlier posts, let me give you one of the cliff notes: If you didn’t ask questions, you couldn’t be held accountable for knowing the answers you might get. As a kid, that kind of emotional currency added up to be both economical, and efficient in the world I lived in.

Start a sentence in the form of a question? It sounded pretty ‘duh’ to me, but being the ever thoughtful and gracious guy I am (yeah, right), I thought I’d throw him a bone and adopt his suggestion. I mean really…how tough could it be? Filled with confidence that this was going to be a slam-dunk, I began catching the first ‘danger Will Robinson’ whispers after just a few hours…this might not be the walk-in-the-park I’d so confidently predicted. Rearranging my speech in order to convert statements of fact and/or opinion into questions was proving oddly difficult. Don’t believe me? Try it at home amongst yourselves…even if only for 30-minutes and let me know how it goes…seriously. Then, try doing it for a whole week!

Were there any surprises? You bet. While reorganizing my syntax may have been the focus, I quickly realized there were unseen passages underneath the ancient Chinese wisdom of asking a question five times.

Why? I found myself walking down pathways lit “with Spirit fire, burning smoky in places where shadows still vex and screams have ceased to bleed(1). Dad.

Dad? With our history, I hadn’t seen that one coming.

I haven’t written of him much. I suppose at some level, there is a always a degree of ‘deliberate‘ in anything we let sink below our waves. And the more questions I asked of myself this week, the more old ‘settled’ things began to resurface. It was like trying to hold a beach ball under water…things just don’t want to stay under. One of those things was my father, front-and-center. Why?

Did he love me? I know he did.

One of my earliest ‘wow’ moments with my dad was in first grade. Can anyone say ‘Show-and-Tell?’. I knew you could (ha!). It was a big deal. Some of my classmates were talking about bringing in their baseball glove or their pet butterfly they’d netted the previous week. I wasn’t impressed. I wanted mine to be a good one. I scoured my holdings, reviewed my cash-on-hand and quickly concluded I had nothing that measured up to what I wanted my show-and-tell premier to be. Now I laugh when I think back on my 1st grade angst: “This is the worst thing that’s ever happened to me in my WHOLE life”.

How did it turn out? Dad to the rescue. I vividly remember him walking into the house with something large and flat. Seems that in his travels, he’d stopped at one of those parking lot art fairs and bought me a painting. For me?!?!

My show-and—tell worries vanished as the paper was pulled away and I saw my clown. I was over-the-moon and well on my way to the 1st Grade Hall Of Fame.

Whatever happened to the painting? I still have it. It hangs near the door in the bedroom. It has hung in every place we’ve ever called Home.

This week’s question experiment has led me to some pretty surprising places. As my Life unfolds, I think I’ve come to a better understanding of what it must have been like to be him (dad) when he was growing up. For as long as I can remember I always had an odd sense of simultaneous distance and pathos with him (and in him). Dad, I need you in my Life as much as I did when I was in the 1st Grade.

With a similar sense of vivid clarity, I remember the day I was surfing the web and my jaw hit the desk when my dad’s obituary came up on my screen. No one had told me he was sick or had died…much less from stomach cancer. No one told me about the wake or the funeral the following day. Dad, I need you and you aren’t even here anymore. And then I look at my painting.

Do I think he loved me? Did he do his best? I so want to think so. Was he there for me? For the longest time, I didn’t think so. But now? Maybe he was – at least the best he could be for having come from where he did. Him never giving me much insight into what he’d come through growing up in the 30’s and 40’s, maybe he had given me all that he could. He never talked about childhood or really anything about his growing up. And now, I’ll never know. Or will I?

Dad. I do think you did your best. And even though we were denied the chance to talk before you died, I know you loved me in your own way – as I do you – then and now. I feel you when I listen to a classical organ fugue. I hear you in the whitewater sound my blood makes as it rushes through my heart. I am you in the way I cock my head in a conversation; or lazily dangle my arm out the car window when I’m driving around in the summer-time.

Perhaps as evidence of History repeating itself is the odd holding pattern my own son and I currently find ourselves in. With the way we’d been separated, I always took great pains during our reintroduction phase to make sure he knew (really knew) that I loved him – Forever. He knows it was true each and every time I told him about a special piece of land in my heart that was uniquely his, and his alone. I’m typically very quiet about all of this, but now I think I got the idea of how just how important those conversations were with my son from my dad. I swear sometimes I can feel my own dad’s sadness when I tune into his melancholy (or is it mine?). I love having come to know all this. It’s the ‘knowing’ that has given me my footing to move beyond forgiveness and into the unfamiliar territory of accepting my dad for who he was – as he was.

Ironically, such acceptance was exactly what I expected of him when I claimed myself and came out of the closet. Without sharing the nitty gritty of the family transcript, it was not pretty, nice or neat. It was ugly and there were no prisoners taken.

I knew what I so wanted from my dad. And now? I have gained a new appreciation for what he really might have wanted for himself – and saw me realize. Down deep, maybe there was, in fact, a personal appreciation in him for seeing me flex the courage to earn my own footing and claim my birthright of just how good “me” was; how important it was to him that I walk in a path that was mine.

