If you want to learn the heart of me — look at my father’s eyes.
Moreover: If you want to know the very gist of me, the ethics upon which I stand and the beliefs with which I measure the world; if you want to predict the disappointments of my spirit when others don’t live up to the their goodness (and if you wish to summon my own aspirations to be only good); if you desire to see the shadows of my mistakes and flaws that cost me so much time and heartbreak — the stories in my father’s eyes will tell all.
(His eyes are blue and honest. The man lacks all capacity to tell a lie. And if ever he discovers himself in the unsettling situation of having let somebody down — never due to his shortcomings but only circumstances — his hand comes up to rub the ridge above his eyebrows; sometimes, his chin. He hates to be the cause of pain.)
All other loves of mine — are replicas, and I have spent half of my lifetime searching for the exceptional kindness with which my father treats the world. In the beginning, I was meant to fail: It takes a while to not take for granted the components of our parents’ characters which, with our own older years, begin to make us proud. Identity compiles its layers with our exposure to the world; but the very roots of our goodness can only lead to those who gave us life and hopefully our first opinions of it. Their goodness — is our very, and most important, homecoming. And if I had to choose my only prayer for this world, I’d ask for every prodigal child to find their way back home, through forgiveness, wherein lies the discovery of what was missing all along. It always lies in our parents’ souls.
(There are two folds, now permanent, at the medial edge of father’s eyebrows. In those, he carries his concerns for those lives that he has vowed to protect. In them, I see the weight of manhood, his duty and his sacrifice. The endless rays of lines at the outer edges of my father’s eyes. How easily they bring him back to lightness! My father lives in constant readiness to bond over the common human goodness and delight. He’d rather smile, for life, and not brace himself to witness his child’s or the children of others’ pain. He’d rather give and then dwell in that specific peacefulness that happens after generosity — and not be helpless at relieving someone of their deprivation.)
The whole of lifetime, I can recall the never failing access to my gratitude. In childhood, I couldn’t name it yet: I never needed any reasons or explanations for the lightness of those days. My adolescent years posed a question about the qualities that made me differ from my contemporaries; and when I watched my friends make their choices, while inheriting the patterns of their parents, I started wondering about the source of what made me lighter on my feet and ready for adventure. I was different, but what was really the cause of it?
(My father lives in readiness to be childlike. When new things capture his imagination, I can foresee the eyes of my son, when he would be continuously thrilled by the world. Dad frowns a bit when he attempts to comprehend new things, but never in a burdened way: So intently he tries to comprehend the world, he thinks hard and quickly to get to the very main point of every new event and person, the central apparatus of every previously unknown bit of technology and invention. And then, he speaks, while studying your face for signs of recognition. To honor others with his complete understanding — is crucially important to that man!)
It would be gratitude, as I would name it later: The main quality of my father’s character that made me — that made us — different from others. The privilege of life never escaped my self-awareness. Just breathing seemed to be enough.
In the beginning years of my adulthood, which had to strike our family quite prematurely, I started aching on behalf of seemingly the whole world: I wished for human dignity. We needn’t much in order to survive, but to survive with dignity — was what I wished upon myself and everyone I loved (and by my father’s fashion — I LOVED the world and wished it well!). And then, when life would grant me its adventures, however tiny or grandiose, the force of gratitude would make me weep. Then, I would rest in my humility and try to pay it forward, to others.
(No bigger thrill my father knows in life than to give gifts. They aren’t always luxurious, but specific. They come from the erudite knowledge of his every beloved that my father gains through life. Sometimes, all it takes is someone’s equal curiosity toward a piece of beauty — and this magnificent man (my father!) would do anything to capture just a token of it and give it as a gift. He looks at someone’s eyes when they are moved by beauty, and in his own, I see approval and the highest degree of pleasure.
And I have yet to know another person who accepts his gifts more humbly than my father; because in life, IT ALL MATTERS. No detail must be taken for granted and no reward can be expected. So, when kindness is returned to my father by others, he is seemingly surprised. But then, he glows at the fact that all along, he had been right, about the world: That everyone is good!)
And that’s the mark that father leaves upon the world. He never chose a life with an ambition to matter, but to commit specific acts of goodness — is his only objective. With time that has been captured in my father’s photographs, I see his own surrender to the chaos and sometimes tragic randomness of life. And so, to counteract it, he long ago chose to be good.
It is an honor to have been born his child.