I spent this past weekend in Rochester celebrating my father’s 80th Birthday. I have had the fortune to have a good relationship with the man for some 40 plus years. In the culture of our family, as I think each family has it’s own, he has been the captain of the ship. The last ten years snuck up on me, and I am sure (all things being equal) snuck up on him too. He has been a great father and a role model I am proud to call ‘Dad’. When I think of what Al (my father) wants for his kids, and by extension himself, is to find their joy, find their path, and in the end find peace. To the unfamiliar, this might seem like some generic, broad brush, ambiguous wish; I uniformly would disagree with that sentiment. Being a father and a son I can relate to this idea, this hope that we hold for ourselves and our children. If I had to “reduce it” down to something more definitive (yes, everything always ties back to cooking somehow), I would say that we hope that our children come to know themselves. That they know their hearts, and minds, and forgive themselves for whatever slight they have experienced, within themselves or with others.
The journey to knowing yourself isn’t in a book, or a religion, or in anything other than our personal walk through the mud, the rain, the sun, and the storms that we endure, be they of our own making or otherwise. As a father you cannot control what storms your children create or follow. In the end you hope that whatever or whoever they are chasing leads them to find themselves, if only to find peace in who that is. Experience has taught me that moments of failure, destruction, loss, and great difficulty forge us into who we are. These moments teach us to make choices that only we can, right or wrong. Our choices are all we really own when everything and everyone is removed from the equation.
I do not wish for my children to fail, nor do I think has my father for his children. However, children fall and like any good teacher, we still hope that they get back on the bike and try again. That is my wish for my children. There is only one thing that I ask of my children, do not be afraid! Do not be scared of the unknown, the uncertain, or the unpredictable. This does not be reckless or hurtful, nor self-destructive. Fear is the most dangerous of all things. Fear will keep you from risk, risk will keep you from difficult choices, which will keep you where you are. Life is about risk. Life is about trying and failing, and pushing yourself emotionally, intellectually, and physically. Fear will only breed more fear, contempt, unrest, jealousy, and a life partly lived. I do not want this for my children, and hope that they find paths that lead them to themselves, rather than avoiding the walk at all. It is at the precipice that we change and evolve within.
As I slowly come around the corner toward 50, I hear a voice that I haven’t heard clearly until recently, my own. I appreciate time, beauty, stories, people, laughing, and moments. Although I am still on my own journey I am stopping to take note of how the simple is the often the most beautiful. I find that even though I see the successes and losses behind me, as a son and as a father, I am grateful for the lessons that have brought me here. I am equally grateful for the man who has been my teacher, father, and mentor for so long. Thank you for everything, Dad. I have found real happiness and peace here at this place, this moment, with my partner, my friends, my job, and my life. The journey was worth it, and I look forward to what waits ahead for myself, and for my family.
I love you Dad. Happy Birthday! – Cliff