My daughter is my heart.
She always has been, since the day she was born. Watching her grow and "expand" as a person has been the greatest joy in my life. I'm sure many if not all parents who love their children feel the same way, but that isn't any reason I don't get to say it too. Call me self-indulgent but don't call me overtly self-conscious or late for supper.
That she turned out to have a special talent is a pure gimme, especially since it is in line with my own interests. She could have become anything she wanted and it wouldn't have changed my feelings for her one iota, but she wound up becoming a visual artist so that gives us even more in common since I'm a writer. Neither of us can function happily without this identity.
I knew she'd probably become an artist by high school. She drew and painted without being prompted for hour after hour. Her first portrait in oils was a perfectly constructed human face, which came to be known as "the woman without hair," since it took her awhile to figure out how to draw hair, but not the face itself. Now, she draws entire portraits and landscapes that emerge from "hair" coiling and uncoiling.
When our friends began to complain about the difficulties of raising their children, particularly in adolescence, it struck my wife and I as strange. It seemed to us they were creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. Either their adolescence was difficult and they were projecting it onto their children, or they simply didn't know enough to stop complaining and embrace their own joy.
Later, I learned Tara Lisa had the same pains in adolescence as other children, but she didn't make an issue of it. The worst I can remember is her sneaking off to get into clubs when she was under age. I worried as I feared it meant she was afraid to add weight to the delicate "equation" of the marriage that produced her.
She gave us another strong inkling of the person she would become in picking her college because she refused to go to one that would pigeonhole her as an artist, and then in her semester abroad she disappeared into the bush in Africa for the better part of a month and scared the administrators to death, but it was the only way she felt she could study African religion without the interference of the proselytizers. Yet it didn't exactly come as a surprise.
Her mother and I hit the road for a year but that wasn't good enough for her. She lived and taught in Japan for three years and then travelled for a year in India--not an easy feat for an unattached young woman. She changed her name to Tara when visiting the village where "Buddha" was enlightened and taught everyone to call her that name. How she handled the loneliness amazed me, but as an only child I've wondered if it wasn't because she was more used to it. These are life's greatest mysteries--how do we become who we become?
I just returned from spending a week with her in the city she's chosen to live for the last ten years--San Francisco. I didn't plan to be there for Father's Day, but it worked out that way. San Fran was the only other city beside New York my wife and I ever considered living and she settled in exactly the neighborhood we'd have wanted--Haight Ashbury. She's spent the time becoming a full fledged member of the artistic community of that most artistic of American cities. It was a great intuitive leap, but only one I hope of many to come.
Eating Hog Island oysters with the Babanooge at the market on Father's Day
We began the day visiting the Flower Conservatory in Golden Gate Park, admiring the massive ancient Monterrey Cypress trees along the way, marveling at the coolness of their shade, indulged in the bounty of California's harvest at the market on the bay with the great bridge in the distance spanning the sparkling sea, went to a lecture on Gertrude Stein at the Contemporary Jewish Museum, and wound up drinking wine and nibbling delectables at a cafe looking at the unique mix of old and new that helps make this city so alluring. It doesn't get any better.
But what I enjoyed most during my stay was meeting her friends. I've always been able to tell the ones who most like her by the smiles she evokes when they look at her. It's like my own inside. We talk constantly of the good times and the bad--letting go of one and carrying the other, wishing for a forgiving God to hold us in her hand rather than the "judge". We even agree about that.
It could well have been our last visit together in Cisco. She leaves for graduate school near LA in another month--a "logical" career choice, more indicative of her mother's influence than mine. It turns out I'm the sentimentalist especially now that her mother is gone.
I write this as a wish to my readers young and old. May you be so blessed and may you appreciate the blessing that is given to you. It's odd for me, a born pessimist and critic of the human species not to have a warning or cynical notion with which to end this post, but I do not. I'm not even embarrassed to say "Father's Day" is every day when I'm with my darling daughter.
Technical Assistance: Mercedes Arnao