At first, all the holidays are painful. Well, at least the major ones: Christmas, because it was his favorite; Thanksgiving, because it’s a family-gathering holiday; Valentine’s Day, because he would send flowers; New Year’s Eve, because we used to cook our lucky Hoppin’ Johns together; etc etc. And then there’s Father’s Day. In the almost 17 years since I last said goodbye to my father, it’s Father’s Day that either comes and goes with little notice or comes close to wrecking me just a little.
C.S. Lewis said in A Grief Observed that “The death of a beloved is an amputation.” He also said that it’s a process...a process of feelings. Lots and lots of feelings. But once the grief subsides a bit, as it never really leaves you much like the missing limb, the process tenderly begins to allow in the memories that make you smile. This is where I’ve gratefully been able to live these past many years… every newly remembered memory like another gift from my father that I selfishly relish and hold tight.
There are so many many memories...most of which I try to remember to share with my 14 yr old daughter, who has his eyes. Her favorites are the really comical and absurd ones. Like the time he proudly yet accidentally gifted my mother with a bouquet of artificial flowers on her birthday. So well made were they…! Or the time he devoured 4 entire servings of hash brownies made from the Alice B. Toklas Cookbook. Having never eaten hashish before, he had no idea what he was in for. And being an avid lover of literature and books, his thoughts were: what’s good enough for Gertrude Stein… apparently the brownies were that delicious.
There are also many memories that come to me when I’m just going about my day. He introduced me to “gourmet” cooking: paté & country loaves! Ratatouille! Braised meats! White asparagus with hollandaise! The longer the process from start to final dish, the better. He introduced me to good music: as he grew up during the bebop era there were stories of seeing Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk and the like play in Kansas City at several of the now historic jazz clubs. He introduced me to good literature: here’s Vanity Fair, it’s saucy; here’s some Graham Greene and Herman Hesse, it’ll teach you about religion and spirituality; here’s some William Faulkner, it’ll teach you about southern America before the Civil Rights Movement.
My father was not a tall man, but he was a handsome man. At least, I thought so. His style of dress, as he saw it, was inspired by the actor, Ronald Colman, complete with wool felt feathered fedora in the winter. One of my favorite memories is of the two of us catching the Ronald Colman movie Random Harvest on television one night when my mother was out of town, appropriately crying our eyes out at the end. “If this story doesn’t make you cry, you’re a coldhearted son-of-a-bitch.”
In essence, my father introduced me to the quality of things: things that matter take time. And attention. And patience. And you don’t need a lot of those things… just the ones that matter most to you, that fit best for you. All of those things you love: exceptional food and drink, meaty books, music that has the power to transport you... all of it informs every aspect of your life. And if you’re very lucky, it can inform your relationships and your work in the most meaningful ways.
There was much kindness and sweetness in the way he went about living his life. I’d like to think that some of that rubbed off on me; in the way that I relate to our wonderful and loyal customers, those lovely and amazingly talented people I’ve been lucky enough to collaborate with, my incredible employees who choose to direct their efforts and energy towards making Finefolk better everyday… I’d like to think that his attention to details and love of the art of living well and living thoughtfully has rubbed off on me; these are the qualities in our designers we carry that inspire me to no end.
There are those who believe we choose our parents. I’m not sure if we do, but if I could, I would choose him again.
Happy Father’s Day.