To you, Dad

15 06 2008

I’m starting to think I haven’t given my dad his due. This is the thing: I am a fairly shy person. It might not be obvious but really, I am so shy. Especially when I have to stand up and talk in front of people. Last semester, I gave an in-class presentation and thought I was going to throw up the entire day before. Which is silly. But when it got down to it, I was fine. And that’s because when it was my turn I just took a deep breath and somehow channeled my father. You don’t grow up watching someone perform and speak to large groups of people without picking up a couple things here and there. And that got me thinking that, wow, my father has a lot more to do with how and who I am than I’ve been giving him credit for.

And I can’t even fully encompass how dad has influenced my music tastes. I am picky about music, god knows. But I’m picky about it based on whether the rhythm is interesting. I need syncopation because it’s the best thing in the entire world and nothing makes me happier than someone making damn good use of an unexpected upbeat. When I listen to music, I hear every part separated and can even be convinced to sing along with each part separately. Which my father does. All the time. It’s a good thing. I was raised on the radio and MTV and yes, I am fully a child of the 80s, but I was also listening to Stravinsky, Gershwin, Ellis Marsalis, Frank Zappa, Billy Cobham, and The Doobie Brothers. Hell, “Clear as the Driven Snow” still knocks me out and I know precisely why-there’s this part in 6/8, I think, overlapped over a part in 4/4 and it all comes together at the end and it blows my mind EVERY damn time. And every time I was listening to this music, either at home or in the car on a trip with dad, I was told to Listen. Listen to this part here. And that part alone would be sung for me and damn if I didn’t listen the whole time.

This musicality has influenced me in other ways. If my mother taught me to love words, my father taught me to love their cadence. Because when you get down to it, it’s the rhythm that counts. My love for poetry has sprung from this marriage of meaning and meter. And also, I’m thinking, my love for how language is used. My father uses language for a living-his words are crafted for timing and effect. And watching him my entire life has certainly led to my asking about how and why language can be shifted and manipulated. What are the nuances that count? Why this word and not its synonym? The fact that I chose linguistics as my field of study isn’t surprising, considering the hyper awareness of language that surrounded me.

I am realizing that my quirks and weird brain aren’t all from my mother (who is weird enough in her own right). They come from dad as well. I laugh at my own word transformations as much as he laughs at his own spoonerisms. I sing along with bass lines or a trumpet if that part is particularly thrilling. I can puzzle my way through anything. And I can command a room, if I have to. Mom taught me grace, to be sure, but dad taught me to wield it with style.

I love you, Da-dee.  Thanks for being exactly who you are.




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