My interactions with nearly everyone I come in contact with are authentic and generally positive. I don’t expect it, but I usually get treated well in return. And rest assured, kind reader, I am under no illusions. I screw up ALL the time. But I know I have made the conscious and singular decision to be on the side of Good.

It was my dad who may have been the one I owe more than anyone else as the source of my courage in the battle for control over who I was and what was important to me.

Conviction? I own it. I live it and I got it, from the depths hidden down deep in my dad. I understand enough to know my father was a mystery, but I already know enough to know one thing. I could not have loved anyone else had he not first loved me. Of that, there is no question. In the face of Love, there’s never reason to ask ‘why’. All we have to do is reflect it back on the one who shined on us first. Dad, I love you.

“My Father’s Eyes” is a song written and performed by Eric Clapton.

Released as a single in 1998, was featured on the album Pilgrim.

Director: Kevin Godley. I get goose-bumps every time I listen. On behalf of my dad, me and my son, please enjoy. Dan

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IigRv6B763k

(1) [See Vesper Prayer 3 Oct 1, 2011 – https://dan4kent.wordpress.com/2011/10/01/vesper-prayer/]

AWARD portion of the program:

It is said that the best things come in threes. It certainly seems to be true this week as two of my fellow bloggers came to me with bling-in-hand.

Purplemary54 has made me blush with her nomination of dan4kent for the Inspiring Blog Award and the One Lovely Blog Award.

Please check out her obtuse and wonderful take on life as seen from her jukebox. Being a music freak, I never fail to learn something while I’m tapping my feet to the beat. Good stuff. http://myelectronicjukebox.wordpress.com/

 

Cassie Behl ticks me off. She’s so much more creative and artsy than I am, but at the end of the day, isn’t that really a compliment just beginning to germinate? My envy nonetheless did not prevent her from bestowing her One Lovely Blog Award She’s got such good mojo. More good stuff. http://cassiebehle.wordpress.com/

I’ve already gone on record of the new up-and-coming bloggers I’m reading in the right-hand margin of my home page. There is also a growing inner ciricle of bloggers for whom I am truly blessed to read and interact with, but I would be remiss for not thanking my earliest mentors…the ones who showed me the way when I knew even less than I do now. All of you are truly remarkable people. My sincere thanks to:

Kina aka Human in Recovery @ http://humaninrecovery.wordpress.com/

Kana aka Kana’s Chronicles @ http://kanatyler.com/

Courtney aka Bluebird Avenue @ http://bluebirdblvd.net/

Ntexas99 aka The Invisible Shadow @ http://theinvisibleshadow.wordpress.com/

and the ever popular Year Struck @ http://year-struck.com/

While there is a part of me that feels coerced into revealing seven things about myself you may not know, I’ll bite (this time). Next time I may bite – for real:

I’ve worked six-days straight and haven’t had but four hours of sleep since Friday morning. That should explain away my goofiness. Or is it simply fatigue revealing what’s always there?

If I won the lottery, I’d become a full-time carpenter and eat pizza every day.

Speaking of food, fried hush puppies should be the national animal.

 Among my favorite moves (and they are legion) are: Guns of Naverone, Star Wars (the first and sort-of the second one), Steel Magnolias, Sister Act, any of the Bourne movies, When Harry Met Sally and anything Tom Clancy has ever looked at, Fried Green Tomatoes and Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont.

I can still be shocked at where hair chooses to grow.

My favorite birthday gift is to serenade the birthday-ee with their own version of Happy Birthday. Neither Mel Torme or Al Jarreau are worried, but they are both my heroes all the same. By the way, I sing bass and love to think I could be a crooner when I grow up.

I write my drafts out long-hand before I ever sit down to the PC and it’s really ticking me off that there wasn’t enough of me to get my post last night (Saturday), but hey, you’re here. I’m here. It’s all good.

There is nothing more

humbling than the

‘thumbs-up’ of ones

peers.

Thank-you and good-night. Dan

PHOTOS and ATTRIBUTIONS: Riddle Me This album cover: http://wardomatic.blogspot.com/2006_06_01_archive.html; Sitting in a Question Mark: J Raheem Harris – https://foursquare.com/v/riddle-me-this/4fcd6e8fe4b030cb099c40b0; dad_blogpost_may4th2 by Paul F. Gero: http://paulfgeroblog.com/dads-birthday/; Fred Rogers (Getty Images): Fred Rogers Company; Show and Tell: http://thewritersrepublic.wordpress.com/2012/04/16/n-new-work/; Clown 55: by Bernard Buffet. Buffet (10 July 1928 – 4 October 1999) was a French painter of Expressionism and Member of the Anti-Abstract Art Group “L’homme Témoin [the Witness-Man]”; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bernard_Buffet; Opening Clown Multiples compilation by dan4kent; Sad bunny ({PIC: tumblr_lso9zhx9yB1qgeckf} )http://media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lso9zhx9yB1qgeckf.gif; Child and Man and Cute Baby Reading: http://lygsbtd.wordpress.com/category/relationships/; My Father’s Eyes Album Cover: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/My_Father’s_Eyes_(song)

