Sunday, June 19, 2016

DIY Father's Day


Though hundreds of miles separate us, the whole day is saturated with memories and appreciation of my dad.

Email is impersonal, easy, superficial. Also fast and convenient. Being together, sitting together at the table, that would be ideal. A card would be good. Email is better than nothing.

So I write the most ordinary-looking email about an experience that pushed to the front of the line, a vivid, simple, happy memory. First grade, parent show-and-tell. He brought a flute he'd made from a stick of bamboo. What I really cared about that day is he showed up in front of my class. I can still feel his hand, warm and muscular, accommodating. All I could bring myself to say was 'this is my dad'.

For no apparent reason one day he'd gone in search of a piece of bamboo (who carries bamboo in northern California? And why?). Someone had it. The taper was very long and awkward, green at one end. He sawed off a chunk of 12 inches or so with a firm short saw, probably the one from the mitre box. There were calculations...it had to be a particular length.

The details of the process are quite fuzzy: how the finger holes got drilled, what tool was used. Design was important. spacing was important. Placement and diameter. 

I remember the end product well. It looked a little ordinary. Brown and green, irregular stripes. It looked very much like an unfinished stick of bamboo. But if you held it and blew just so, sound came out. A little rough but an original voice. No one else's dad did that.

I've come to recognize that voice as extraordinary. To appreciate other voices that are rough and surprising and true. What's even richer, at this point, is knowing I belong to someone, having a hand to hold onto. Even if some days it's all I can do to stand here, holding on. 

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