Friday, January 30, 2009

Jan. 31

"Experience is the one thing you can't get for nothing," Oscar Wilde once said.

I think of my father born January 31, 1918 between wars, and in the midst of an epic flu pandemic,a man who worked hard all his life, who witnessed the Great Depression, and survived it. I think of his strength, and courage. I think how one can be strong, courageous, and gentle, too.

Like Mr. Wilde, my father would say vision comes at a price. But, he would also acknowledge that nothing in sight has any value without vision.

My father was a gambler, though he didn't want to admit it. He was a poet, though he abandoned poetry. He was a pundit, though he was politically savvy, and obsessed, before the age of punditry. He died right before the massacre at Tiananmen Square. This man, who often boasted of being too radical for the Communist Party, would have had lots to say about what happened that day in China.

As a child, my father sang to me about holding my head up high when I walk through a storm, to "walk on with hope in my heart," always feel his arm beneath me when I manage only to float, and mostly to find humor even in the sorry face of adversity; all things I cherish to this day.

It will be twenty years, in April, since he made his sudden, all too quick, departure, but his smile outlives him, and warms me on those cold nights as in places where even the sun is ashamed to shine.

He is with me still.