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I wonder, though, if it's possible to detour from politics. If one defines politics as the affairs of state, it stands to reason that the affairs that determine our relationships with family, friends, employers, the world, have their own political essence. The eras through which we are raised, mold our ideology, and form our values, are affected by politics.  

Where I was a product of the Sixties, the 'New Age' generation, my dad was a kid during the Great Depression of the Thirties. My grandfather succumbed to Tuberculosis when dad was only sixteen and as the oldest son in a family of four, he had to quit school to help support the family. Before dad was twenty, hard work and hardship were second nature to him. Then, came the 'Big War'. With little time to ever BE a kid or have a dream, he went to fight for his country. It's no mystery to me, now, the circumstances that shaped the man, the serious, almost distant man that he was. Dad's way of showing love was working seven days a week to insure against the hardships that may be lurking around the next turn in the road. The politics of our different generations molded our very different ways of thinking, approaching the world, and setting the goals of our lives.

I'm a writer. Since a small child, I've been a writer. It's my best way of communicating. But, for most of my adult life, it had been family . . . my husband, two sons, our home, and a job that always perched first and foremost in my priorities. And I wanted it that way. My Jerry was a dream chaser and I was content enough chasing his dreams; my own of being a REAL writer was placed on a shelf in a someday closet.  

I was widowed relatively young, my sons grown and on their own. Then, keeping a roof over my head, the financial obligations, forced me to leave the dream safely stored on its someday shelf. Oh, I'd soothe myself with all night sessions hunched over a keyboard purging my aching heart; the clattering keyboard sheltering my mind from the empty house and the silence that fairly screamed at me in the wee hours when the rest of the world was sleeping. Stacks of random thoughts, poems and essays now piled on the shelf along side the dream. There was the job . . .  

  

But, in the years since my husband's passing, I'd managed to write my way into a world of two published books, several articles, essays, and poems. My simple, but heartfelt, ramblings were beginning to attract attention and sell. I was being invited to do presentations and events for my books and share my experiences. My new dream was to soon retire from the day job and devote my life to the writing that had always been the backbone of my personality, and more recently, the strength that carried me forward in a, now, solitary existence. Still, having always been driven by the values instilled in me by my dad, my responsibilities kept the new dream on the someday shelf.  

It so happened that a series of events at work led to a decision that 'my time had come.' It was time to empty some closets. Someday had arrived, in a somewhat unexpected way, but arrived just the same. I'd trained myself to always listen to the inner voices and they were telling me "it's now or never."  But, I'm also a ponderer. Often for days, I'll languish in a corridor of my mind sorting out circumstances, questions, and ideas. My initial reactions to things rarely remain constant as emotions and thoughts, sort and re-sort themselves.  

When finally sure about taking the plunge, I told family and some friends about my decision to retire. And, I was so disillusioned by the shock, the bewares and cautions, tossed back. "You can’t do that! Don’t burn bridges! How are you going to pay your bills? Don’t do something you’ll be sorry for! You can’t be without a JOB!" At first, I was angry. I thought, talk about bringing a person down! Doesn’t anyone have faith in my ability to pursue my writing? Is it all just talk? The support, the accolades for my work? Then, I was hurt. I thought, couldn’t just once somebody encourage, rally me on, say "You, go girl!"

Then, the mind lights flickered. It dawned on me; these aren’t people who are jealous, competitive. These aren’t people who want to keep me down, people who don’t have dreams. These are people who really do care for me. And, like me, are so programmed by shoulds and should nots, that any deviance scares the wits out of them. They’ve been raised since birth to stay in prescribed molds and put dreams in 'someday' closets. These are people who fear taking a risk, making a wrong choice, so make no choices at all. They exist through a stretch of time, follow all the rules to the letter, obey all the signs, gather their material treasures, and think they’ve lived. How so very sad.

I thought, then, of my father.  Were he alive and I did such a thing, he’d be mortified! Often was, at my dream-chasing husband and his daughter who always chased it with him.  Yet, always, when I looked really deep into dad's eyes, I’d see a small twinkle of admiration, a wistful acceptance of our adventure, and perhaps our folly. Unlike my husband, Dad died a tired man, a man who'd clung to the mold with a vengeance. I wonder if his role, his wars, his fifty years of hard work, and his material possessions, were his only sense of joy. I wonder if, after my sister and I were grown, he ever wanted to travel a road just because it was there. I wonder if he ever knew pure adventure or only molded determination. Somehow, now, I think Dad is somewhere smiling . . . saying, “You go, Little Girl!”

I wrote my dad's epitaph, a simple poem that spoke volumes. In his honor and memory, I'd like to share it with you and all of your dads, wherever they might be.

  

EPITAPH FOR A MAN

What are the standards that it's said must be met

For a life to be deemed worthy, well-lived and well-spent?

What are the marks to be put on the chart,

Where accomplishments are listed? Where you played your part?

Must you be a great General in matters of war?

Make profound discoveries? Change the world evermore?

Or could your achievements in the worldly toil

Be marked by four years of service on foreign soil?

Must you do something profound that brings kudos and fame?

Or will fifty years of dedication and hard work bring you the same?

Must you leave behind great notoriety, huge stores of wealth?

Or simply a family, secure, well cared for, in health.

Need you be a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher, or such?

Or a simple man with a tireless desire that meant so much.

I knew a man, who had no greater goal in eight decades of life,

Than to provide, care for, and make happy, two daughters and wife.

I knew a man, who only these basic, these simple things, did.

I called him "Papa" and no greater name has ever been said.



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