Yesterday, my Dad passed away. He lost his battle, but fought a good fight. We all got to say our last words to him and we got to tell him what an amazing Dad he was to us. I am an extremely lucky girl! Extremely lucky. To have a Dad so supportive, so loving, so full of laughs and good times who was supportive and full of good advice. He loved his family, especially his children and grand children. He figured out how to give us a good playful life, even if he couldn’t afford it. I just recently realized how he was my first exposure to the “Do It Yourself World"! We had an attic with a tent to play in, a basement with an actual swing to swing on, an ice rink in the back yard to skate on, a crow’s nest and a tree house to climb up and play in. Plenty of swimming pools, a swing set,a sand box, a sliding board and a see saw. A sliding board that eventually turned into how we got from the wooded dirt hill behind our house to our back yard. A swimming pool that evolved from a Donald the duck vinyl pool to individual swimming pools (Dad’s invention where we each got a large trash bag to stand in and filled with water!) to our summers at Rollingwood Swimming Pool. Vacations to the beach, to Canada in a rented Winnepego, across country with a pop up tent camper, to Williamsburg and Florida! We had a house full of Dave Brubeck, Carpenters and sesame street music. Bedtime stories that always had us in the woods on cold windy nights. Our favorite dinners included cooking hot dogs on the end of long sticks in the fireplace, and then there was breakfast for dinner! Once I became a teacher with a teacher salary, I realized why we had these dinners!
My Dad was a teacher who turned into a guidance counselor who advanced to being a supervisor of Guidance for Baltimore County Schools. We were brought up with visits to his schools and offices. I got to see him a lot when I went to Towson State. Usually to get some more money for my art supplies. And if I played my cards right, I would get to meet him for lunch out with his Guidance Department. Many conversations about the public school system and its ups and downs occurred during these lunches. We heard these conversations a lot over dinner as well. Somehow, all of that snuck into my psyche. I never thought I would be a teacher, even though playing a teacher as a kid was one of my favorite games to play (course my stuff animals were perfect students, who could have topped that job?).
I was going to be an artist. I was going to have some sort of career, in which I could make something, be artistic and challenge my creativity. I got accepted into both Towson State University and Maryland Institute, College of Art and I was determined to go where I wanted to go. Dad decided that we would talk about this decision at a Colts Football game. We had 2 season tickets in which Dad got to go every game and take one of us. It was my turn to go, armed with a thermos of hot chocolate and a blanket , we drove to Dad’s parking Spot on Hopkins’s Campus and walked down 33rd Street to Memorial Stadium with no mention of school. Just the “isn’t this great Jennifer? Think about it if you go to Towson, we could go to their football games! I replied back with “or you could continue to take me to the Colts games”. He saw he wasn’t getting anywhere with this logic so we settled with Towson because of the cost with an agreement that if I really wanted to go to MICA I would wait until my Junior year. My first lesson in manipulated compromise. A technique I use today for my classroom management
I ended up going to Towson for all four years, majoring in Fine Arts with a concentration in Painting. He let me do that. Knowing full well that my art was not going to make me a wealthy woman, but a woman of poverty. He would try to encourage me to take an education class, but I refused. I graduated and worked my retail jobs for a while. Even moved out of the house and tried to make it on my own. Poverty and unchallenged jobs started to get to me, and the bills and student loan payments started to come in. I ended up getting that teaching certification and here I am, year 27 into my art teaching career. I can actually retire in 3 years and do what I intended to do in the first place: make art, run my own diy business and share my happy birdies all around the world! I will miss you Dad so much. I will miss your “That’s Wonderful Jennifer” I will truly miss that!
But I have this confession about death that always gotten me through. Such a loss. As a child I always felt that once someone close to you dies, that they are with you, looking over your shoulder, checking out what you are doing and making sure you are ok. I confess to talking to my grandparents on many occasions. And I know my Dad is here right now, looking over me, giving me the strength to move on and live my life the way he intended me to live it: Live life to its fullest, take risks, learn from your mistakes and never let anyone nor anything take you down! And most of all do what you have to do to BE HAPPY.