## –

About dan4kent

Born and raised in the Midwest, Dan lives in the Chicagoland area. With a grown son from a previous marriage, he has since built a committed relationship of 32 years with his partner Rick, the Love of his Life. Having written his whole life, he blogs because he has to write…he can’t help it. Know the feeling? There’s ‘good‘ to be found in all of it. “If all I do is leave someone (or something) better than I found them, then I’ve done my part. Thanks for letting me grace your screen, if only for a little while.”
This entry was posted in Gay, Hope, Inspiration, LGBT, Life, Life Lessons, Love and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to RIDDLE ME THIS

  1. yearstricken says:

    I appreciate your honesty and vulnerability. Your father sounds as though he was a fine man, flawed as we all are, but a fine man who raised a son much like himself. You write from the heart, Dan, and it cheers my own heart to read your words. Our parents may not have always loved us as we wished, but as we age, I think we understand they loved us the best they could. I hope my children know and learn that as well.

    • dan4kent says:

      Thank you. He was and I try. Love the seminal thought “best they could”. There’s a power-packed idea for a post. As for your kids, I’ve got a funny feeling they may already know. Good teachers do that. You were teaching me when I didn’t know a blog from a blahg. You’re good people. I’m the lucky one. I get to read you. Dan

  2. cassiebehle says:

    You are just too sweet! Thanks for all your kind words! And in response to my recently-acquired appreciation for hush puppies – fantastic idea making them the national animal. I laughed out loud to that one! You’re way more creative than you think, my friend! Keep on doing what you’re doing – it’s inspirational to so many people.

  3. marj says:

    As someone who has had a similar complicated relationship with her Dad, I find this post both intense and very beautiful. I often feel my mere vocal expression of immense love for my father is not enough to show him how grateful I’ve been. Life has yet to provide me with better ways that will enable me to reciprocate more or less everything he’s done for me.
    Like your other readers, it had been difficult for me to choke back the tears reading the last parts of this piece.

    Couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw your all-time favorite movies, Dan. Most of them I love love love as well. Especially the very first Star Wars. And Fried Green Tomatoes. And the Bourne movies. And… oh i really must shut up now. 🙂

    Admiring you from another continent, Marj

    • dan4kent says:

      Marj – Whoah…what a charged and eloquent comment from across big water. Thank you. It’s so important to hear the clarity in your voice when you speak to complicated relationships. Thank you and I’ll see you at the movies. Dan

  4. allaccesspass says:

    Beautiful tribute to your dad. I honestly wish you posted more than once a week. But I suppose stuff this good takes time. Keep it up!

    • dan4kent says:

      Melanie — Wow. Thank you. Both my folks taught school so I know what the demands are on your time and yet you took the time to drop me a comment. I started to say I hope I can live up to your expectations, but you (better than most) know its all about living up to our own potentials – whatever they may be. Please stay true to your life’s work and I’ll do the same. Be well. Dan

  5. Dan,
    It is so easy for me to believe in the benevolent, loving connection, between all souls whenever I partake of your words. Themes and messages of truth, love, healing, and acceptance of self and others that are presented in other aspects of my life are always reflected, echoed or being proclaimed here.

    Thank you for sharing you and thank you for the honor in naming me among those who have influenced you. I find it ironic in that is how I see you.

    Blessings,
    Kina

    • dan4kent says:

      Kina!! Just got up from a long nap (that’s what day’s off are for, right?) and found your note ‘under the door’. So very cool. Such thoughtfully presented praise is a little hard to accept, but learning to accept is so key to so much. Thank you for helping me accomplish same. In return, I fixed ionic to ironic. You make me grin! Thanks for that. See you on the trail…always a good thing. Travel well this week. Dan

  6. Dan— This is a fine, fine piece of writing. I am awed by the way you can love your father with clear eyes. It is hard to love people for who they are in any set of circumstances, but I think it is difficult twice-over with family. You are a wonderful writer and one of the most authentic people I’ve ever met online. I’m so, so glad I know you.

    • dan4kent says:

      My dear Miss Bluebird — Thank you Courtenay. I value your trust in letting me take you with me as we visit some of my inside places. But hey, the trip is always better with good traveling companions. You want to be Bilbo? And ditto that on the ‘glad to know you’ part. You add to me. Thank you for that. I don’t take it for granted. Dan

  7. purplemary54 says:

    That was such a lovely tribute to your father, Dan. I got a little choked up. Thank you.

    • dan4kent says:

      With a quiet spirit, thank you for your thought. As for the choked-up part? Me too. So pleased we’ve met. You have my toast as being a card-carrying representative of what it means to be Sojourner Truth. I applaud your moxie. Dan

      • purplemary54 says:

        You are officially one of my favorite people ever. Thank you for paying me the compliment of comparing me to one of my heroes, Sojourner Truth. I am humbled (not to mention a little red in the face).

      • dan4kent says:

        On behalf of the academy, I accept your ‘official’ compliment. And the ‘little red’ reference? Gratifying. Be well. Thank you. Dan

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