Dad

This post was first published on Scary Mommy:

 

This is what I remember:

My dad would rise early and take the train from the suburbs to the Loop in downtown Chicago. He’d work all day in a tall office building on Jackson Boulevard that I saw only once, on a special Saturday he brought me with him, a day I remember by the greenish glass of the train windows and the overflowing ashtrays and stacks of papers on brown desks, and by the way my ears popped as we rode the elevator to the top of the Sears Tower at lunch.

He’d come home on the same 5 o’clock train every night. When the front door opened, I’d run from the family room, through the kitchen, into the dining room, and around to the foyer to surprise him. I’d hug him, my cheek resting against his trench coat that smelled of cold and smoke and train exhaust.

He’d disappear down into the basement and I’d hear the thump thumping of the punching bag. I’d watch him take a long drink at the kitchen sink, sweat dripping from his chin. Later, I’d rest in the crook of his arm, his deep, smoky voice vibrating through his chest and into my ear as he read me a story.

This was his life as I saw it. Routine. Secure. Happy. It wasn’t until I was older that I found out he woke up every day to a job he hated.

I don’t know if he said it to me only once or a thousand times. I don’t remember how I first learned it. Whatever the case, I can see him now, shaking his head, his blue eyes sad, “Don’t ever take a job you don’t like. It’s not worth it. Do what you love.”

When my dad was a child, he loved reading. He read Treasure Island and The Ted Williams Story and Crime and Punishment and comic books. He read in his bedroom, to avoid being teased by the neighborhood kids. He read everything.

This is how I’ve known him, too. He loves a good story in all forms—books, movies, TV, music. Conversations with my dad were my first lessons in story: how to put one together, what is compelling, how to think about the arc, dialogue, setting. I remember his delight at the repetitive talk of weather in the movie, “Fargo”—that this dialogue showed not just an interest in weather, but a universal human desire to connect without having anything to say.

When he was in college, my dad thought about majoring in literature and becoming an English teacher. Someone—a well-meaning college counselor, perhaps—told my dad, “You’re good at math. Go into accounting. You’ll always have a job.”

He took that advice and as things go, he became an accountant. He got married and had a family that depended on him.  He was sad, I know, not to be doing what he loved. But my dad didn’t sacrifice himself for us on purpose. If he’d had a looking glass, and saw the years of numbers and tax documents stretched ahead of him, he wouldn’t have become an accountant. He probably would have run straight to World Literature class.

But in a way, he did sacrifice. Because it’s the mistakes of our parents that serve as some of our strongest lessons. We learn from them and, hopefully, become better, happier. It’s our responsibility to do that. Otherwise, what’s it all for?

And so I’ve followed my own path and my own heart, and I’ve never, ever considered taking a job I’d hate. I’ve worked as a reporter, a political communications director, and an author. I am guided by my love of writing and storytelling. I am guided by a true sense of what’s important, of how short life is and how responsible we are for making ourselves happy. My father gave me that.

I’m a parent now. I will make mistakes, and my children will learn. I will make sure of it, as my father made sure for me.

They will know from my mistakes, but they will also know the greatest lesson I can teach them. Because I remember, will always remember, my father’s words: Do what you love.

His grandchildren and great-grandchildren will know those words, too.

About the Author…

Jessica Null Vealitzek is the author of the coming-of-age novel, The Rooms Are Filled. She lives and writes near Chicago. You can find her online at jessicavealitzek.com.

– See more at: http://www.scarymommy.com/the-greatest-lesson/#sthash.BYXsAqhc.dpuf

Author Road Trip, Day 5 & 6: Bend to Portland

In Bend, Oregon, we stayed with my uncle–the same uncle who has appeared in several of my posts. (Click HERE for one, or the previous sentence for another.)

My husband on my uncle's deck in Bend. He gets to see this view every day.  (This is the same uncle who has appeared in several of my posts.)

My husband on my uncle’s deck in Bend. He gets to see this view every day. I was jealous, too.

With my uncle.

With my uncle

The Deschutes River, Bend

Took a hike along the Deschutes River

We drove north from Bend along Rte. 26.

The pine forests were so magnificent, we pulled off to the side of the road to stare at them.

The pine forests were so magnificent, we pulled off to the side of the road to stare at the trees.

Vineyards in Hood River County, near Mt. Hood

Vineyards in Hood River County, near Mt. Hood

We crossed the Columbia River and drove in Washington for awhile. Despite the rain, the views were magnificent.

We crossed the Columbia River and drove in Washington for awhile. Despite the rain, the views were spectacular.

View of downtown Portland from the Pittock Mansion in the West Hills

View of downtown Portland from the Pittock Mansion in the West Hills

Reading at In Other Words, Portland

Reading at In Other Words. I got to meet some of the other women in The PDXX Collective, a group of feminist writers based in Portland.

Me and my good friend and writer, Melanie Coffee, outside the bookstore

Me and my good friend and writer, Melanie Coffee, outside the bookstore

We made it home Tuesday afternoon, and on Wednesday I traveled two hours away to the lovely town of St. Joseph, Michigan for a reading at Forever Books. It’s a wonderful store; stop in if you ever find yourself in the area.

Me with store owner Robin Allen

Me with store owner Robin Allen

The town is right on Lake Michigan.

St. Joseph is right on Lake Michigan. Sorry for the dirty car window.

Next Wednesday evening, I’ll be in Milwaukee. If you’re in the area, I’d love to see you! Click HERE for info.

Have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend!

Author Road Trip, Day 3: Boise

I put my husband in charge of taking pictures during the book party at my in-laws, and therefore I have no pictures of the event to share. However, I do have these, of our day in Boise – enjoy!

Hiking near my in-laws house in the foothills

Hiking near my in-laws house in the foothills north of downtown Boise

Top of the hill

Top of the hill

Lunch at Front Door

Lunch at Front Door

Popped into this bookstore in downtown Boise and they had my book -- a fun surprise.

Popped into this bookstore in downtown Boise and they had my book — a fun surprise.

My niece, a pretty spectacular reason to visit Boise

My niece, a pretty spectacular reason to visit Boise

On to Bend!

Author Road Trip, Day 2: Jackson to Boise

Day 2 of our road trip: Teton Pass through western Wyoming, Hwy 20 across Idaho, to Boise (For Day 1, click HERE):

Antler arch in the Jackson town square

Antler arch in the Jackson town square

Just outside Jackson, WY

Just outside Jackson, WY

Deserted building in eastern Idaho

Deserted building in eastern Idaho

eastern Idaho

eastern Idaho

 

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Lots of "restricted access" and "do not enter" signs around this laboratory

Lots of “restricted access” and “do not enter” signs around this laboratory

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Didn't get a chance yet to find out what these numbers are for...

Didn’t get a chance yet to find out what these numbers are for…

Craters of the Moon National Park

Craters of the Moon National Park, central Idaho; tree petrified in lava

Just gonna park my plane in my front yard.

Just gonna park my plane in my front yard.

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We’ll be in Boise for the next day and a half before we leave for Bend, OR. More to come….

Find the Truth

If any of you keep a diary or write letters (or emails), or blog, you’ll know what I mean when I say writing is therapeutic. Reading good writing is, too. It’s enlightening. Informing. Awesome.

Especially when you arrive at a truth. That is writing at its best. Today, I write about truth over at Julia Munroe Martin’s blog. I’d like to close comments on this post in the hopes that you’ll head over and comment there, but I can’t figure out how to do that (Nina Badzin, where are you when I need you??).

Please do head over and let us know how good writing influences you, whether you’re a writer or a reader.

Read my post HERE or click on the image below. Thanks.

Click on the image to read my post