I consider myself lucky to be a person who has a lot of passions in life. I am particularly passionate about people and relationships, but also about my interests, pursuits and the hobbies that bring me joy. The opportunity to combine those two things is nirvana and something that I learned in an unexpected way from my Dad a long, long time ago.
Dad was a lover of classical music. I have vivid memories of him lying on the brown suede couch in our family room with his eyes closed listening to Bach, Beethoven, Brahms and my favorite, Mahler.
He would become lost in the music, occasionally with a giant set of earphones but more often happier to fill the room with the soothing sounds of elegant and melodic violins or dramatic, energizing piano. Who cared if my brother Jon and I wanted to watch TV?
Being in the car was another level. The Chicago classical music station was ever present, but the mood would change when something came on that he loved. He could be mid-sentence, and all would stop while he began slowly conducting music mid-air, with both hands (yes, while he was driving). Aggressively punching, pointing and jabbing with his invisible baton as the music hit crescendo. It took him to another place and as a passenger, it was impossible to not be caught up by his passion, taken over by the music and swept into the drama of the moment – even while my 12-year-old self-rolled my eyes and pretended to think he was crazy, mortified by the onlookers gaping when, god forbid, we stopped at a light.
Despite my best efforts, his passion for classical music crept in to my being. Just a few years later when I began embracing writing as a creative outlet I was somewhat shocked to discover that nothing got me in the mood and focused on writing quite like quietly playing classical music. My interaction with the music was entirely different from his, but the way it unlocked my creativity was very much the same.
It was so effective that when I was about 15, I bought a tape (yep.. I said “tape”) that I had regularly heard Dad play, the Mahler 1st Symphony. I would play it very quietly while tapping away on my Brother word processor, the electric typewriter of the 1980’s, and it truly helped me focus and get into a creative space.
One evening, Dad walked by my room and I heard him stop in his tracks and backtrack slowly. I knew I was busted.
“Is that the Mahler 1st? I didn’t know you liked classical?” he quizzed. “Sure” I sheepishly admitted, “I like this one in particular, mostly because I recognize it”. He just smiled and nodded and walked off down the hall. I went back to pecking.
A couple of days later when I got home from school there, in the kitchen was a giant box of CD’s (the newest media and much more expensive then what I could afford) waiting for me.
In the box was every piece of classical music Dad had ever loved. Over 100 CD’s. Apparently he’d spent the afternoon at the music store. He’d gone to get a few things he wanted to share and well, like he often did, he got carried away. When I think about it now, how much fun he must have had, hunting to find every piece of music he loved and deciding to buy every single one of them, all at once! It was so crazy, so over-the-top, fun, and indulgent. It was so my Dad, the man who always used to say “what does need have to do with it”? It was the 80’s after all.
In truth, we all knew, me, Jon, Mom and Dad, that part of his motivation was his recent Cancer diagnosis. Nobody spoke about it, but we knew this gesture was motivated by his fear he wouldn’t be around to share each piece of music he loved over many years. So, he did it all at once, just in case. It was a good thing too because it turned out he would only live a few more years. Given that, its probably no surprise that I toted those CD’s around, every one of them, to college, through every post college, cross-country move and even long after I had a CD player that even worked.
While his ridiculous generosity didn’t give me quite the same passion for classical music specifically, it did instill in me a deep satisfaction for embracing the things about which I am most passionate and sharing them with others. No wonder one of my favorite things is not just to cook, but to host. I love walking, but it’s so much better when I have someone to walk with. I still love to write, but sharing my writing is so much more rewarding.
The $1,000 or so Dad probably spent on CD’s that day, back when I was 15, remains a great reminder today, in my mid-40’s that we all need a few over-the-top moments in our lives. We all need to share our passions a little more aggressively. We all need to sometimes live like we we’re not sure how much more time we’ll have.
Talk about $1,000 well spent. Bravo Dad. Bravo.