Thursday, January 16, 2014

For Papa, from Laurel

Today is my Papa's birthday. I write it into my planners and calendars, and probably always will out of voluntary habit. Papa was a farmer, a reader, a writer, a scary-monster-chaser, a sausage and biscuits eater, a husband, a father, and a papa...among many other things. I think about him everyday, and miss him everyday, too.

My Papa always insisted on getting a hint on what we grandkids would like for our birthdays. When I was obsessed with coloring books, puzzles, clay, "how to draw" books, and "real" piano music it was AWESOME that he wanted to know such things. [Yes, I am still obsessed with coloring books, puzzles etc.] Once I was in high school my reply to this question was something like this: "Papa, I want you to write me stories - memories of your life. I want to have them and keep them. Can you write them down?" (I have always cherished the handwriting of people I care for; it's something that makes me feel close to them, even when they're far away.) This is the last envelope he sent:

Inside was an essay that he wrote when he was younger, maybe in high school.  It was probably for a class, but since there's no grade on it I'm not sure. Perhaps he just wrote it, and wrote for fun - like me! It's called The Key to Peace and Good Will.  I thought, in honor of his birthday, I would share a few excerpts.
...First and most important we must find the key to peace and good will on Earth... Man has always wanted peace.  In order to find the peace that man desires there has nearly always had to be a war...
...we cannot hope to achieve peace and good will by some physical or earthly means of preservation.  Where can we now turn?  Since there is no solution here on Earth, we must look to someone who we have left out for a long time.  We must stop depending on ourselves and our fellow men.  We must go back and humble ourselves...
...we must go through a spiritual revival ourselves.  America is lucky to have survived as long as we have.  We have strayed very far...

He also writes about the League of Nations and the United Nations.  The "spiritual revival" he talks about is part of one of the last sentences of the essay, and he doesn't explain what he means by it. It's too easy to assume that it means everybody should go to church, everybody should believe the same thing, and then and only then can we find peace among ourselves. To me a revival of the spirit can mean many things: finding the light of who you are; finding the compassion and empathy we are wired to have; finding what is truly important, or finding your own gifts and talents.

Luckily, as an artistic person, the circles I find myself in are full of people searching for these very things, regardless of what kind of religion they may or may not belong. I wish the rest of our society was this way. It seems we care more about arguing than we do about finding a solution, more about self-imposed social prestige and superficial wealth than we do about nurturing ourselves and others through love and understanding. I wonder if everyone had a farmerPapa like mine if our social personality would be one of loving simplicity rather than threatened insecurity. I'm lucky that my family understands love, and that the family I just married into does as well. No matter where I go, I feel cared for and supported. I wish this for every person, because I think a country full of individuals who feel loved instead of threatened can create a country of peace.

My Papa was a stellar Papa. I'm so thankful that he has shared some of his memories with me and that he sent them in his own handwriting. It's a simple gift, really: a few sheets of notebook paper from teenage years. But it's more than that.

Love you, Papa